Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society (BHRS) was chartered in 1984 with the intent of offering excursion service on the Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad (NBER). At that time, the NBER was a newly-formed shortline, operating the trackage in Centre County owned by the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority. At about the same time, BHRS acquired its first major piece of rolling stock in the form of RDC-1 #9167. This self powered, rail diesel car was retired by SEPTA, and given to the PHMC, after a long career that began in 1953 as New York, New Haven & Hartford (NYNH&H) RDC #40. It came to BHRS in December of 1984. In 1992, BHRS acquired our second RDC, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) RDC-1 #9153. This car was built in 1962 for The Reading Company. Both RDCs ran excursion service until 2005 when operations were suspended by BHRS. Regulatory compliance and mechanical issues have keep both RDCs out of service since that time. In December of 2014, RDC #9167 was sent by truck to Rail Mechanical Services in Columbia, PA to begin repair work intended to return the car to service in 2015.
The balance of the BHRS fleet was initially made up of two track cars, a snowplow, and a caboose. The caboose and snowplow are former Bellefonte Central Railroad cars that reside as static displays adjacent to the Bellefonte station. One of the two track cars is a large, ex-Bellefonte Central car. The other is a former Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Fairmont M-9 that is used for special occasions. More recently the BHRS has acquired 2 additional track cars, a Fairmont M19 currently in use on our track in Lemont, and a former US Army track car in need of significant rehabilitation. For more info on our equipment, see the rolling stock page.
Over the years, NBER grew to a system consisting of approximately 70 miles of track, with lines stretching from Tyrone to Lock Haven and from Milesburg to Dale Summit (near Lemont) and Pleasant Gap via Bellefonte.
The only trackage owned by the BHRS is about a mile beginning near the Centre Concrete plant (behind the Giant grocery store) off of College Avenue (the end of the NBER) and leading into the village of Lemont, just outside of State College.
Major changes came to the NBER and the BHRS in 1996. Conrail began operating coal trains on trackage rights via the NBER main line between Tyrone and Lock Haven. This brought a track upgrade, increased traffic, and Conrail dispatching. Since Norfolk Southern took over 58% of the former Conrail system in 1998, run-through traffic has increased again due to additional coal trains and merchandise freights operating between Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Another track upgrade, started in the fall of 1999, has brought welded rail to the NBER main.
Today, BHRS is working to expand its mission as a historical society. We hope to connect current generations to the railroad history of Bellefonte and Centre County both by preserving historical equipment and by providing excursions to bring that history to life and show that railroads are still a vital part of our transportation infrastructure. To that end, BHRS sponsors excursion trains twice a year in conjunction with the Nittany and Bald Eagle RR, the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority, and using Penn Valley Railroad's beautifully restored passenger cars. These trips have included Fall Foliage excursions from Bellefonte to Lemont, Pleasant Gap, Sayers Dam, Tyrone and Lock Haven,and also the very
popular Santa Express trips held each December. For information on this year's trips see our Ticket Page. With repairs to the #9167 underway, we hope to resume additional excursion and charter service starting in late 2015.
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