Riding the Rails in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania

Tucked into the pocket of a pair of hundred-year-old railroad engineer coveralls, you are instantly returned to an era of vintage rail transportation here. Like triumphantly raised arms, two silver smokestacks proclaim their victory over time, which otherwise seems suspended by the sprawling, wooden, red-painted shop complex surrounding it, modified by not a single nail since it first rose from the ground. A cobweb of tracks, imbedded in the artery which divides the twin boroughs of Rockhill Furnace and Orbisonia, merges into three in front of the depot, which bears the latter’s name, departure point for one of three daily, narrow-gauge, steam locomotive-pulled trains operating as the East Broad Top Railroad. The clang of a bell, rung across the street, indicates the arrival of a bright red trolley car from the opposite direction.

Tourists ride the rails today; coal miners rode them yesterday.

Cradled by Blacklog Mountain and both Saddleback and Sandy Ridges, the area, then undeveloped, beckoned prospectors with its natural resources, consisting of agricultural land, water, timber, coal, and iron, the Blacklog Creek both feeding and leading them to what would become its twin boroughs.

Initially serving as a Native American campsite and hunting ground, as evidenced by archeological traces found at Sandy Ridge, the area first took root in 1754 when land was purchased from Six Nations, and the first road, mimicking the original Indian path and fostering westward expansion of settlers, was created 33 yeas later, stretching between Burnt Cabins in the south and Huntingdon in the north.

Bedford Furnace, the area’s first village, evolved from a trading post in 1760. Providing both a sense of location and permanence, it attracted the first white settler, George Erwin, who established a trading post in a log cabin, shipping goods over narrow, wilderness-tunneling trails and exchanging them with travelers and Native Americans alike.

Placing the initial pin into the map, the Bedford Furnace Company established a charcoal furnace in order to be able to produce iron in 1785, sparking growth in the Juniata Valley and serving as the first of many to eventually characterize it.

Rockhill Furnace Number 1, built in 1831 by Thomas Diven and William Morrison south of the town in Blacklog Narrows, replaced the smaller, original plant, while Winchester Furnace, the third such ironworks, rose a few hundred yards away.

Abandoned in 1850 after a less-than-prosperous reign, it was joined seven years later by furnace Number 1 when area deforestation depleted the timber necessary for iron smelting charcoal, although the Civil War once again-albeit temporarily-re-lit its fires.

A mortgage foreclosure preceded its purchase in 1867, but its resurrection now hinged upon a fuel source to feed it. The needed pot of gold at the end of the rainbow-or, in this case, on top of the rainbow-came in the form of coal discovered on Broad Top Mountain. What was now required was a method to transport it from its summit-located mines to the iron furnaces in the east.

East Broad Top Railroad:

During the early-1850s, Pennsylvania’s Juniata Valley began to sprout rails.

The single track of Pennsylvania Central Railways, thread through the narrow mountain passes and along the Juniata River, connected Lewistown and Huntingdon, for the first time offering a non-aquatic, intrastate transportation alternative to the Public Work’s Main Line Canal. The Pennsylvania Railroad’s own all-rail line soon grew branches throughout the Allegheny Mountains, allowing it to penetrate hills and valleys in order to collect and haul the region’s riches in the form of lumber and coal. Track laid between 1853 and 1854 enabled the Huntingdon and Broad Top Railway to surmount its very namesaked incline on the west side. But rail access remained a void on its east.

Although the necessary charter for such a rail line had been granted on April 16, 1856, several proposals-and 14 years-ensued before a group of Philadelphia businessmen, spurred by the Civil War’s cry for additional track to move troops and supplies, collected the required capital to construct one, forming, with the aid of the still-born charter, the East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company on July 3, 1871. It was decided, from the outset, to employ three-foot, narrow gauge track in order to reduce construction and operating costs and facilitate tighter turns.

The first track was put to bed on September 16 of the following year and its first locomotive, a 17.5-ton, wood-burning, narrow-gauge 2-6-0 built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia and named the “Edward Roberts,” was delivered a year after that.

Like a journey of time, track-laying could be measured by the calendar, the first 11 miles of it reaching Rockhill Furnace on August 30, 1873, ascending Sideling and Wrays Hills before arriving in Robertsdale the following year-all for the purpose of transporting coal and forestry products from Broad Top Mountain to Mount Union, its southern terminus, for transfer to standard-gauge Pennsylvania Railroad trains.

The original village of Rockhill Furnace, taking shape round the iron furnaces a half-mile from the current depot on the banks of Blacklog Creek, progressively expanded.

The fleet equally multiplied when three 26-ton Baldwin Consolidation engines were acquired between late-1873 and early-1874, the same year that the Robertsdale-mined coal was first rail-transported to Rockhill Furnace to fuel the blast furnaces now taken over by the newly-formed Rockhill Iron and Coal Company to ultimately produce pig iron.

As a town, Rockhill Furnace took initial form as a dual-stack iron furnace and collection of coke ovens, which expanded into the East Broad Top Railroad shop complex lining the Jordan Creek-a veritable pocket of self-sufficiency.

Occupying the farmland purchased for the complex and employing the original, still-existent stone farmhouse for its administrative offices, the soon-sprawling plant’s gears were turned by means of its steam-powered overhead shafts and belts, with additional electricity and compressed air generated by its boiler plant, pumping current, like flowing blood, to its foundry and machine, car, and blacksmith shops. Its brick roundhouse, eventually encompassing eight stalls, facilitated alignment with the needed track, provided light locomotive maintenance, and served as a storage shed, while heavy repairs occurred in the machine shop. Commodities necessary for steam engine operation, including water, coal, and sand, were stored throughout the complex, which itself was capable of the locomotive repair and maintenance functions themselves, as well as rolling stock manufacture and the production of forgings, castings, and machine parts for both the railroad and the mines it accessed.

The yard’s wye, formed by track from Mount Union and crossing Meadow Street (Pennsylvania Route 994) just past the Orbisonia depot, facilitated intra-complex car movement, storage positioning, and train configuration, providing access to either Alvan or the Shade Gap Branch, depending upon car orientation.

Indeed, the shop complex served as one of many links in a chain, none of which could have existed without the other, inclusive of the area’s natural resources giving rise to the iron smelting industry, the railroad needed to transport the coal to fuel it, the shops to manufacture and maintain its equipment, and the town arising to support the workforce which turned its gears.

Its fleet initially encompassed two passenger coaches, two baggage cars, and 176 freight and coal hopper cars.

From the mainline, which extended from Robertsdale to Woodvale in 1891 and Alvan in 1916, spur tracks spread like arteries from a central vein as additional mines were bored, resulting in the Shade Gap, Shade Valley, Booher Mine, Rocky Ridge, Number 7 and Number 8, Coles Valley, and NARCO branches, and the Shirleysburg clay spur.

With progressive expansion and prosperity, the East Broad Top Railroad began to carry passengers over and above the standard miners, coal, and freight for whom and for which it had been conceived.

The beginning of the 20th century signaled the railroad’s infrastructure modernization program. Iron rails, for example, were replaced by steel ones. Wood was equally swapped for steel on trestles and bridges, and the durable metal for the first time formed its freight cars.

In 1926, coal-in addition to iron ore, quartzite ganister rock, forest products, and other miscellany-constituted 80 percent of its freight, exceeding 26 million ton-miles alone.

According to East Broad Top Railroad Timetable Number 53, effective Monday, September 29, 1930, it covered the 33-mile main line route from Mount Union to Alvan in one hour, 45 minutes, one southbound run departing at 0920 and arriving at 1105 via Allenton, Adams, Aughwick, Pump Station, Shirleysburg, Orbisonia, Pogue, Three Springs, Saltillo, Fairview, Kimmel, Coles, Rocky Ridge, Wrays Hill, Cooks, Robertsdale, and Woodvale.

Like everything in life, however, the railroad experienced both peaks and troughs. When the depression sunk its teeth into its profits, it was reorganized, simply, as the Rockhill Coal Company, and J. William Wetter assumed the presidency of both the iron furnace and the railroad which fed it.

Exerting its demands for commodities, however, World War II temporarily re-lit the fires in its furnaces, and strip-mining joined its list of coal and ganister rock extractions for the first time.

Inevitably, with the iron supply dwindling and coal the only commodity left to haul, the end of the line-literally-loomed ahead. Passenger rail services from Mount Union to Woodvale, initially curtailed from the two daily, Monday-to-Saturday round-trips, to a single one, were altogether discontinued on August 15, 1954, leaving coal as its sole, and increasingly unprofitable, type of freight. Mount Union brick plants, converting from coal to natural gas, no longer needed it for their own viability, while the proliferation of rail-replacing roads hammered the final anvil into the line. Mail, now transferred to truck transport, obviated the need for the post office contract.

The Rockhill Coal Company terminated its coal shipment requirements on March 31 and the East Broad Top Railroad’s raison d’être essentially ended.

The last service, a round-trip from Rockhill Furnace to Mount Union via Saltillo and operated by 161,000-pound locomotive Number 17-a Baldwin 2-8-2 built in 1918-occurred on April 6, 1956, while all common carrier operations mimicked the event a little less than a month later, on May 1.

Stretching throughout the area, from Mount Union and climbing Broad Top Mountain on its east side, its mainline track network, along with its numerous, initially-intact branch lines, appeared like the cobwebs clinging to once-useful pieces of history, but now relegated to relics, their only associated movement, albeit in painstakingly slow form, being the weeds and grasses which sprouted between their cross-ties until they camouflaged them.

Not far behind was a second onslaught-in the form of the Kovalchick Salvage Company of Indiana, Pennsylvania–which had purchased the entire system, including its locomotives, cars, stations, shops, buildings, company houses, rights-of-way, and the land from which the once-precious coal commodity had been removed.

Four years passed. A few branch lines were uprooted. A handful of cars was sold to rail fans who insisted on owning a tangible piece of history. The weeds continued to aggressively attack and conquer the tracks. But, strangely, the dismantling company did not.

Indeed, instead of eradicating this piece of narrow gauge, steam railroad and coal mining history from the stage where it had been enacted, Nick Kovalchick, president of his company, became preservationist of it, rising from salvager to savior.

The East Broad Top Railroad’s first re-purposed spark was lit by Orbisonia’s one-week bicentennial celebration, whose cornerstone was the very rail line which had given birth to it, perhaps reflecting an act of creation, in which nothing truly dies.

Replacing tourists with coal, the trains would once again ply the tracks, offering return-to-history excursions. Cleared of underbrush, and given the necessary repairs, they once again supported railroad life when locomotive Number 12, a 1911 2-8-2 Baldwin, was christened with ginger ale by Kovalchick’s daughter, Millie, on August 13, 1960.

Pulling two converted, open-air and four passenger coaches over the hitherto 3.5 miles of resurrected rail, it chugged, belched, and hissed black smoke and white steam, returning to the natural element for which it had been designed, as far as Colgate Grove. Because a wye had not been remedially installed until later, locomotive Number 15, having followed the proud, narrow gauge chain, pulled it back to the Orbisonia station.

Instead of departing history, the railroad, now under command of new president, Nick Kovalchick, has been returning to it ever since.

Designated a Registered National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior in 1964, it is both the oldest-and oldest still-operating-narrow gauge railroad east of the Rocky Mountains, and today ranks as one of the “top tucks” into the preserved pockets of narrow gauge steam railroad history.

Tourists and locals alike retrace the bicentennial path, now stretching five miles, on one of three round-trip weekend excursion trains during May, June, and September; on Thursday-to-Sunday frequencies from July to mid-August; and during three-day, Friday-to-Sunday periods in October, covering the ten miles during 70-minute runs, ten minutes of which constitute a pause in Colgate Grove. Special and theme trains are offered on Mother’s Day, Independence Day (accompanied by appropriate fireworks), Civil War weekends, on Labor Day, during the fall foliage season, on Halloween, and on Polar Express trips in December. Children-applicable trains are pulled by Thomas the Tank engines.

Although some 25 different steam locomotives plied the East Broad Top Railroad’s tracks throughout its history, eight-comprised of six narrow gauge 2-8-2s and two standard gauge 0-6-0s-remain today, one of which is stored at the Whitewater Valley Railroad in Indiana. Most of the others continue to occupy their original residences-the roundhouse in the Rockhill Furnace shop complex.

The Number 3, a Baldwin standard gauge 0-6-0 built in 1923, was restricted to operations in the Mount Union switching yard and at the coal cleaning plant. The last and most powerful of the type, it was retired in April of 1956 and is stored in the Mount Union engine house.

The Number 12, a Baldwin 2-8-2 constructed in 1911, was contrastively the first and smallest Mikado to have been acquired, capable of hauling up to 15 loaded hopper cars from the coals mines. It was last used in 2000.

Of the same class as its Number 12 predecessor, the Number 14, built in 1912, was the second narrow gauge locomotive to be acquired, featuring both increased weight and power.

Still greater capability was offered by the Number 15, constructed in 1914, to satisfy increasing demand, enabling it to pull up to 18 loaded hopper cars.

The first of three large Mikados, the Number 16 of 1916, introduced superheaters, piston valves, and a Southern gear valve. It was retired a year before the original East Broad Top Railroad discontinued service, in 1955.

The succeeding Number 17 became the only heavy Mikado to be provisioned for tourist train service, while the number 18, the last and largest in the fleet, was retired in 1956. Like the other two in its class, it could pull 22 loaded hopper cars.

Several passenger cars, all coated in dark green, also encompass its fleet.

Of the coaches the railroad purchased from the Boston, Revere Beach, and Lynn, and the Air Sable and Northwestern, a single coach, two combinations, and the president’s car remained after the others were sold at the conclusion of the line’s passenger service. Six freight cars were converted to this configuration to enable it to write its tourist train chapter.

Coach Number 8, for instance, hails from 1882 and was constructed by the Laconia Car Company before having been acquired by Boston, Revere Beach, and Lynn in 1916.

Combine cars 14 and 15 share the same lineage.

Parlor car 20, now serving as the East Broad Top’s first class coach usually appendaged to the end of the train, had been constructed in 1882 by Billmeyer and Smalls and was subsequently acquired from Big Level and Kinzua in September of 1907 for use as Railroad President Robert Seibert’s personal coach.

Several other types make up the fleet, including flat, box, baggage, freight, and track cars, motorcars, cabooses, and diesel locomotives.

Today’s tourist trains continue to depart from the “Orbisonia” station, a wooden, two-story, clapboard depot located on the north side of Meadow Street, just beyond the crossing point from the shop complex. It served as the railroad’s operating headquarters after it moved from its initial, Marble House residence on a ridge behind the shop buildings. According to Vagel Keller, of the Friends of East Broad Top-a 501.c.3 historical and preservation society-“the current Orbisonia station (is) located in the borough of Rockhill Furnace, while the namesake is one-forth of a mile east… The station at this place was originally known as ‘Rockhill,’ and in 1888 the village got a post office called ‘Rockhill Furnace.’ Apparently, this caused misrouting of mail intended for an older post office in Pennsylvania named ‘Rockhill,’ and at about the same time that the current station was being built in 1906, the US Postal Service asked the East Broad Top to rename the station to avoid confusion… Paradoxically, the re-named ‘Orbisonia Station’ hosted the Rockhill Furnace post office until shortly after the end of common carrier operations.”

During its heyday, its waiting room was alive with train crews, clerks, and passengers. Today, it serves as a gift shop still sporting its original wire ticket window, and from here passengers file through the door to a wooden, boardwalk-type porch, serving as a “platform,” to await the train beneath the later-added, full-length trackside canopy.

The actual journey, in a choice of open, coach, or first class cars, plies the original, three-foot-wide, narrow gauge track and passes Orbisonia, farms, and forests before pausing at Colgate Grove after negotiating the wye, location of the East Broad Top’s Shirleysburg clay spur, whose track had been laid in 1918 and had stretched from the grove itself to the base of the fire clay quarry on Sandy Ridge. Short-lived, its rails were removed in 1927, and the current wye, employing part of its right-of-way and constructed in 1961, resolved the train turn-around obstacle encountered during the bicentennial celebration excursions.

Today’s passengers can remain at the grove either during the two-hour interval until the next run or overnight, but, since it offers little more than a barbecue and a scatter of picnic tables, all food, drink, and gear must be self-provided.

The East Broad Top offers two educational, railroad era-immersive programs. The first, designated “Engineer for an Hour,” allows the rider to step into the shoes of an engineer and fireman by riding in the cab of a steam locomotive during one of the regularly scheduled trips, operating the throttle, blowing the whistle, and shovel-replenishing the firebox with coal. The second, “High Iron University/Rail Camp,” is a five-day program offered in conjunction with Altoona’s Railroaders Memorial Museum, and provides an indepth look at operating a steam powered railroad.

Aside from the train trip, rides are also offered in speeder, M-3, and handcars.

Another immersive experience is a tour of the railroad’s shop complex, which served as the heart of its operation. Seemingly immune to time’s sweep, it appears exactly as it did a century ago. The silver smokestacks mark the location of the Babcock and Wilcox boilers, which provided the steam needed to run the belt-driven equipment, while the red-painted buildings consist of the blacksmith, car, machine, and carpentry shops, pattern house, foundry, and lumber shed.

According, again, to Vagel Keller, “Another persistent myth holds that the current shops and roundhouse were built to replace earlier structures destroyed by a fire in 1882…The fire myth is based on oral traditions that conflate a cyclonic windstorm in the fall of 1881, which blew down part of the roundhouse (surviving today as the four arched doorways on the eastern half of the present structure), and on a fire in the early 1900s, which destroyed the paint shop and adjacent boiler shop. The roundhouse you see today originated with the four eastern stalls in 1874, was expanded to six stalls by 1895, and to its present form after 1911. The current shop complex originated in 1882 after the superintendent of the railroad prevailed on the Board of Directors to authorize the purchase of machine tools. Like the roundhouse, the shops were expanded over the years, taking their present form by 1911.”

Rockhill Trolley Museum:

Sharing the dual-gauge portion of the rails in the yard across from the East Broad Top depot, the Rockhill Trolley Museum, billing itself as “Pennsylvania’s first operating” one, affords the visitor a second opportunity to sink himself into vintage transportation history, plying the track to cover distance while distancing himself from time.

Powered by 600 volts of direct current collected by a continuous, overhead copper wire by means of a sliding shoe positioned at the end of a pole, electric trolleys, like trains, run on tracks, each of their under-floor motors usually powering a pair of wheels. An electric motor-driven air compressor channels pressure to their brakes. Internally, conductors check tickets and collect fares.

Tracing their origins to horse-drawn cars, trolleys, in their earliest forms, were small, wooden, four-wheeled vehicles, providing inter-city transportation. Demand, paralleling metropolis growth, soon necessitated larger cars, later constructed of steel, for passenger, freight, and mail transport, and by 1918, the trolley transportation industry had become the country’s fifth-largest. Pennsylvania alone was served by 116 such trolley lines, which covered more than 4,600 miles of track.

But, as cities stretched, like taffy, into suburbs and were increasingly accessed by roadways, need for this transportation system declined, leaving only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to run their lines after 1960, when Johnstown became the last small urban area to cease using its own.

Because it offers an inexpensive, pollution-free alternative to inner-city transportation, some existing track and related system components have been restored, which could be considered a budding stage of resurgence, modern cars or light-rail vehicles once again crisscrossing streets, intermixed with individual car and bus traffic.

This important trolley history can be experienced at the Rockhill Trolley Museum, which thus offers a second, rail-based transportation focus to Rockhill Furnace. Established in 1960, it acquired its first trolley car, the “Johnstown” Number 311, from its namesaked city. Built by the Wason Manufacturing Company of Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1922, it initially served in Bangor, Maine, before being sold to the Johnstown Traction Company, with which it performed a similar role in the Flood City until it was retired 19 years later, on June 11. As the first such car to operate within any Pennsylvania trolley museum track network, it continues to do so more than four decades later.

It is now one of many in the collection emanating form such Pennsylvania cities as Johnstown itself, York, Harrisburg, Scranton, and Philadelphia, and is part of its larger fleet of 35 in-service and under-restoration city and suburban, interurban, rapid transit, and maintenance-of-way cars.

York Car Number 163 is one of them. Constructed in 1924 by the J. G. Brill Car Company of Philadelphia, and constituting the museum’s most extensively restored example, the trolley was one of five with curved sides operated by York Railways. Subsequently used as a summer home positioned just north of the city on the Conewago Creek, before being thrust from its foundation by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, it was subsequently donated to the museum. Now a collection of hybrid parts, including wheels and motors from Japan, seats from Chicago, and cane coverings from China, it became the world’s only-operable example from York after the equivalent of 17 years of volunteer restoration.

Oporto Car Number 172 is an example of a smaller, single-axle car. Built and used by the Sociedades do Transportes Colectivos do Porto, or S.T.C.P., in 1929, the extensively brake-equipped vehicle, comprised of air, hand, and dynamic systems, was well suited to the Portuguese hilly city.

Ship-transported across the Atlantic and then road-conveyed from Philadelphia on a highway trailer, it immediately operated tourist excursion runs at the museum. Carved wood trim, brass fittings, sliding end doors, storable windows in roof pockets, and a three-abreast configuration constitute its ornate interior features.

The $20,539 New Jersey Transit PCC Car Number 6, first ordered in 1945 as part of a 40-strong fleet by the Twin City Rapid Transit Company from the St. Louis Car Company, connected Minneapolis with St. Paul two years later, operating on the Interurban Line, for which it was ideally suited with its northern winter-combative galvanized steel body; significant, nine-foot width for interior volume; two-person conductor booths; and electric horns.

Its “PCC” designation, an abbreviation of “President’s Conference Committee,” stems from the fact that it was the result of the new trolley standards it created in an attempt to increase street car ridership, which had increasingly migrated to individual automobiles.

Car Number 6, one of 30 acquired by Newark, New Jersey-based Public Service Coordinated Transport in 1953 after the Minnesota system had substituted its own trolleys with diesel buses, plied the short, 4.5-mile, municipally-owned Newark City Subway. But the late-1990s signaled its own end when the trolley line was converted to a light rail one.

Having been the second of the last to operate over the network before it was withdrawn from service, it hibernated in storage for a decade until it was purchased by the Rockhill Trolley Museum in 2011.

Philadelphia Transportation Company Car Number 2743 is another product of the President’s Conference Committee. Sporting a line of small, “standee windows” above the standard-sized ones, it offered increased acceleration and decreased interior noise levels over the older cars it replaced, operating with the Philadelphia Transportation Company from 1947 to 1993, a year after which it was acquired by the museum–although its five-foot, 2 1/4-inch wheel trucks had to be replaced with four-foot, 8 ½-inch ones before it could run on its tracks.

Capable of sustaining 70-mph speeds, and sporting contoured, bullet-shaped ends, Philadelphia and Western Railroad Car Number 205 is the “bullet car” in the collection. Manufactured by Brill in 1931, the aerodynamic-appearing vehicle employed lightweight aluminum, reducing structure weight, fostering increased speed, and requiring reduced power to propel, siphoning its electricity to run from a third rail and therefore not sporting the otherwise traditional trolley pole. Secondarily acquired by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, or SEPTA, it provided 59 years of service before nudged into the museum’s growing collection.

Its largest car is the “Independence Hall” Liberty liner. Spanning 156 feet in length, the permanently-attached, quad-car interurban, designed by the St. Louis Car Company in 1941, features eight, 125-hp articulated traction motors, and served the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad’s North Shore Line along with its identical twin, attaining 90-mph speeds on the windy city-Milwaukee sector. Both were designated “Electroliners.”

Subsequently bought by the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company after the twin city link had been discontinued in 1963, the refurbished interurbans, named “Independence Hall” and “Valley Forge” Liberty Liners, entered service on its relatively short, 14-mile Norristown Line, for whose curves and hills it was less than optimal, although its passenger-popular tavern car sold alcoholic beverages, snacks, and meals during the trip.

Acquired by the Rockhill Trolley Museum after it was offered for sale in 1981, it appears similar, although for larger, then the only rapid transit car in its collection, Philadelphia Subway Number 1009.

Manufactured itself by the J. G. Brill Car Company in 1936, it saw initial deployment on the Delaware River Bridge Commission’s Benjamin Franklin Bridge Line, shuttling passengers between Philadelphia and Camden. Its City of Brotherly Love service was retained with the Broad Street Subway, which subsequently purchased it and operated it until 1984, at which time it was replaced by state-of-the-art Japanese cars and donated to the museum.

Track-plying maintenance vehicles also take their place in the collection. Philadelphia and Western Railroad plow Number 10, for instance, a “sheer plow” produced by the Wason Manufacturing Company in 1915, canted snow to either side of the track. Bought from SEPTA in 1988, it is the last snowplow trolley to have been used by any US transit system, although it is employed by the museum for the same track-clearing purposes.

Actual car maintenance and restoration can be viewed on shop and car barn tours, while six departures offer trolley ride opportunities on the 1.5-mile Shade Gap Branch of the East Broad Top Railroad, with which it closely coordinates, to Blacklog Narrows, passing the remains of the original iron furnaces, which are now reduced to skeletal brick walls and coke oven ruins. A single ticket accesses unlimited rides for the day, which take about an hour for the three-mile round-trip. Like the East Broad Top Railroad itself, which the trolleys usually meet upon return, the Rockhill Trolley Museum, open on weekends between June and October, schedules several seasonal trips, including those highlighting trolley equipment, fall spectaculars, and Pumpkin Patch, Polar Bear Express, and Santa runs. Its gift shop features a rail-related photographic collection.

Wireless Networking Cards – A Closer Look

Ok, so you’ve read all the cool stuff and heard all the great things about going wireless and then it just hit you. However, that works you don’t know or care but it hit you. That was it, the little voice in your head said, “do it” and that was that. Unfortunately, that was awhile ago and since that “moment” you’ve done your part. You did some research into what was needed to upgrade your computer but it’s all just so darn confusing. You keep thinking, why can’t someone just give me a few basics so I feel more comfortable about this whole “upgrading” process.

If the above paragraph describes you and if you’re the typical computer user it probably does, then it’s time to exhale, calm your nerves, grab a latte and settle in because hopefully this article can shed a little understanding on at least one aspect of going wireless – the network card.

Like most “typical” computers users, you love your computer and you’ve pretty good at surfing the net, using email and you’ve probably even gotten fairly proficient at using your favorite word processing program but when it comes to some of the more technical aspects of your computer or computing in general, you are probably about as close to a “deer in the headlights” as you can get.

Hey, no problem because you’ve stumbled across a source that hopefully can shed a little light into that wireless networking card abyss. See, those searching skills do come in handy.

Let me start out by saying that when it comes to selecting a wireless networking card you can pretty much ignore all the hoopla except for the following three key factors: range, speed, and standards. Ok, let’s do it and take a look at a few specifics.

Below is a typical specification for wireless networking card. This one just happens to be for a Linksys wireless PCMCIA laptop card. Frankly, I can’t tell you if this card rocks or it stinks, I’m simply using it as an example. And with that, let’s take a closer look.

Here’s the description from Amazon: 11 Mbps high-speed transfer rate; interoperable with IEEE 802.11b (DSSS) 2.4Ghz-compliant equipment; plug-and-play operation provides easy set up; long operating range (up to 120m indoor); advanced power management features conserve valuable notebook PC battery life; rugged metal design with integrated antenna; compatible with virtually all major operating systems; works with all standard Internet applications; automatic load balancing and scale back; model no. WPC11

Like I mentioned above, most of the specs can be ignored. To start with, “compatible with virtually all major operating systems.” That means nothing. It’s simply fluff to expand the description to make the card appear better.

Range

Take a look at where it says “up to 120m indoor”. This means that the maximum range of the wireless card is 120 meters — sure if everything was perfect. And by the way, one meter is equal to about 39 inches or 3 feet. However, in the real world where nothing is ever perfect interference caused by thick walls, other power sources and the list goes on could reduce this number by as much as 90% – so just be aware of this.

And without enough range, your wireless network is no longer wireless and therefore – worthless. It serves no purpose to go wireless if you have to keep your computer next to the wireless port in order for it to work or if you have multiple computers to keep them all in the same room to get them to connect to each other.

As a rule of thumb, unless your walls are made of drywall or wood, it’s best to buy about four times the strength you think you’ll need. Even in perfect conditions, get twice what you think you’ll need – just to be safe.

Speed

Take another look at the description and find where it says Mbps. Mbps is the speed of the wireless connection – 11 Mbps is about one and a half megabytes per second. All 802.11b wireless cards have a speed of 11Mbps, while 802.11g cards run at 54Mbps or nearly 5 times faster. And of course, the next generation will be even faster.

Clearly, speed is important to your wireless network because it’s going to directly influence how long you have to wait to connect, how fast pages upload, file transfer rates, and your overall computer experience is always better when things download faster. I don’t know about you but if something takes more than a few seconds to download, I start to get impatient.

However, because there are currently very few Internet connections running at speeds over 11Mbps – it’s really as much as you need, at least for now.

Standards

You’ve probably noticed in the above specs the number 802.11 followed by a letter b. The b is the standard that the wireless device conforms too. Currently, there are 3 standards – a, b and g.

In a nutshell, 802.11b and 802.11g are compatible with each other while 802.11a isn’t compatible with either. Due to the incompatibility issues with the other two standards and because it’s an older less robust standard I would stay away from cards using it.

Between b and g, b is cheaper but slower, while g is more expensive but faster. It’s also worth considering that adding a b-speed device to a network that has g-speed devices will often slow the whole network down to b-speed, making the g-devices pointless. Basically, the network will operate at the speed of its weakest link.

If your wireless device doesn’t conform to the right standards, it’s not going to be much good to you. I often see uninformed people bidding for used wireless equipment on eBay, not realizing that it’s going to be terribly slow and may not work with other equipment they might have. Always check what standard the wireless equipment is using and if you don’t know the 802.11 letter, don’t buy it!

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Ten Ways To Manage Your Emotions

Ten Ways To Manage Emotions

In Chinese medicine, too much joy and happiness can precipitate heart problems. The idea is to sustain moderation in all things, including feelings.

Recently I was granted a marvelous opportunity. When I received news of this I immediately went into chest pains. Fortunately my heart is fine. But I had to receive energy medicine and acupuncture to ease the discomfort. Too much adrenaline caused some problems.

This was a wake up call. I had to learn ways to handle strong feelings. The following is a list of personal strategies that may be helpful when dealing with excess anger, fear, and happiness.

1. When a situation arises that has the potential of eliciting overwhelming emotions, one can simply say “that’s interesting.” Suppose you are having a dinner party and the chocolate cake comes out a flop. Instead of going into a complete sense of failure, call it a learning experience.

2. Learn to say “oh well.” One Saturday morning an important person called me and left a message on my phone. I was ecstatic for at least a week. Calling upon “oh well” brought me back to reality.

3. Network with others who can help shed light on bringing situations into a different light.. There are many support groups around that enable people to bring a new perspective on life challenges.

4. Mental health professionals are not the only ones who can help. Sometimes the grandmother down the street can share her words of wisdom and guidance.

5. Learn to laugh. Humor often brings healing and a change of viewpoint.

6. Set up a daily time to meditate. A calm spirit is one that is open to the messages God has to give us.

7. Learn the value of taking out the trash. The great Buddha said “be enlightened and chop wood.” Not too many people chop wood these days so taking out the trash is a good substitute.

8. Learn to define exactly what you are and what you are not willing to do. Be comfortable with setting limits for self and for others. Life will then be much calmer and free of unnecessary excitement. Boring is good. Calm is good. Being free from the Sarah Bernhardt drama syndrome will produce a welcome sense of serenity.

9. Stay in contact with family and friends. This extended branch of connectedness can lead to health, stability, and a feeling of wholeness.

10. Choose to have healthy connections with people. Surrounding oneself with positive friends provides many opportunities to grow and prosper. Learn to laugh with people, Learn to share their dreams, their hopes, and their aspirations. Life does not have to be ninety percent high insight moments. It can consist of the simple pleasures like chocolate, laughter, a good movie, and plain old fashioned fun.