(Posted February 2, 2024)

HUNTINGDON, Pa.— The most recent publication by the Juniata College Press, “A Brief Guide to the EBT: Living Relic of the Industrial Age,” is the culmination of a collaborative partnership between Juniata College and the historic East Broad Top Railroad (EBT). 

“Written largely by Juniata students, “A Brief Guide to the EBT” recounts the story of this ‘big little railroad.’ The book was edited by Lawrence Biemiller, writer and EBT volunteer; James Tuten, Charles R. and Shirley A. Knox Professor of History; and Ryan Kough, associate professor of integrated media arts. 

Based in Rockhill Furnace, Pa., the East Broad Top Railroad was active as a freight and passenger hauler from 1871 to 1956 and is one of the nation’s oldest and best-preserved narrow-gauge railroads. The site was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The railroad has been preserved as a tourist attraction and operated as a heritage railway from 1960-2011. The EBT was purchased by a non-profit foundation in early 2020, which is when work began on the guidebook in earnest. 

“When the EBT Foundation, Inc., acquired the railroad in 2020, the newest guidebook we had was from 1979,” said Biemiller. “We had a great model, a guidebook for Colorado’s Durango & Silverton Railroad that covers train operations, history, geology, and more, but where were we going to find a writer who cover all those topics? That’s how we came up with the idea of bringing together Juniata students from various departments to contribute sections of the book.” 

“I proposed a special topics course, ‘East Broad Top Railroad,’ with the goal of teaching it in the fall of 2020,” said Tuten, who added that his students were enthusiastic about the opportunity to take part in the research and writing process. “We knew we needed expertise in layout and illustration and reached out to Ryan Kough and her students.” 

While the research and writing were completed in that first semester, editing and navigating publication and distribution options took longer than expected. One benefit to the extended timetable was the increased availability of archival images as EBT records were digitized.   

“Although the IMA Program traditionally works with local non-profits on larger yearlong campaigns, my pre-academia career was in publishing books, magazines, and daily newspapers. I was excited about the long-term opportunity for IMA students to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries learning the many facets of publishing original research. The outcome highlights the work of several graduating classes of IMA students who were able to see the project through various stages to the final published book.” said Kough.  

The 116-page paperback explains what to expect on a ride on the EBT, how the locomotives and machine shops evolved, what the railroad hauled and where it ran, and even how mastodon bones were unearthed near its tracks in the tiny borough of Saltillo, Pa. 

The Juniata College Press traditionally publishes works pertaining to the College's history or matters related to Juniata. Until now, the most recent book published by the Juniata College Press was “The Stottlemyer Collection: A Journey” in 2014.  

“A Brief Guide to the EBT: Living Relic of the Industrial Age” is available online at https://store.febt.org/, at the Friends of the East Broad Top Railroad retail location in Robertsdale, Pa., and at both locations (Hesston, Pa., and Huntingdon, Pa.) of the Raystown Lake Visitor’s Center.   

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.