East Broad Top owner trying to sell railroad in one piece

Owner Joe Kovalchick says he declined to sell individual narrow gauge locomotives
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INDIANA, Pa. — "The East Broad Top is sleeping," Joe Kovalchick says.

Indeed, it's been five years since the legendary narrow gauge railroad has operated for the public. The famed narrow-gauge coal hauler’s modern-day owner, Kovalchick, says he's trying to find someone, some group or agency to buy the 33-mile railroad.

"I want to keep it together," he says. "It's important to maintain that."

He says he's had offers to buy the locomotives, but he doesn't want to sell them piecemeal. He said he had feelers out but so far, no offers.

There have been a handful of private runs since the railroad's popular 9-mile round-trips behind steam ended in 2011. Gas-electric car M-1 and one of the road's center-cab diesels have made runs for the annual Friends of the East Broad Top October gathering, and more recently, several EBT motor cars have made shorter trips.

However, during the EBT's hibernation, the Friends’ organizations has kept up its work. Lee Rainey, the organization’s president, says volunteers continue to preserve and stabilize buildings with monthly work weekends year-round and a full week of work in May. Kovalchick has partnered the Friends for this work.

"Major stabilization work was begun and is about half done on the freight house. Built in 1884, the freight house was in very precarious condition," Rainey says. In addition, Rainey says work on the foundry and the south end of the locomotive shop is complete. Another crew has been stabilizing the lumber shed, and much new window sash has been fabricated for installation in the blacksmith shop, roundhouse and other buildings. Work continues on the restoration of 1882 combine No. 14.

The East Broad Top Preservation Association, formed in 2010, operated the railroad for two years and was trying to raise about $8 million to buy it. But, as of late 2017, it has succeeded only in purchasing the standard gauge former Conrail connection in Mount Union, Pa., and about four miles of the East Broad Top south to Aughwick, Pa. At present the standard gauge trackage is used for railcar storage. The association was able to secure a state grant to re-purpose part of the Mount Union interchange yard into a linear park and install new ties into a portion of the EBT yard. Attempts to reach the association were unsuccessful.

Any attempt to re-open the railroad faces several major obstacles. Any one of the road's six steam locomotives would have to undergo a lengthy and expensive overhaul to meet federal regulations, and the track, which was getting rough when the line shut down in 2012, would require an unknown number of ties, amount of ballast and surfacing before it could handle regular trains. In addition, since it has been shut down for several years, a strong publicity and marketing effort would be necessary to bring in new riders.
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