Laurelton and Bishop Lumber (Snow Falling on Hemlocks)

On a cold, blustery Saturday with snowflakes trickling through the hemlocks, we decided to return to the Laurelton Lumber operations around Winkleblech and Buffalo mountains at the east end of Centre county.

We started by taking Rt 45 to Sheesley Run Rd., east of Woodward. I wanted to refresh my memory of Sheesley Run Rd, as some aerial views showed possible branches into hollows to the east of the road. A quick review from the truck showed that to be unlikely.

The next point of interest was Buffalo Creek. A study of Kline’s sketch map compared to modern map data suggest that a route must have extended along Buffalo Creek down into “The Gooseneck” and Buffalo Gap. USGS aerial views show something that looks like RoW in the lower reaches of Buffalo Gap, approaching Aichey Rd.

We therefore proceeded up Sheesley Run Rd, across Stony Run Rd onto Buffalo Flat Rd, and over Buffalo Mountain. Stopping at Buffalo Creek, we parked near the adjacent hunting camp and picked up trail to the east. Quickly, Vince declared we were on railroad grade, although I wasn’t entirely convinced. Before long we ran into a thicket where the trail diverged to the right. I pushed ahead through the brush (grumbling!), but soon became convinced that Vince was correct. Under the dense evergreens, snow was lying in clearly defined parallel depressions as the track began to descend towards the stream on a distinct ledge.

Soon, the RoW reaches the stream and an interesting area which well may have been a camp. A lot of rocks were moved around here to some purpose. The small dam on the stream is unlikely to have survived 100+ years, but may mirror an early creation here. At this point, we verified the RoW crosses the stream, and then discontinued our survey. It appears the route would continue at least 3 miles along Buffalo Creek, so a shuttle at the Aichey Rd end seems desirable.

Returning to Buffalo Flat Rd, we looked on the other side of the road, but it appears likely that the road is the RoW over Buffalo mountain. Its route agrees pretty well with Kline’s sketch map, and we can’t detect anyplace along it where right of way diverges. On the map below, we have shown the road as the route until the point where the trail diverges.

Re-crossing Buffalo mountain, we took Stony Run Rd to the northwest to Pine Creek. There, we had previously surveyed a small fragment of RoW, which we theorized was either part of Laurelton Lumber’s operation or Bishop Lumber’s earlier tramroad. Its origin seems unclear: the alignment seems to suggest a connection with Laurelton Lumber, who we know was along Stony Run farther to the south; the construction seems to suggest a tramroad such as Bishop Lumber would have constructed, but in that case its alignment seems wrong…

We decided the most practical approach was to simply reverse our earlier survey and see where we ended up. Parking at the camp just southeast of Pine Creek, we easily picked up the RoW at the end of their driveway. We proceeded to follow it to the northeast. We rather expected we might encounter a junction with Bishop’s “main line” more parallel to Pine Creek Rd, but we never detected anything solid. Rather we crashed through intermittent heavy Mountain Laurel until we had gone approximately a mile, traversing some nice road roadbed with good tie depressions as well as some swampy areas where the route became fairly vague. We then returned to the truck via the adjacent road.

Vince crashed about in the woods near the junction of Stony Run and Pine Creek Roads, and then nominated one final investigation: a drive up the un-gated road to the southwest along Pine Creek, which he thought was a likely route for Bishop’s tramroad. We proceeded about 2/3 of a mile until reaching a bridge that appears structurally deficient. We then proceeded on foot to approximately the end of the road as shown on the map. At that point, the track sort of continues, but doesn’t look much like RoW, even for a tramroad. Scouting around, we detected a more probable route departing slightly to the north of the obvious track. It rapidly enters a swampy area near the stream and is fairly indistinct, but the underlying amount of rock and width seems consistent with a tramroad.

So we still haven’t resolved exactly what’s going on in this area, but it seems most likely that Bishop’s tramroad route hasn’t survived the ages very well, and that Laurelton Lumber later built down Stony Run and over top of the Bishop RoW to head northeast up Pine Creek. How far they might have continued might be discovered by completing a survey along Pine Creek; it’s possible that at some point the RoW deteriorates from “railroad grade” to “tramroad grade”, lending credence to our theory.

We concluded the day with a visit to Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim, where they offer Winkleblink [sic?] Ale, suitable for thirsty logging enthusiasts.

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