The museum complex has a smooth opening | Local
Members of the Friends of the East Broad Top (FEBT) nonprofit on Saturday celebrated a ‘smooth’ grand opening of their new FEBT museum complex with tours of the former Robertsdale Post Office and the former mining area.
The threat of rain didn’t stop EBT fans from learning about the history of the narrow gauge railway that opened to the new mining town of Robertsdale in the late fall of 1874.
Deep mining began at nearby Rockhill Iron and Coal Co. No.1 Mine a year earlier, followed by the opening of four more mines in the latter part of the 19th century. Additional mines were opened south of Robertsdale in the new mining village of Wood from 1891.
Founded in 1983, the 1,500 member FEBT is dedicated to the preservation, restoration and interpretation of the Coal Haulage EBT which made its last commercial tour to Robertsdale on March 31, 1956. Reopened as a tourist attraction in southern Huntingdon County in 1960, the EBT entered into tourist service in 2011, but was acquired by the new EBT Foundation Inc. in 2020 and intended for a return to “full” service later this year.
In addition to many years of restoration work in Robertsdale, FEBT is also involved in various restoration projects at EBT’s headquarters in Rockhill where two steam locomotives are being rehabilitated for tourist service.
FEBT, which owns and operates the original EBT depot and the neighboring Robertsdale (former) post office, has created numerous exhibits on the ground floor of the two-story former post office which can be viewed free (donations are greatly appreciated) on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, June to October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum schedule matches the EBT Railroad schedule.
“From the mines to the market” is the theme of the new FEBT museum complex which is still in production with the “soft” opening on Saturday serving as a teaser for what will happen in the future.
Visitors and FEBT members toured the new museum and had the opportunity to take a look inside the EBT depot, the roof of which is due to be replaced this fall.
Last fall, several original EBT coal hoppers were hauled to Robertsdale and placed on restored narrow gauge tracks. Plans call for further improvements to the museum complex as well as tours of nearby coal mines and the remains of several EBT structures once used in the operation of the railway during its era of public transport on the historic (east) Broad Top Mountain and Coal Field.
Overseen by FEBT activists Pete and Jane Clarke of Damascus, Maryland, the Robertsdale Museum complex is located in “Company Square” which once housed the office of Rockhill Coal Co. (now the Robertsdale Post Office) and across Railroad Avenue, the company’s store that was leveled in the late ’90s.
Saturday’s celebration drew many visitors, including many FEBT members, who also enjoyed a tour of the mining area south of the museum as well as the nearby Broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum.
In addition to their role at Robertsdale, Pete Clarke is FEBT Membership Coordinator while Jane Clarke is Editor-in-Chief of FEBT’s award-winning Timber Transfer magazine.
Visitors were particularly captivated by the old coal hoppers and partially restored railway tracks leading to Mine No.5. Subject to weather conditions and number of visitors, tours of the mining area will be provided by Jane Clarke and d ‘other FEBT volunteers on Saturday.
A spacious gift shop was also open to the public and offered a variety of FEBT souvenirs as well as useful tourist brochures.
For more information on FEBT, its ongoing restoration work in Robertsdale and Rockhill, log on to www.febt.org.