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 after a long career that began on the New York, New Haven & Hartford (NYNH&H) in 1953 as their RDC #40. It was loaned to BHRS in 1984 and rehabilitated in June 1985. It has been in service for BHRS ever since and now belongs to BHRS after the title of the car was transferred to us in April 2008.
In 1992, BHRS acquired our second RDC-1, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) #9153. This car was built in 1962 for The Reading Company. 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 (State College at the Nittany Mall) and Pleasant Gap via Bellefonte.
The only trackage owned by the BHRS is about a mile beginning near the Centre Concrete plant 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.
At present, BHRS is not operating our Budd Rail Diesel Cars. The cars were taken out of service in February 2005, due to new Federal Railroad Administration safety requirements, including the need for emergency escape windows. While RDC-1 #9167 has been upgraded to comply with the FRA safety standards, both cars remain out of service pending heavy mechanical maintenance needs. In 2010 the BHRS won a federal grant administered by PA DOT which will enable us to bring this car back in operations again. The grant was for the 2013 fiscal year and as of August of 2013 BHRS is in the process of writing the bid specifications for the repairs needed on to return 9167 to service. It is expected that RDC #9167 will be back in operation by the end of 2014.