History of the Museum Buildings
In 1987 FEBT learned that these two buildings were available for sale or lease as part of another property transfer between the owners of the EBT and a third party. With funds donated by an anonymous benefactor, FEBT purchased the Old Post Office and negotiated a 50-year lease on the EBT Depot. In 2007 FEBT purchased the station outright.
Rockhill Iron and Coal Company Post Office
The Old Post Office was built by Rockhill Iron and Coal Company around 1915. A rectangular two-story building, it measures approximately 20 feet wide and 50 feet long. Its exterior walls are constructed of cast concrete block made to resemble stone. Lintels and sills at door and window openings are also cast concrete, but with smooth surfaces. Doors and windows are wood. The wood-frame hip roof was originally covered with asbestos-cement shingles. A wood balcony porch and a later concrete-block furnace addition are located on the rear wall. The lower floor of this building served as Robertsdale’s post office during the era of EBT and RI&C operations. At various times, parts of the lower and upper floors provided space for barber and shoe shops, company offices, apartments and community meeting rooms. During at least one miners’ strike, upstairs rooms were used as a company police “lock-up.”
East Broad Top Robertsdale Station
The other structure in the Robertsdale museum complex is the former East Broad Top Railroad Depot. Erected around 1917, it is a single-story building also constructed of cast concrete block made to resemble stone. The basic structure is rectangular, measuring approximately 26 feet wide and 44.5 feet long. An operator’s bay (40 inches wide and 13.75 feet long) projects from the south wall, facing the adjacent EBT tracks. Lintels and sills are cast concrete, and original doors and windows are wood. The shallow wood-frame hip roof is covered with metal roofing and extends over the exterior walls to provide a wide protective eave around the entire station. The station office housed a scale indicator for the track scales immediately outside, upon which hopper cars loaded with coal were weighed before they made the trip to Mount Union. After railroad operations ceased in 1956, the scale mechanism was removed and the scale pit filled in. In subsequent years, the building saw intermittent use as a general store; during this time gasoline pumps were installed in the concrete platform at the east end of the station.
The Depot has been partially restored, and in 1991 it was opened to the public (on a limited basis) as the temporary location of FEBT museum exhibits, museum shop, and visitor information center. During the past several years FEBT has operated the Depot facility on selected Saturdays Sundays from Memorial Day to mid-October.
In 2007, the FEBT, with the approval of the railroad, which held a “first right of refusal” negotiated the purchase of the former EBT station.
When development of the museum complex is complete, it will consist of the restored EBT Depot and museum exhibits, visitor information center, and museum shop located on the ground floor of the rehabilitated Old Post Office. EBT artifacts acquired by FEBT or loaned by FEBT members will be exhibited, together with historic photographs and other interpretive displays. The focus of the museum will be the employees of the railroad and their lives and work. FEBT member volunteers and paid museum staff will provide interpretive guided walks around the Robertsdale “company square” to museum visitors, distribute visitor information concerning Robertsdale and the EBT, and supervise the museum shop. A portion of the upper floor space in the rehabilitated Post Office will be used for safe storage and use of FEBT archival and research collections related to the EBT. Access to this material, now stored in scattered locations, will be provided by appointment to FEBT members and qualified researchers.