Offline: Monument, Orviston, Kato

[as reported by Vince]

Today we went over to Beach Creek Railroad country on a bit of a whim. We walked the dinky railroad to the top of the mountain above Monument. The line heads up the hollow a couple of miles and then switchbacks up the side of the mountain. Most of it is used as road nowadays for access to natural gas wells.

Part of switchback leading to private camp

From the looks of some areas of the road, there may be a quarry operating somewhere up there too. The area is obviously rich in fire clay. It’s also obvious Harbison-Walker was mining coal on that mountain to fire their kilns–at least at some point–as the dinky right of way is liberally sprinkled with coal. Small spikes and bricks are in abundance around the lower end of the line. The top of the mountain has evidence of multiple clay pits and subsidence from underground coal or fire clay workings. It’s also apparent that in later years they used an inclined plane [or ‘funicular’ or perhaps ‘gravity tram’–correct terminology is debatable!] straight down the side of the mountain to avoid the switchbacks. This is clearly shown on Penn Pilot images of the area, as well as historic topos.

excerpt: 1923 Howard topo map

After Monument, we took a ride up to Kato and happened to locate the inclined plane that Phil had once mentioned. If you head up the road out of Kato towards Clarence, the grade of the incline is in the woods not far to the left. Upon reaching the top of the hill, there’s a yellow and black gate across the road leading into the area where the mines were that fed the incline. We found the area at the top of the hill where the hoisting machinery was located. Nothing is left except for some studs sticking up out of concrete bases. Paul found a joint bar (which had been adopted by ants) and about 1/3 of a broken mine car wheel.

Fragment of coal car wheel

If you go further up the hillside, there is evidence of tramway grades and collapsed drift entrances. It seems likely that they were simply running the mine cars to the top of the hill and then hitching them up to the incline. Due to time constraints, we did not walk this all the way down the incline to the BCRR grade. That’ll have to wait for some other day.

excerpt: 1931 Snowshoe topo map