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The Everett Railroad Brings Back the Magic of the Steam Engine

Salena Zito on

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pennsylvania -- If you were the president of a railroad 100 years ago, you were kind of a big deal. Yet when Alan Maples became president of the Everett Railroad Company in 1983, a purchase that made him the youngest person in the history of the industry to hold that title, the Alabama native knew full well he would not wield the prominence, power and influence the title once held.

Maples shrugs, smiles and admits that a few people, including his parents, thought he was a bit daft when he said his career goal was to run a railroad -- at the very time the industry was on its knees.

In fairness, lots of children want to run railroads when they first catch sight of a train chugging along the highway and hear the long-long-short-long rhythm of the whistle in the distance.

"I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland," Maples said. "There was a railroad track a few blocks from our house, and I had a model train as a kid. Now, my brother grew up in the same house, and he could care less about trains, so I don't know what the magic is, but it's something I've loved all my life."

At 21, with some help from his parents and the college fund they had saved for him that he never used, he bought the Everett Railroad, which is not something that someone who isn't a robber baron traditionally does.

"Well, it was during a recession," he explained. "The owners of the railroad wanted to get rid of it; it wasn't worth a lot at the time. I did not go to college, and my parents had set some money aside for my college education.

 

"They also said, 'If you go broke, don't come back; there is no more money,'" explained Maples, who splits his time between here and Scottsboro, Alabama.

To everyone's surprise, from the town to his parents to the manufacturing industries he serves in the area to the families and rail fans who discovered his steam-engine-powered excursion railroad line, Maples has been more than relatively successful.

"We are a working railroad serving industries around the area; we also run these excursion trains during the summer and then in the fall and the Christmas time as well," he said, pointing to the meticulously and carefully restored passenger trains in the rail yard behind his office.

The company was originally incorporated in 1954 in its namesake town of Everett, 33 miles south of here. By 1982, it had been essentially abandoned and then sold and moved here to Blair County.

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