On a hot summer evening last month, I stood beside the turntable at the East Broad Top Railroad and tried to imagine what it was like to work there.

It was hard work. It was dirty, heavy, often dangerous work. It was work done to feed a family and put kids through school. It was long hours six days a week. It was coming home at the end of the day blackened with grime and coal dust. Even for the workers who loved the railroad, there was nothing romantic about it. It was hard work.

The East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company ceased operations in 1956. The workers are gone. Left behind are the silent buildings, the tools and machinery that kept a railroad running. Dust has settled over the locomotives in the roundhouse. Maybe dust and time lend a bit of romance to the old buildings, and in the heat and silence, it was easy for me to be nostalgic for the way things used to be. But men made their living here, and it was hard work.

 

At the end of my day at East Broad Top, my mind wandered to the past, to another Saturday night long past, at the end of a busy, hot work week. Things will pick up again on Monday morning. Activity will resume in the shops and the locomotives will be readied for the day’s work hauling coal and passengers through the Pennsylvania mountains.


It was hard work, work that remains and speaks to us from the past. I felt the presence of that work as I stood alone in the empty parking lot beside the shuttered roundhouse.  Then I drove away, and the past faded into the twilight

Edd FullerText and photographs Copyright 2018

15 thoughts on “Their Work Remains

  1. A great tribute to those railroaders at the EBT and elsewhere. I count several of my relatives who worked in the shops for other Boston & Maine at Billerica, Mass.

  2. Edd,

    Outstanding photographs and accompanying article! I know it was your first real introduction to the East Broad Top in person, I believe you have found the same allure and mystique as I with it. I thank you for this; I really enjoyed your visions, perspectives, thoughts, and insight.

    Matthew Malkiewicz

    1. Matthew, I appreciate the kind words and thank you for the inspiration and opportunity to visit this unique site. I had a great day at EBT!

  3. Beautiful, Edd, and you have indeed captured the appeal of the place, and places like it — because even in the unpeopled buildings, the wood and steel and grease all remind us that human beings made these things, and we can admire and enjoy them only because of those prior generations.

    1. Thanks, Oren. I had a difficult time trying to put into words what I experienced that day, but I will long remember my time at the EBT.

  4. Lovely photo series and a most appropriate perspective.
    Beware. Once the EBT under your skin, it will own your longing forever.

  5. One of the best posts you have made. What a wonderful treasure house of antique memories. Also think about the men when they left work the last time in 1956.

    1. Thanks, Jim. I wondered about that last day of work too. I don’t know the history of the closing–was it sudden and unexpected or did it come at the end of a long decline? In any event, I am sure the lives of many people were disrupted when the doors closed.

  6. It is great how you pointed out the hard work that the men did. Many people look at engines or trains and other places we worked at and never realized that it was a job to do and many times do to weather or breakdowns and many other things that can go wrong it was difficult. Great pictures very surprising the place is not trashed. It really is a time capsule

  7. Very nice work Edd. You should stop up at Mt. union next time you are up this way. The old yard is still in place and full of old coal hoppers and a boxcar or two.

    1. Kevin, I do want to go back now that I have the lay of the land a bit better. I followed the EBT tracks up to Mount Union but it was late in the day and I did not have time to explore, but it is definitely on my list to spend some time there next trip.

  8. I hope they can get up and running again. Last time I was there ,3 of the engines were operational. Cost and gov’t. regs. have been chipping away at them .

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