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 cast 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 but has been replaced with a long-life standing seam metal roof of the same color. 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 as the interim location of FEBT museum exhibits, museum shop, and visitor information center. The station operated as the museum through the 2019 season after which the new museum opened in the Post Office in 2021.
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 after leasing it since 1987.
The museum consists of the museum exhibits, visitor information center, and gift shop located on the ground floor of the Old Post Office, the EBT Robertsdale Station, and three East Broad Top hopper cars adjacent to the station. Historic artifacts acquired by FEBT or loaned by FEBT members are exhibited, together with historic photographs and other interpretive displays. The focus of the museum is the East Broad Top Railroad, the industries and communities it served, and the employees of the railroad and their lives and work. FEBT volunteers interact with visitors in the museum, provide interpretive guided walks around the Robertsdale yard and coal mine areas, and supervise hand car rides on the EBT mainline towards Woodvale. A portion of the upper floor space in the rehabilitated Post Office is used for safe storage and use of FEBT archival and research collections related to the EBT. Access to this material is provided by appointment to FEBT members and qualified researchers.