May 2010

Pennsylvania Narrow Gauge

My interest in the history of the soapstone business in Virginia has me out in the woods of Albemarle, Nelson, and Amherst Counties late every winter. After hunting season but before the last freeze I go out in search of signs of activity from long ago. Hopes are high to find clues as to what was once there. Maybe a stone foundation, a rotted crosstie, a short piece of wire rope. Any artifact at all is cause for much happiness and photo shooting. Finding something helps create a picture of the past.

I had heard and read about a narrow gauge railroad that ran in south central Pennsylvania, and decided to go see what was left of it. As I drove through Robertsdale, I saw a most amazing sight.



The rails were still in place. It was easy to trace the line through town and see a turning wye.

I hiked several miles of the grade, astounded that the line was still pretty much intact. As I followed the old right of way north, I eventually reached Orbisonia.



Orbisonia is a waking dream for someone interested in industrial history like myself. Facilities that only exist in faded photographs anywhere else are still standing at the East Broad Top shops.



At Mount Union, strings of narrow gauge hopper cars sit in the woods at the edge of town. I just could not get over how so much of the East Broad Top Railroad is still there.