Railroad coal tipple named to “Pennsylvania At Risk” list

State will help preserve historic landmark in Renovo


For The Express

RENOVO — The coal tipple that greets visitors who enter the western end of Renovo and serves as the town’s most visual reminder to its rich railroad past, has recently received an honor that will likely preserve it for future generations and allow it to serve as a reminder of which the community was built.

Each year, the statewide nonprofit Preservation Pennsylvania releases a list of new additions to the Pennsylvania At Risk list, sites determined to be among the commonwealth’s most endangered historic resources. After reviewing nominations submitted by the public, four new places were added to the list this year and will become Preservation Pennsylvania’s work priorities for the year.

“The groups who submitted each of the places on this year’s list feel passionately about trying to save their local landmark,” said Mindy Crawford, executive director of Preservation Pennsylvania. “Though these are very different types of places, each represents the heart of a community.”

The Greater Renovo Area Heritage Park took possession of the coal tipple and has made it the crown jewel of their goal of preserving the railroad history of Renovo. Heritage Park President Rich Wykoff credits member Gail Lutz with the tipple receiving its newest honors.

“I attended a reception at the Heisey Museum early in November and picked up this flyer,” Lutz explained. “It caught my attention simply by the word ‘preservation’, much of what Greater Renovo Area Heritage Park is all about”.

“The tipple, on property maintained by GRAHPA, is our symbol, our logo” Lutz continued. “Although we have a very modest fund dedicated to benefit the tipple, it will take significant restoration efforts, including engineering studies and funding, beyond our limited scope to achieve significant preservation; we hope to network with resources and interested parties through the ‘Pennsylvania At Risk’ partners”.

Although it was Lutz’s recent contributions towards the tipple that has garnered the most recent praises, she was quite thankful of what previous and long-standing members of Heritage Park have done for the structure.

“It was a marvel that early founders of Heritage Park spotlighted the tipple” she explains. “Alice Tarr generated and preserved all the original documents, drawings and blueprints, as well as research papers. It took us an afternoon to search in a storage shed for pertinent prints and papers. Alice then found even more significant documentation from years past, and we proceeded to fill out the application and garner supportive letters from local and surrounding community organizations and people. Wykoff edited all we offered and sent in the application with the aforementioned documentation in, literally, the nick of time”.

Preservation Pennsylvania deemed the coal tipple eligible due to potential of physical deterioration. In a press release, they described the tipple as the following.

“The tipple was built by the Pennsylvania & Erie Railroad in the early 1800s, and used to stock steam locomotives with coal, sand and water. The three-story concrete structure dominates the three-acre segment of the railyard donated by the Clinton County Economic Partnership to be developed as a park.

An important part of the Renovo area’s railroad history, the park is located on the northwest portion of the former rail yards, an area that was once completely covered by railroad tracks. With continuing demolition of the Renovo railroad yards and buildings, and the pending construction of a gas fired power plant on this site, the tipple will be the only remaining evidence of the existence of the Pennsylvania Railroad shops. Physical deterioration is taking a toll on the structure, from cracked and crumbling concrete to rusted metal components that need to be repaired or replaced.”

This year’s list includes the Cooper House, the oldest building in Nescopeck having been built in 1817; Mount Tabor AME Church and Cemetery; a log-style church in Mount Holly Springs that was built by a man who was once enslaved and the cemetery where he is buried with his fellow veterans of the Civil War, and Elmer L Meyers High School, a beautiful school building that is the heart of its community in Wilkes Barre.

“Needless to say we are deeply honored and pleased to be one of four worthy recipients of ‘Preservation Pennsylvania’ 2018 ‘at risk’ designations” Sanford Lutz summed up.