Riding the East Broad Top Railroad in Huntingdon County

The East Broad Top Railroad in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

The East Broad Top Railroad is back!

A scenic train ride excursion prepares to depart from the East Broad Top station in Rockhill.
A scenic train excursion prepares to depart from the East Broad Top station in Rockhill.

After a decade-long hiatus, the East Broad Top Railroad is once again offering passenger excursions, shop tours, and visits to the “roundhouse” where their fleet of six steam engines live.

Engine number 12, nicknamed "Millie".
Engine number 12, nicknamed “Millie”, inside the roundhouse.

As the only surviving narrow gauge common carrier railroad east of the Rocky Mountains, the East Broad Top Railroad has officially been a National Historic Landmark since 1964.

The East Broad Top Railroad has been a Registered National Historic Landmark. since 1964.
The East Broad Top Railroad has been a Registered National Historic Landmark. since 1964.

And now that the wheels are turning once again, here’s what you can expect to see and experience in this sprawling “living history museum” in Huntingdon County.

The East Broad Top Railroad M-3 gasoline powered train.
The M-3 gasoline powered locomotive.

Riding the East Broad Top Railroad

We’ll start with what you’re probably most excited about – the chance to ride the rails again!

A scenic train ride excursion leaving the station at Rockhill.
A scenic train ride excursion leaving the station at Rockhill Furnace.

In 2021, the East Broad Top Railroad is using one of their diesel engines to pull passenger cars on sightseeing excursions, with plans to have at least one of their steam locomotives ready to go for the 2022 season.

A diesel engine pulls passenger cars along the East Broad Top Railroad line in September, 2021.
A diesel engine pulls passenger cars in September, 2021.

The sightseeing trip I took in September of 2021 utilized open-air passenger cars, which allow for beautiful, unobstructed views of the Huntingdon County countryside.

The open-air passenger cars on the East Broad Top Railroad.
The open-air passenger cars.

The train travelled north out of Orbisonia on a 6 mile out-and-back trip, lasting approximately 45 minutes.

Taking a scenic train ride through the Huntingdon County countryside aboard the East Broad Top Railroad.
Taking a scenic train ride through the Huntingdon County countryside.

The attendants were dressed in period garb, which adds to the late-1800s vibe.

View from a passenger car on the East Broad Top Railroad.
View from a passenger.

Of course that vibe will be further enhanced when the first steam engine is up and running again!

The East Broad Top Railroad hopes to have at least one steam engine back in operation in 2022.
The East Broad Top Railroad hopes to have at least one steam engine back in operation in 2022.

But in the meantime, the diesel-powered trip was great, and I’m sure no railfan will be disappointed by the experience.

Pulling out of the station on a scenic train excursion on the East Broad Top Railroad.
Returning to the station after a scenic train ride.

You can buy tickets in-person at the train station in Rockhill Furnace, or book online at the East Broad Top Railroad’s official website.

Engine Number 17 in front of the East Broad Top Train Station in Huntingdon County, PA.
Engine Number 17 in front of the East Broad Top Train Station in Huntingdon County, PA.

Machine Shop Tours at the East Broad Top Railroad

Maintaining and repairing the locomotives and train cars was the task of the machine shops at the East Broad Top Railroad.

Exterior view of the machine shops.
Exterior view of the machine shops.

Guided tours of those shops are now offered, giving you the chance to see them in much the same state that they were in more than 100 years ago.

East Broad Top Railroad Shop Tours begin at the old freight office.
Railroad Shop Tours begin at the old freight office.

Machine Shop tours start in the old freight office, which is itself a repository of many historical artifacts related to the railroad.

The Freight Office at the East Broad Top Railroad.
The freight office.

Although coal was the primary freight hauled by the East Broad Top Railroad, it also hauled ganister (rocks used for making fire bricks ), timber, farm products, U.S. mail, and passengers.

Inside the freight office at the East Broad Top Railroad.
Inside the freight office.

As you make your way across the tracks from the freight office to the machine shops, note the difference between the narrow gauge and standard gauge tracks.

The narrow gauge rails and standard gauge rails in a side-by-side comparison.
The narrow gauge rails and standard gauge rails in a side-by-side comparison.

Like the locomotives, the tools in the machine shop were steam powered, via an elaborate system of belts and shafts.

The East Broad Top Railroad machine shop.
The machine shop.

The machinists who worked here did everything from small repairs to fabricating entire freight cars.

Inside the East Broad Top Railroad machine shops.
Inside the East Broad Top Railroad machine shops.

Pieces and parts of railcars can be found stored all around the machine shops; some of these parts may not have moved in more than half a century.

Narrow gauge "trucks" stored near the East Broad Top Railroad machine shops.
Narrow gauge “trucks” stored near the machine shops.

Roundhouse Tours at the East Broad Top Railroad

Included in the machine shop tour is a tour of the roundhouse, parts of which date back to 1874.

The East Broad Top Railroad roundhouse.
The East Broad Top Railroad roundhouse.

The roundhouse is where the locomotives were prepared for use, and stored when not in use.

The East Broad Top Railroad turntable.
The turntable and roundhouse.

The roundhouse is also where minor repairs and inspections were performed on the locomotives.

Engine number 15 in the roundhouse at the East Broad Top Railroad.
Engine number 15 in the roundhouse.

Currently, the roundhouse is where the steam locomotives are being prepared for service once again.

A steam engine undergoing restoration at the East Broad Top Railroad.
A steam engine undergoing restoration.

As with the train excursions, you can book machine shop tours online, or buy them in person at the train station, which conveniently also houses the gift shop!

The East Broad Top Railroad gift shop inside the train station.
The East Broad Top Railroad gift shop inside the train station.

Getting There

The East Broad Top Railroad station is located in southern Huntingdon County at 421 Meadow Street, Rockhill Furnace, PA 17249.

The Number 17 on the tracks in front of the East Broad Top Railroad train station.
The Number 17 on the tracks in front of the train station in Rockhill Furnace.

In other words, 13 miles north of the Fort Littleton exit of the PA Turnpike, or 11 miles south of Mount Union, just off Route 522.

a map to the East Broad Top Railroad, just north of the PA Turnpike and just south of Mount Union in Huntingdon County.
A map to the East Broad Top Railroad, just north of the PA Turnpike and just south of Mount Union in Huntingdon County.

Be sure to check the East Broad Top Railroad official website for the latest tours, special events, hours, and admission prices; when I visited recently an antique machinery show was taking place, and several more special events are planned throughout the year.

Steam tractors on display during an antique machinery show at the East Broad Top Railroad.
Steam tractors on display during an antique machinery show at the East Broad Top Railroad.

Nearby Attractions

The Rockhill Trolley Museum is literally right next to the East Broad Top Railroad, and gives visitors a chance to ride antique electric streetcars through the Huntingdon County countryside.

The Rockhill Trolley Museum offers visitors the chance to ride antique electric trolley cars through a scenic Huntingdon County valley.
The Rockhill Trolley Museum offers visitors the chance to ride antique electric trolley cars through a scenic Huntingdon County valley.

Trough Creek State Park in Huntingdon County is home to many beautiful natural attractions, including waterfalls, unusual rock formations, and scenic overlooks.

The Ledges Trail Overlook in Huntingdon County at Trough Creek State Park.
Ledges Trail Overlook at Trough Creek State Park.

The 1000 Steps in Huntingdon County is one of the most famous (and challenging) hikes in central Pennsylvania!

The 1000 Steps near Mount Union in Huntingdon County.
The 1000 Steps near Mount Union in Huntingdon County.

Saint Mary’s Covered Bridge is the last remaining covered bridge in Huntingdon County.

Saint Mary's Covered Bridge in Huntingdon County, PA
Saint Mary’s Covered Bridge in Huntingdon County, PA.

Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County is home to four magnificent scenic overlooks.

Observation area at Hawn's Overlook above Raystown Lake.
Hawn’s Overlook at Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County.

Indian Lookout in Huntingdon County is perched high above the former Colerain State Park, now part of the Rothrock State Forest.

Exploring Indian Lookout in the Rothrock State Forest.
Indian Lookout in Huntingdon County.

The Allegheny Tunnel (known originally as the Summit Tunnel) in Gallitzin (Cambria County) was the longest railroad tunnel in the world at the time of its completion, at 3,612 feet.

A westbound Norfolk-Southern train exiting the western portal of the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.
A westbound Norfolk Southern train exiting the western portal of the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.

Completed in 1854, the Allegheny Tunnel is still in use to this day, and the Gallitzin Tunnels Park next to it is a popular spot for railfans to congregate and watch trains enter and exit this historic tunnel.

Tunnels Park and Museum in Gallitzin, PA.
Tunnels Park and Museum in Gallitzin, PA.

The World-Famous Horseshoe Curve was considered one of the “engineering wonders of the world” at the time of its completion in 1854.

Westbound train passing through the viewing area at the Horseshoe Curve.
Westbound train passing through the viewing area park at the Horseshoe Curve.

In conjunction with the Allegheny Tunnel mentioned above, the Horseshoe Curve allowed trains to cross back and forth over the steep Allegheny Mountains, something that had been impossible before 1854.

One of the many exhibits inside the Horseshoe Curve Museum and Visitor Center.
One of the many exhibits inside the Horseshoe Curve Museum and Visitor Center.

Riding the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe is another fabulous Pennsylvania sightseeing train excursion you can take.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe, PA.
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe, PA.

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Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

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