I am with two of my best friends. We are riding through central Pennsylvania after a successful visit to the Alco haven of Scranton. Following the Norfolk-Southern, ex Pennsy main is always interesting and by the time we reach Mt. Union we are in good shape for images of big black horses pulling freight.
The object here is to peek into a lost world, frozen since 1956, caused by the shutdown of the East Broad Top Railroad. Mt. Union was the site of the EBT’s major yard and was their interchange point with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Most of the yard, a few structures, plus a load of old narrow-gauge hopper cars still exist here. They are intact (mostly), but the ravages of all these years are slowly dissolving them.
The hoppers and the yard itself exist because Nick Kovalchick decided to buy the whole thirty-one mile railroad, including all of the freight cars and locomotives. The story goes that Nick originally bought everything with the intent to scrap it (he made most of his fortune in the scrap business and pulling up railroads was a company specialty), but a fateful visit to the roundhouse in Orbisonia, Pennsylvania changed his mind.
Sitting among the six little Mikados, he came to the realization that he just couldn’t bring himself to have his crew dig out the cutting torches, so he simply left everything in place. Some time later the family turned a five mile long portion of the little railroad into a tourist attraction, and the rest is history.
. . . wander at will among the hoppers, old cinders crunching under your feet, listen to the birds sing and feel the breeze blowing from the mountains
It is said that thought was given to have the railroad re-opened all the way to Mt. Union, but it never came to pass and all the equipment up there just sat rusting away. Occasionally, a Kovalchick crew will show up to pull some parts off an old hopper or maybe even scavenge a truck or two, but for the most part, this is a full-size outdoor museum.
You can wander at will among the hoppers, old cinders crunching under your feet, listen to the birds sing and feel the breeze blowing from the mountains as you marvel at how trees have grown up through the cars. It’s best to come, as we did, in the early spring before everything leafs out, so you can get a sense of all that is here.
A famous photographer once remarked that as he was chasing steam engines in the 1950’s, he felt he was one step ahead of the wrecking ball.
Here in Mt. Union, the wrecking ball swung and . . . missed.
Kevin N. Tomasic – Photographs and text Copyright 2018