Eagle Scout Builds on Father’s Work on Talleyrand Snowplow
If you visit Bellefonte’s Talleyrand Park during the winter months, take some time to appreciate the old railroad snowplow alongside the playground. Dating back to the late nineteenth century, the plow has brought joy to countless children and railroad history fans alike. The railroad plow and caboose have been displayed next to the Bellefonte Train Station since the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society purchased them from the Bellefonte Central Railroad in 1986.
Central Pennsylvania weather has made its mark on these railroad cars since then, but Kyle Uhler has selected the snowplow for his Eagle Scout project. He is taking the lead on some structural repairs to ensure that the plow is preserved for many years to come. Kyle is an eleventh grader at Bald Eagle Area High School and is a member of Milesburg Boy Scout Troop 45. He has been busy re-siding, reroofing, replacing windows, and painting the historic rail car and chose this project “because the snowplow was in terrible condition and falling apart, plus it was my dad’s Eagle Scout project.”
That’s right, Kyle is actually restoring the same snowplow his father, Alan Uhler, did for his own Eagle Scout project back in 1987. Alan shared that “in the process of requesting approval of this project from the Boy Scouts organization, Kyle had an unusual opportunity to submit his Eagle Scout proposal to a lifelong Scout volunteer, Mr. Thomas Fonda, for review. I accompanied Kyle the day that he submitted his proposal to Mr. Fonda for review and while we stood in the same living room which I stood in many years earlier, Mr. Fonda leafed through the proposal before looking up at both of us and stating, ‘This proposal reads familiar.’ Sadly, Mr. Fonda has recently passed away before having the opportunity to approve the project completion for the second time.”
According to the Uhlers, the snowplow was built by the Russell Snow Plow Company in Ridgway sometime between 1890 and 1900. It looked a bit different back then, and sometime in the 1940s the front of the plow underwent a significant reconstruction, with the face changed to a steel V-style plow as opposed to the graceful lines of the original wooden plow face. It was bought secondhand by the Bellefonte Central Railroad in 1924, at a time when the Bellefonte Central Railroad had a very small, limited track. Alan remarked that railroaders would joke that it might have been cheaper to build a roof over the entire short line rather than purchase the snowplow in the first place. Nevertheless, the unique piece of railroad history is a reminder of the long tenure of the Bellefonte Central and its bygone days.
The Bellefonte Central Railroad was organized in 1892 primarily for the purpose of serving the iron industry, but other freight and passenger service became beneficial along the short-line railroad. From Bellefonte it went westward along Buffalo Run as far as the Scotia Barrens and also turned south through Toftrees as far as Pine Grove Mills. The Bellefonte Central Railroad had its engine house and shops in Coleville and even established the scenic Hunter’s Park for passengers to enjoy outdoor picnics and events.
At one time, three passenger trains commuted daily between Bellefonte and State College. You could even take the Bellefonte Central from Bellefonte to Penn State’s campus, the trip only taking about 75 minutes! Imagine the days when you could take the train to watch the football game. Other than a few special exceptions, passenger service ended in 1946, and the continued increase in automobile traffic led to the service decrease and demise of this railroad by 1982.
This is when the Bellefonte Central started to sell its assets, and the old snowplow and caboose found their merry home among playing children, families, and couples walking through Talleyrand Park. Kyle, just like his father, is keeping the railroad legacy going. Kyle’s next step is to replace the rubber roofing, and he is currently looking for anyone with experience in this process. The project has been funded by donations from organizations like the Bellefonte Elks. If you are interested in supporting the project and helping Kyle, feel free to email the Uhlers at [email protected] T&G
Local Historia is a passion for local history, community, and preservation. Its mission is to connect you with local history through engaging content and walking tours. Local Historia is owned by public historians Matt Maris and Dustin Elder, who co-author this column. For more, visit localhistoria.com.
Bezilla, Michael. “Bellefonte Central Railroad.” Centre County Encyclopedia of History & Culture. Centre County Historical Society. Nov. 3, 2021. https://centrehistory.org/article/bellefonte-central-railroad/