Last updated Jan. 23, 2005

One of the unique features of the East Broad Top Railroad was the operation of standard-gauge freight cars along the narrow-gauge EBT tracks. At the Mt. Union yard, junction of the EBT with the Pennsylvania RR main line, the Timber Transfer crane was used to lift the freight car body so that its trucks could be swapped. In this way, incoming shipments in standard-gauge cars could be delivered to destinations along the EBT, and outgoing shipments from businesses along the EBT could be loaded directly into standard-gauge cars. This eliminated the labor-intensive transfer of products between standard and narrow-gauge freight cars, prolonging the EBT's useful life.

Movement of retrucked standard-gauge freight cars along the EBT was possible because the railroad had some time previously been rebuilt with standard-gauge clearances along bridges, tunnels, etc.

Retrucking of standard-gauge freight cars apparently occurred on an occasional basis before the 1920's. The Timber Transfer crane, which had originally been built to transfer logs (from the McKelvey Brothers logging operation) from narrow-gauge EBT flatcars into standard-gauge cars, was modified drung the 1930's for use in retrucking standard-gauge freight cars. Additional diagional braces were added to the Timber Transfer, and the EBT modified a number of its narrow-gauge trucks, adding side pads to better support the wider standard-gauge car bodies. A short siding on each side of the Timber Transfer held replacement/replaced trucks. View remaining foundations of the Timber Transfer crane... View modified narrow-gauge truck

The retrucking procedure took about 30 minutes and four to five workmen in addition to the crane operator. Freight cars would be positioned on the northwest side of the Timber Transfer, on the west track (about where the gondola appears in this photo), where they would be rolled down one at a time by gravity until the leading coupler is lined up with the crane. The brake rigging would be detached and the crane would lift this end of the freight car with a loop around the coupler shank, and the truck rolled out. As the replacement truck was positioned on the siding (left foreground of photo) the removed truck would be rolled out straight so that the replacement truck could be rolled in from the siding, then the removed truck would be pushed back onto this siding to leave the straight track clear. The replacement truck would be rolled into place underneath the car body, the crane would then shift the car body sideways 10 1/4 inches to center it on the replacement truck, and the car body would then be lowered. The brake rigging would be connected to the new truck, then the car would be rolled by gravity so that the other end could be lifted, and the process repeated. The retrucked car would then be rolled out southeast by gravity. A step-by-step description (with graphics) of the sequence of operations to retruck a standard-gauge freight car.

The EBT did not charge an extra fee for retrucking. The EBT used a special cast-aluminum adapter to allow the standard-gauge coupler to attach to the EBT's narrow-gauge couplers (about 3/4ths. the size of standard-gauge couplers). Usually only one retrucked standard-gauge freight car was allowed per train, coupled directly behind the locomotive and tender. Interestingly, the videotape "The East Broad Top - A Living Legend" includes a vintage B&W film clip of a northbound freight train passing through Rockhill Furnace, the first car behind the locomotive tender is an EBT steel-sided NG boxcar, the second is a standard-gauge gondola loaded with freshly-cut railroad ties, the third is a standard-gauge boxcar, followed by 15-18 EBT hoppers loaded with coal, and finishing up with a combine.

Retrucking operations peaked in the 1939-40 time period, to facilitate delivery of cement and other road construction materials to the then-under-construction Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76). Neelyton, at the end of the EBT's Shade Gap branch, was the closest railhead to the highway being built through the mountains. Other businesses that used standard-gauge freight service were several businesses in Three Springs (a scrap yard, an oil distributor and a feed store), the Joller coal mine and several other coal mines on the Rocky Ridge branch, among others. Standard-gauge freight car retrucking continued up until the end of freight operations in 1956.

Standard-gauge freight cars known to have operated
on the East Broad Top Railroad on narrow-gauge trucks

Car Type Model Number Railroad Reference
Gondola G25B 340777 Pennsylvania SGS pg. 20
Gondola GS/GSA 322163 Pennsylvania TT V11 #2, pg. 17
Gondola GS/GSD 301--- Pennsylvania TT V11 #1, pg. 10
Gondola ? ? Pennsylvania CEBT pg. 7
Gondola ? ? B & O TTM pg. 18
Gondola GR 278733 Pennsylvania ALL
Gondola ? ? Reading? CEBT pg. 6
Gondola ? (-----) Reading SGS pg. 17
Gondola G27A 347680 Pennsylvania FCTR 6/24/52
Gondola GRA 355906 Pennsylvania FCTR 7/8/52
Gondola G35 377947 Pennsylvania FCTR 7/8/52
Boxcar X29 571470 Pennsylvania AEBT pg. 180
Boxcar ? ? New York Central SGS Pg. 23, 26, 33
Boxcar ? (check) New York Central AEBT pg. 135
Boxcar ? ? New York Central TTM pg. 24
Boxcar ? 26512 Mobile & Ohio SGS pg. 21, 27, 30-32
Boxcar ? ? ? TTM pg. 26
Boxcar ? 102395 Reading TTM pg. 75
Boxcar X25 88363 Pennsylvania Mahan photo 8/3/46 via Rich Keller
Boxcar ? 43618 D. L. & W. NG&SLG 9&10/97 pg. 78 & 80
Boxcar ? 8110 ITC FCTR 6/1/51
Boxcar X28A 124594 Pennsylvania FCTR 6/17/52
Boxcar ? 18130 Seaboard FCTR 7/24/52
Boxcar X29 571470 Pennsylvania PCNDVD
Covered Hopper H30 255024 Pennsylvania TT V13 #3 back cover
TTM pg. 26
QREBT pg. 9
Covered Hopper ? ? Lehigh & New England TT V13 #3 pg. 8
Covered Hopper ? 12339 Lehigh & New England QREBT pg. 9
Covered Hopper ? 103395 Reading FCTR 7/8/52
Tank car UT LX 64313 Union Tank Car Co. TTM pg. 14
Tank car UT LX 68121 Union Tank Car Co. TT V3 #3 pg 8, 6/19/52
Tank car UT LX 60603 Union Tank Car Co. FCTR 7/24/52
Tank car UT LX 63416 Union Tank Car Co. FCTR 7/22/52
Tank car UT LX 66631 Union Tank Car Co. FCTR 7/22/52
Tank car UT LX 68122 Union Tank Car Co. FCTR 7/24/52
Tank car UT LX ????? Union Tank Car Co. PCNDVD
Hopper ? ? Pennsylvania? TTM pg. 25
Hopper GL/GLCa ? Pennsylvania? LETC

Photos of several of these freight car types:

A Pennsylvania Railroad Class X29 boxcar. This example is preserved at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

A Pennsylvania RR Class GS gondola, also at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

A Pennsylvania Railroad Class H30A covered hopper at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. The PRR Class H30 used for cement delivery was virtually identical except for a cast bolster.

Nearby the Timber Transfer crane was the Coal Washing plant, where raw "run of mine" coal from the mines serviced by the EBT was unloaded, cleaned and graded, then reloaded into standard-gauge hoppers for delivery via the Pennsylvania RR and connections. Much of the EBT Mt. Union yard was dual-gauge, and the Mt. Union yard was usually full of standard-gauge hoppers and a few other standard-gauge freight cars that were not retrucked for operation on the EBT. The EBT had two standard-gauge 0-6-0 switch engines, #3 and #6, to move both standard and narrow-gauge freight cars around the Mt. Union yard. These two switch engines were fitted with dual sets of couplers (standard and narrow gauge) on each end. Some photos of switch engine #3 today

Standard-gauge freight cars known to have
operated in Mt. Union yard (not retrucked)

Car Type Model Number Railroad Reference
Gondola G22A 870723 Pennsylvania R&K pg. 130
Gondola G22A 870723 Pennsylvania R&K pg. 130
Gondola GSA/D 862141 Pennsylvania photo in EBT collection
Gondola G31A/K 612437 Pennsylvania RPOEBT pg. 55
Boxcar X26 5403-- Pennsylvania AEBT pg. 210, TTM pg. 32
Hopper GLA 705936 Pennsylvania R&K pg. 128
Hopper H21A/F 717404? Pennsylvania AEBT pg. 211
Hopper H21A/H 189885 Pennsylvania CEBT pg. 32
Hopper ? 15150 Lehigh & New England CEBT pg. 39
Hopper ? (717031?)
(invalid #)
Pennsylvania TTM pg. 22
RPOEBT pg. 41
TT V3 #5 pg 12
Hopper GLA/C 200914? Pennsylvania TTM pg. 24
Hopper GLA 8977-- Pennsylvania TTM pg. 27

Standard-gauge freight car delivery on a portion of the EBT will soon resume, as the Mt. Union Connecting Railroad is refurbishing a standard-gauge track through the EBT Mt. Union yard, and will be extending the standard-gauge rail southwards from Mt. Union about 2 miles to the Riverview Industrial Park, where several businesses have expressed interest in freight rail service.

Abbreviation Title
ALL "The East Broad Top - A Living Landmark" videotape by Deane Mellander, produced by Friends of the East Broad Top, 1992.
AEBT "Along The East Broad Top" by Donald Heimburger, published by Heimberger House Publishing Co., 1987.
CEBT "Colorful East Broad Top" by Mallory Hope Ferrell, published by Heimberger House Publishing Co., 1993.
FCTR Freight Conductors Train Reports, Laurence Sellers & H. A. Stumpf, EBT RR, 1951-52, Jim Vliet’s collection
LETC “Little Engines That Could” video, Berkshire Videography, 1984
NG&SLG Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette magazine, published by Benchmark Publications Ltd.
PCNDVD “PCN Tours East Broad Top Railroad” DVD, Pennsylvania Cable Network, 2002 (still photo from EBT RR collection?)
QREBT "A Quick Review of the East Broad Top" edited by Joseph Mannix III, published by the East Broad Top RR and Coal Co., 1960.
R&K "East Broad Top" by Rainey & Kyper, published by Golden West Books, 1982.
RPOEBT "A Ramble Into the Past on the East Broad Top Railroad" by Frank Kyper, published by the East Broad Top RR & Coal Co., 1971.
SGS "East Broad Top - Slim Gauge Survivor" by Deane Mellander, published by Old Line Graphics, 1995.
TT Timber Transfer magazine, published by Friends of The East Broad Top.
TTM "East Broad Top - To The Mines and Back" by Grenard and Kramer, published by Carstens Publications, 1980.

Note: any Pennsylvania RR freight car type can be identified using the number lookup at