Seven Mountains, One Railroad (maps)

[contributed by Vince]

Today’s objective was to see if we could make any progress in the Faust Flat area west of US 322. Back in July, we had tracked eastward from the headwaters of Potter Run but lost the roadbed on the western edge of Faust Flat where the terrain becomes flat, grassy, and a semi-swampy. Our renewed interest in this area was partly driven by the discovery of the line that comes through Stillhouse Hollow and over towards US 322 via the Boy Scout camp, which seemed likely to cross 322 and join up ith the line that comes into Faust Flat.

We decided to access the area from the 7 Mountains Campground off 322. The owner of the campground allowed us to park at the end of Underwood Rd and hike back the trail into Faust Flat. After hiking back the trail about 3/4 mile, we cut to the right and went north through Faust Flat to the area where we had previously lost the roadbed. Turning around and heading back northeast near the base of Sand Mountain, we resumed our search for roadbed. This effort was initially unsuccessful but, just past Smith Gap, good rocky roadbed appeared out of nowhere headed towards a crossing with 322. We were able to follow this for about 0.36 miles until we reached where the railroad crosses the old Route 322. At this point, the roadbed disappears into someone’s yard immediately before it would have passed under the 4 lanes of present-day US 322. The interesting remains of an old house and general store are located at the crossing with the old 322. At one point, the log trains must have crossed this early highway. We wondered what the crossing might have looked like and whether the trains would have passed by the general store and old house or if they were built after the trains stopped running.

It’s somewhat difficult to explain the apparent total lack of any visible roadbed for almost a 1/2 mile stretch across Faust Flat. We have to assume it’s a combination of the flat terrain and the fact that this privately owned land has obviously been pretty heavily logged in more recent times. There’s nothing like log skidders and bulldozers to wipe out the fragile remains of logging railroads. If the early railroad builders wanted to build up rock ballast, they would have had bring them in from elsewhere as Faust Flat contains little in the way of rocks either for clearing out of the way or building up roadbeds. Perhaps the chief method of construction through this area was timbers laid out directly on the ground, which would now be gone.

Before wrapping things up for the day, we did a bit of checking around on the opposite side of US 322 in an attempt to discern how the railroad might have connected to the roadbed below the Boy Scout pond. The first little stream course that crosses Sand Mountain Rd on the east side of 322 seems a likely candidate but this is all private land with several homes on the north side of Sand Mt. Road so we didn’t investigate very thoroughly. Most likely, the roadbed is under or nearby both of the ponds located in this area.

It’s also important to note that, by establishing a link between the lines on either side of 322 at the 7 Mountains Campground, it becomes almost certain that the northern tier of the Riechly’s loop was shown on the wrong side of Sand Mountain on Kline’s map and that there was never any railroad that went through the forestry nursery as indicated on his map. (We have done some probes in this area and found nothing.) It also rather drastically changes Kline’s depiction of the “grand loop” by putting Poe Mills at sort of a dead end for a train coming from Milroy since it appears that any lines extending up Big Poe Creek from today’s Poe Valley State Park would not have connected with anything west of 322 as Kline suggests. In fact, we have yet to locate any actual roadbed or tramroad upstream of Poe Valley State Park [it is a difficult area to survey due to an overabundance of busy camps -ed.].

Survey in the vicinity of Seven Mts Camp
Vicinity of Seven Mts Camp

Relationship between previously-surveyed Sand Mtn area (left), present Seven Mtns Camp area (second from left) and Stillhouse Hollow area (center).

Relationship of various pieces

Project Status

  • daily contributions: 0.36 miles
  • total: 30.85 miles
  • daily contributions (under road): 0 miles
  • total (under road): 18.63 miles
  • grand total: 49.48 miles