Location 1: Havice Valley, Mifflin county, about 40.79714,-77.46911
With a perfect day weather-wise, I decided to borrow a friend’s metal detector and investigate a couple suspicious spots along Havice Valley Road in Price Gap. One dated from about a year ago, another from just last week. Both were close by Havice Spring, shown on most topo maps. On the east side of Havice Valley Rd in Price Gap, there is a ledge that looks a lot like RoW, and which curves to the south and east around the corner of the mountain.
On the west side of HVR, there is another ledge, built of substantial rocks at the bottom near the stream, which climbs steadily up the mountain to the south and west of the gap.
Despite the promising appearances, the metal detector seemed to deny there was railroading involved. I found metallic junk, but no “good iron”. I regretfully have to place these two leads on the Unlikely list.
Location 2: Flat Hollow between Pitch Pine Ridge and White Mountain , Mifflin county, about 40.79458,-77.44542
Refusing to be discouraged, I continued east on HVR to the junction with Little Poe and Strong Mountain roads and took SMR to the south. This is a fairly rough road (a “drivable trail” in DCNR parlance) and requires good ground clearance, if not 4wd. It provides an impressive view of Price Kettle and taste of the north end of Kish Valley.
I reached the flat just short of Flat Hollow Rd and parked near the vernal ponds on either side of the road. Based on Kline’s info and our earlier survey, it seemed Duncan’s railroad should have reached this point. I first crashed around in Mtn Laurel near the junction with FHR and found nothing except Mtn Laurel. I then followed my original plan, heading ENE on the trail that crosses SMR at the ponds (40.79509,-77.44543).
My original goal was the point about 1/2 mile E where the trail diverges 90 degrees. It seemed logical to look beyond the bend. However about 1/4 mile out I noticed fairly clear rocky areas to my right and decided to have a lookabout. I didn’t immediately notice any good grade, but I did see a very large pine tree. Following my theory about large pine trees, I examined its base and poked about with the metal detector to see if it was on the RoW. It wasn’t. A short distance away, however, the detector sounded a fairly loud alarm. I quickly dug up a broken four-bolt joint bar. Hum. I don’t think this is a natural formation!
I soon turned up a track bolt which allowed me to get the bearing of the RoW, which I surveyed a distance to the east before the brush became too thick.
So this raises an interesting question:
Why a second joint bar on what Kline says was a wood-railed gravity tramroad?
Returning to the big pine tree, I surveyed a distance to the west until I reached a pine thicket which exceeded my determination. I suspended the track and cut back over to open trail. Naturally I was right on a branch of it that I had previously explored; that always seems to happen!
On the way back to SMR I tried to check a spot or two on the RoW, but the swampiness and thickets atop the flat are pretty discouraging. I decided to try the west side of SMR.
West of Strong Mountain Road
I walked west on Flat Hollow Rd, trying to avoid Mtn Laurel. I first checked on the south side of the road due to something I’d seen on aerial views and found nothing.
I then tried the north side of the road where it seemed RoW should be. In a fairly rocky area, I found a very large pine tree. Examining its base with the detector, I found exactly nothing. Not far away, the detector alerted me to metal (are you having deja vu yet?) and I pulled out an encrusted spike. Squinting, I figured I sort of had the bearing of the RoW and began to record a track.
After a while the track entered a thicket and swampy area and became vague. I expected to find some timbers in the dampness, but no luck. Crossing the associated small stream, I couldn’t pick up the RoW again. Using the detector, I located a signal and pulled out an interesting fragment of a chain link. Knocking off the thick corrosion, its fibrous nature is very obvious… the link was clearly hammered from wrought iron by some long deceased blacksmith. I decided that was enough excitement for one day and began a long slog back to the truck through very thick Mtn Laurel.
I decided to exit via Flat Hollow Rd, which was a good choice. Approaching McNitt Gap, the valley narrows considerably, limiting where the RoW could be. I stopped for a quick check (about 40.78785,-77.46058) and saw probable RoW plunging to the stream just alongside the road. The detector showed something substantial there, but my limited energy didn’t allow me to determine exactly what it was. Suffice to say it seems very likely that Duncan came all the way to McNitt Gap, if not actually into the gap, which agrees with Kline’s map from Book #2 page 217.