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Black Friday in Green’s Valley, 2010

With a long holiday weekend, we decided to do some long overdue surveying in Green’s Valley (aka Cox’s Valley), northeast of the Laurel Creek reservoir. This was railroad built by Reichley Brothers to connect their operations with tramroad Gotshall had constructed southwest from Poe Paddy, through Panther Hollow and past Dinkey Springs. It must have been built shortly after 1900, after they acquired the Monroe Kulp mill at Milroy and associated railroads and chose to abandon the original Reichley tramroad from Poe Paddy along Poe Creek. We originally surveyed some RoW in these areas in late 2007, but had never filled in the gaps.

We started by leaving a vehicle at the blocked bridge on Stillhouse Hollow Rd, off of Sand Mountain Rd, near Seven Mountains Scout Camp. We then drove to Siglerville-Millheim Pike and entered the “drivable trail” portion of the Mid State Trail in the Big Flat area. We knew that RoW was visible at the extreme southwest end of the drivable portion, so we began surveying there.

Virtually all of the RoW in this region is now the Mid State Trail/Green’s Valley Trail. Normally, we wouldn’t be thrilled to have heavily used trail on top of a historic RoW. In this case, it’s a good thing, as it would be quite difficult to trace a lot of this route if hikers hadn’t kept it open and visible! There are exceptions, however. Every now and then you come to a stretch which is nicely built up and quite plainly railroad. These sections are visible as a thin, light line on USGS aerial photos (visit

At one point, a large quantity of large rocks were pushed aside during railroad construction. Previous visitors have collected clinkers and placed them in a pile atop the rocks, as clear evidence of what once went on here.

We completed our survey at the intersection with Stillhouse Hollow Rd, with 3.01 miles recorded. Incidentally, the bridge here has finally been redecked, and it’s possible you can now drive to here from the Milroy end, assuming the gate on that end is open. Note that Stillhouse Hollow Rd is still blocked with large rocks on the Sand Mountain Rd end.

The only portion of this route we still have to fill in some day is from the switch to the southwest of here down into Laurel Creek reservoir. This area is extremely overgrown, so we will probably leave it until much later.

Sorry About Missing Images

We’ve had some problems with our Survey Log recently, thanks to the folks at WordPress really falling down on the job with their update tools. They may feel that’s unfair, but I think it’s a valid assessment of the situation.

We seem to have recovered the Log entries (please let us know if anything seems to be missing) and are now working on individually uploading the various images of maps, pictures, etc. Things are going a little better, due to a faster internet connection out here in the sticks.

Thanks for your patience!

Parkton and Manchester Update

Regular readers are probably familiar with my modest obsession over the Parkton and Manchester (or is it Manchester and Parkton?) railroad which was partially constructed in Maryland in the late 19th century. Due to poor weather, I found myself googling the M&P this evening.

Today’s finding is “History of the Everhart and Shower families, from 1744 to 1883…” on Google books. It mentions George Theodore Shower, the eldest son of Adam Shower, who:

“Returned to Maryland in 1867 and engaged in rail-road construction until 1873 on the Western Md Pittsburg & Connelsville [sic], Parkton & Manchester, and Port Deposit rail-roads. He was one of a firm of three who in 1869 undertook the construction of the M & P Rail Road but a failure of funds compelled the contractors to suspend work in ’71 after completing 5 miles. Embarrisments[sic] in attempting to complete 17 miles of the WMRR resulted in the failure and dissolution of the firm and his final abandonment of that branch of business. He spent 2 years in litigation with the two above-mentioned companies & obtained judgment against both.”

This is the kind of find that makes me (sometimes) love the internet. We now know the contractor who started the P&M, the approximate construction time period, and the claim that they completed 5 miles. Amazing, huh?

I wonder what a search of Maryland archives for information related to Shower’s litigation could turn up…

Livonia Update (map)

I’ve been out to the Livonia area poking around the Laurelton Lumber Co. reaches several times this year, but had not gotten a chance to survey my findings. On the second day of Vince’s visit, we headed out Rt 192 to grab these pieces and perhaps find something new.

Needle in the Haystack

Our first stop was the feature known locally as “The Haystack” which is the first hairpin turn on Stover Gap Rd southeast of Livonia. Heading slightly back towards Livonia from this parking spot, we picked up a clear rock right of way high on the bank to the west. We surveyed a well constructed (but unfortunately brief) segment to the NW, where it intersects one of those blasted deer areas. I am told by the MacNeal family (of MacNeal Orchards at Livonia) that railroad continues from here to a point very close to the actual town of Livonia, and includes switchbacks in a steep area near Elk Creek, but haven’t had a chance to survey beyond the deer area. Note: On the map, it looks like the GPS track might have been cut short… perhaps a weak satellite signal?

Up the Hill

We next drove up to the first real switchback in the road (where the Mid State Trail departs the road). The locals probably have a name for that too, but if so I forgot it. We had previously surveyed to the east of here, and RoW is visible coming out to the road towards the Haystack, but we’d run out of time to complete the survey. We headed east on the MST (obvious rock RoW) for perhaps 100 yards, then headed overland NNE to reach the approximate end of our previous survey where the railroad route had reached a grassy fire road. We easily picked up the route again, and just as easily lost it after a short distance as it sort of resides in a streambed. Continuing downstream, we picked it up again where it emerged from the stream, and followed it a considerable distance to where it emerges onto Stover Gap Rd nearly down to the Haystack. It was a considerable construction project along here… quite the pile of rocks! At one point it gets pretty wide; it’s possibly there was a siding or something there. The final distance to the Haystack was obliterated by road construction.

Along the walk back to the Haystack, Vince explored a “ramp track” which departs the road and steeply pitches down to the stream in the hollow below. Apparently they wanted a few trees from down in that hole!

Pieces in the gap

Back to the Haystack

Returning to the haystack, I showed Vince a lot of stuff going on just up the hollow from the hairpin turn. It seems like the track was coming down hill and made a switchback there (rather than the road’s hairpin turn). The “ramp” down to the stream must have departed in this vicinity. And there were apparently several log slides that came down the mountain and intersected tracks at this point. It seems obviously that there were several log loading ramps at this point. With the stream, it was probably a watering point too. Must have been a busy place!

Andy MacNeal of Livonia believes that the photo in Kline’s book 2, p. 227 “two miles east of Livonia” is taken at the Haystack. I can sort of buy it, but I’d like to see a larger print to be convinced. Andy also says that a water crossing is detectable at the bottom of Vince’s “ramp track”, and that the track can actually be followed perhaps 300 yards downstream in the hollow. He says there is a significant cinder pile down there, with a large sycamore tree growing out of it. Someday I’ll go inspect that. Someday!

Final Stop: Line Trail Sawmill Site?

Our final stop before Vince had to leave was on Rt 192 just west of RB Winter park. DCNR employeer Paul Zerby had told me there were signs of a sawmill on Rapid Run at Line Trail (at the county line). We walked back Line Trail past a camp and it looks like he is right. There is obviously a dam breast there, and numerous curiously-parallel timbers in the stream below the breached dam.

Vince eyeballed it and proclaimed it to pre-date the logging railroad era (apparently he can carbon-date objects by looking at them!). Despite my skepticism, he may be correct. A search on the web suggests there were sawmills on Rapid Run in this general area wayyyy back… possibly pre Civil War. Curiously, there is also Douty Mill Trail nearby, so there might be other similar ruins on Rapid Run.

Finally, while poking around on the web I found a historic map hosted by Penn State which shows “Reynolds & Stover saw mill” at approximately this location, with “Stover & Reynolds hotel” at Livonia. I suppose this was the Livonia Hotel predecessor. Apparently Mr. Stover preferred the role of hotelier to sawyer…? There appears to be another sawmill on Tunis Rd nearby, but I can’t read the associated name.

1870s map of area


Combining our data for this region from 2008 with this new data, we get the following map. The arrow indicates a steep area along the creek which must be the location of Mr. MacNeal’s switchbacks.

Overall Livonia Region


At some points, I should update our overall totals here…


I inadvertently gave the named McNitt instead of MacNeal in the original version of this posting. Sorry about that!

The Great Circle Route (map)

Along Lingle Stream

On November 14th, Vince made his first visit in quite some time. Our goal was to survey my theorized Great Circle Route, and perhaps log mileage on some other projects, despite pretty damp weather the night before.

We started by dropping Vince’s truck on Stillhouse Hollow Rd and driving to Faust Valley Trail and Sand Mtn Rd. I showed Vince the suspicious areas in the driveway of the camp there. Visibility was better with brush and weeds down, and he gave it a thumbs up. We followed it up over the hump towards the headwaters of Lingle Stream, with fair confidence, until it comes out onto the road/trail near a large clearing. We then headed out the road and onto the overgrown trail portion beyond the point where Ground Oak Tr diverges. The first stretch is intermittently very swampy, but we had no luck finding bridge timbers or similar items. However the route seemed generally plausible, despite some large boulders. After a bit the the trail petered out and the rainsoaked brush became even thicker. But under it a RoW seemed quite obvious. We followed it intermittently for a considerable distance, becoming thoroughly soaked in the process, until eventually a clear woods road begins again.

From there on, we surveyed the road as the assumed route, as there really isn’t much room between the road and stream in that area. Eventually I pointed out the stream crossing where the broken rail had been found. From that point on, we assumed the RoW was on the south side of the stream and tried to follow it. Unfortunately, some of the evidence I thought I saw in the summer (with lower water levels) was not visible, and the route is vague for quite a distance. Eventually, in the vicinity of the well kept camp (see previous post), it does seem fairly clear that the RoW was on a ledge near the stream. A significant stream crossing has to be inferred at one point, and then, bingo! we are at the cut mentioned in the previous post which started all this nonsense, and at Vince’s truck. An easy water-level route, some clear signs of RoW, I call it a success!

We stopped in at the camp to say hello, and I showed Vince the piece of logging railroad rail. That got a thumbs up as well.

Lingle Stream map

The Big Poe Connection

Next we placed a shuttle truck at Siglerville-Millheim Pike and Big Poe Creek. While changing very wet shoes there, I noticed a concrete post and a rock marker next to the truck and commented, “wonder what those mark?”… [foreshadow]

We returned to Faust Valley Trail and Sand Mtn Rd, and surveyed in the vicinity of the camp on the north side of the road (Sand Mtn camp, maybe?). RoW is clear for some distance there, before it plunges into a brutal stand of white pine. We skirted the thicket by heading onto the road to the nearby group camping area. Taking the trail north of the campsite, we again picked up the RoW and began following it NE, with clear tie depressions for validation. After a modest distance we lost it in a logged-over area. This is the same fern-cursed area off Old Sand Mtn Rd that we explored ages ago with no luck. We ultimately got onto OSM Rd and followed it past the camp, noting the many limbs down from this year’s early snowfall which occurred while leaves were still on trees. A bit past the camp, Vince hailed “got it!” and lo and behold we had beautifully clear rock right of way paralleling the road. We surveyed it for a fair distance, only intermittently disrupted by deer fences and their access roads. Grrr, there oughta be a law!

For a good stretch, the route is on the north side of Big Poe Creek. Eventually it switches to the south side. And, curiously, the clear rock roadbed just sorta… dies. This stretch was obviously nothing but tramroad. Numerous times we thought we’d lost it, only to finally stumble upon evidence of parallel logs, or occasionally clear bridge timbers in wet areas. Thankfully it follows a pretty straight line in this portion, but it takes a fairly good scout to follow. Eventually we came out into an area near S-M Pike that we’d explored before (and felt had some suspicious but very vague spots) and found ourselves very near the shuttle truck.

This last stretch (and the Lingle Stream portion for that matter) certainly support the idea that this route was very problematic for Reichley in later years. While some areas were either better built or upgraded, large portions would have been very primitive stuff in the later days of logging railroads. The construction in Green’s Valley (parallel and theoretically newer route) seems far more robust.

Upper portion - SM Pike to Fault Trail

The Missing Bit

Our final task for the day was to finish the bit along Big Poe Creek, upstream from the CCC camp, which we ran out of daylight to do. We parked at the CCC camp site along BPC, crossed the stream, and picked up the track again. Skirting a couple of camps with loud partying crowds, we tracked the route out to S-M Pike… and directly into the aforementioned concrete and stone markers. Ha! Smartass surveyors.

The results combined with our previous survey are shown below.

Overall Big Poe Creek Mainline

Now that is a piece of railroad!

Big Poe Creek line - lake to scout camp

Closing the Great Circle Route?


Back in the summer I spent some time seriously pondering what we know about what I call “The Great Circle Route”, the idea that picnic trains were run over a loop track from Milroy [Book 1, p. 135]. I’ve said before that I’m pretty skeptical of Kline’s map [Book 1, p. 132] showing a route past the forestry nursery on Rt 322, which would probably have to go up Decker Valley. I’ve never found a scrap of physical evidence to support the idea.

We’ve got survey of a route along Big Poe Creek, which logically should continue SW of Siglerville-Millheim Pike towards Synagogue Gap. I therefore scrutinized various maps, pondering the idea that the BPC route could have “crossed the hump” around Synagogue Gap Rd to get into Decker Valley and make a connection past the forestry camp. As we had concluded previously, it looked plausible but not trivial. I think at that point I decided to make a brief field examination. I recall a rather humid trip down Synagogue Gap Rd from Sand Mtn Rd to Decker Valley Rd. It’s steep, rocky, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of RoW. And (for about the third time) I looked at the start of Decker Path off Sand Mtn Rd, which looks so promising on the map. Only problem is, it doesn’t look so good in person. I wish we knew where the RoW along Big Poe Creek gets to as it nears Synagogue Gap, but our previous attempt to find it was fruitless…

A Theory Emerges

Frustrated, I returned again to perusing maps. Looking at a Maptech historic topo [Centre Hall 1929, cthl29se.jpg] raised an interesting possibility. What’s this dashed line continuing from Old Sand Mtn Rd [north of and parallel to present Sand Mtn Rd–see Bald Eagle State Forest map] along Lingle Stream…? It looks like a very easy route. Could that have connected BPC to previous RoW found on Stillhouse Hollow Rd? Field Trip!!

A new Circle Route theory emerges

This time I started on Stillhouse Hollow Rd. I crossed the stream from the crude parking area downstream from the scout camp lake and almost instantly made an interesting discovery… is this a CUT? Sure looks like it, and it suggests a branch off the clear route to the scout camp lake, one that would parallel Stillhouse Hollow Rd towards Lingle Valley Stream!

Crashing upstream through the brush didn’t yield much in the way of clear signs, but what the heck is that cut if not a cut? Approaching the neatly kept camp along SHR, I heard the sound of a tractor from the direction of Lingle Stream. Wary of No Trespassing signs, I decided to wait a while and see if the tractor came into view. After a bit, a pair of guys with a load of firewood appeared and beckoned me onto the property. I explained my interest in Lingle Stream to the father and son, who didn’t seem at all surprised and said they’d wondered if there hadn’t been railroad up through there. “Isn’t that piece of rail we found along the stream still out behind the shed?”

After retrieving my jaw from the ground, we dug around in the leaves and found a piece of genuine logging railroad rail, probably 30 pound size, slightly bent and broken on one end, drilled on the other end. They found it up Lingle Stream from their camp, near what they thought might be a (railroad) stream crossing. They also said that–although present maps don’t usually show it–there actually is road or trail the whole way along Lingle Stream to Sand Mtn Rd. And it’s fairly level and straight its whole way… With their permission, I headed up Lingle Stream for a look.

Regretfully, there aren’t a lot of clear signs along Lingle Stream. I kept getting that vague feeling that there might have been something there once, and I think I found their possible stream crossing. But flooding of the stream has obviously done a lot of damage to the area, and if the son is correct, the railroad might have been on a narrow ledge along the stream at first, and hence badly damaged. As I got further up the stream, I saw what they meant about the road. It’s a very plausible RoW, level and straight, but has been driven enough that any definitely sign is unlikely to be found. Also, I kept telling myself, this was crappy tram road, probably not well ballasted. It was bad enough that Reichley wanted to abandon it, but so how much sign is likely to survive? Eventually I gave up and decided to explore at the far end of Lingle Stream where it reaches Sand Mtn Rd.

More Tedious Background (aka We are almost there)

Heading NE on Sand Mtn Rd, I reached Faust Valley Tr and parked at its gate. I walked up over the hump towards Lingle Stream’s headwaters. Just on the far side of the hump, I noticed some plausible signs on my right… Nothing major, but definitely suspicious. A bit father on the trail becomes a fairly legitimate road, and despite crashing around in areas near the stream’s headwaters, I couldn’t find anything clear. Eventually the road peters out into an overgrown trail near a spring, and I turned back. Arriving back at the truck, I took a look at the driveway of the camp there (Faust Valley camp? not sure). I recalled that Vince had looked there one time in the distant past and ruled it nothing. But looking at it with newfound optimism it seemed at least as good as the portion over the hump from me. There’s a ledge there, and it ain’t natural. I began to think I was onto something! I wanted to look on the other side of Sand Mtn Rd, but the camp there was overrun with PSU football weekend types, so I decided to go elsewhere.

Going just a short distance NE on Sand Mtn Rd, I found a road to the north into a group camping area and parked there. I walked down to the vicinity of the actual camp site and found a trail into the woods to the north. Going just a short distance, maybe 150 feet, I found a slight roadway looking thing at the correct orientation. Following it a very short way to the NE I found gloriously clear tie depressions. Holy crap, I think I’ve closed the Great Circle Route! Wait ’til headquarters hears of this.

–to be continued in the actual survey post–

Parkton and Manchester Railroad Makes the Map (map)

Some time ago, while researching online for evidence of the Parkton and Manchester Railroad, I found a google result which appeared to be a historic map of railroads in Maryland. Bandwidth limitations prevented me from downloading it at the time, and I forgot all about it. Luckily I stumbled upon it again and downloaded it this time.

It is Gray’s 1876 ‘New’ Railroad Map of Maryland, Delaware, and District of Columbia in the historical map directory of See, lobbyists are good for something!

Gray's 1876 Map

On the map, the route of the P&M is shown, as is that of the Bachman’s Valley Railroad.

P&M on Gray's 1876 Map

There is also a list of railroads, which shows the P&M as unfinished, 14 miles total length.

That’s it. I just wanted to share another couple bits of evidence that someone actually did try to build this railroad!

Poe Valley Mainline Gets a Survey (map)

Back in January, I mentioned I had checked out a report from site visitor John Shingler of Poe Valley regarding railroad right of way near the CCC camp location in Poe Valley. Since Vince was departing State College to the east after his visit this weekend, we decided to log some mileage in PV.

We started at the CCC camp location, which is on Poe Valley Road maybe a mile east of Siglerville-Milheim Pike. We parked on the south of the road and followed the faint road through a stand of pines to the southeast. After crossing the stream on the large rocks, we continued a short distance on the road, intersecting road roadbed. After some head scratching, we decided to go southwest first.

We enjoyed a pretty clear survey, mostly on distinct road roadbed through open pine woods. In a few places, recent logging activity or four wheelers have damaged the right of way, but most of it is in good shape. We terminated our trip to the southwest when reaching a driveway accessing a private camp. The right of way obviously continues beyond that point.

Returning to our starting point, we resumed surveying to the northeast. Regretfully, after a bit of clear going, the Mtn Laurel began to thicken and we found it necessary to curse it profusely in order to make forward progress. The right of way is mostly clear rock rockbed, though seriously hidden by undergrowth in some places. A few areas are built up pretty well to cross minor streams.

At one point, we came upon a rather mysterious structure, obviously recently constructed, consisting of telephone poles and boards stuck together in rather bizarre fashion. My theory is that it is an osprey stand, as ospreys are rather bizarre, and they might like its proximity to “good feeshin” at Poe Valley lake.

Eventually we came to signs suggesting we were very close to Poe Valley park. Just as we were about to halt our survey, I noticed a clear switch going off to the NNE, towards the stream. I tried to follow it for a while, but its track quickly fades out… Was this a branch to the other side of the creek, to a sawmill, or just a random siding? We don’t find a lot of sidings, so it was sort of neat to catch this one in an accessible location.

Here’s the map…

Poe Valley west of lake

We finished our exploration by checking out some rather strange railroad artifacts (which appear to be 36″ gauge) in proximity to Poe Valley park [No, we do not feel this is the lost locomotive of the Seven Mountains–sorry!] and then examining the (dry) lakebed of the park’s lake, in case there should be visible rock roadbed running down its center. There isn’t.

We’ve previously explored this valley further to the NE, but not immediately downstream of the dam. We have a report of a historic marker and visible right of way at the campsite there–we will have to check that out next time we get out hereWe will also try finish this survey out to Siglerville-Milheim Pike.

We haven’t had a stats update in a while, so here it is:

  • Exposed total: 35.37 miles
  • Under road: 18.60 miles
  • Grand total: 53.97 miles

Cooper’s Gap Goes Under the Microscope (map)

Vince came down to visit for the weekend. Based on a tip from site visitor and trout fisherman “Chris” from around Bellefonte, PA, we headed for Cooper’s Gap off of Stone Creek. I had scouted it out some weeks ago on a cold, blustery, snowy day, so I knew just where to start our expedition. We just didn’t know how far it might extend… Looking at topos, it seemed possible that vast areas might be accessible on the other side of Cooper’s Gap! I prepared my mind for a loooong day.

Notes for the Feeble Minded

We parked at the new faux-stone bridge on Cooper’s Gap Rd just off Stone Creek Rd. Crossing the bridge, we picked up the RoW, which is roughly parallel to the road and would almost intersect the bridge span if intact. The first bit along the road is somewhat sketchy, and road construction has disrupted a section near the shale pit. As we neared the new (2009) gas pipeline RoW, the roadbed becomes much clearer in a swampyish area. Crossing the pipeline, we found my orange markers tied in a white pine tree and picked up the RoW again just behind them. We followed the track through a stand of small white pines (we like to start things off piney fresh) to a switch at a large downed tree. We elected to head up the branch to the left (curving NE), since I had previously explored some of the other branch. The branch under exploration quickly curved back towards the gas pipeline, crossing just a bit downhill from the stream that crosses the pipeline swath at the base of its really steep section. On the other side of the pipeline, we picked up a fairly clear track heading into the “yard” of a hunting camp. Bypassing a stand of large pines next to the camp, we picked up nice rocky RoW headed upgrade towards the horseshoe in Cooper’s Gap Rd.

Eventually we came to a water crossing with some bridge remnants, which moved us to the opposite shore of the stream. We stayed there and found that the RoW begins to essentially be the Chestnut Spring trail until it intersects CG Rd at the horseshoe. I commented how I couldn’t believe we hadn’t spotted that RoW after several trips around the horseshoe.

We crossed the road and found the RoW mostly invisible near the camp, but shortly afterwards we picked it up again veering to the right alongside a trail. We followed it upstream a ways until it seemed to extend into the base of a steep sort of slide/stream thing. Hmm. Poking about showed that the hollow became way too steep for the railroad to have continued. We elected to cross over the ravine to the north face, figuring we had possibly missed a split. Sure enough, a short distance north I spotted clear RoW along the stream. Vince departed back towards the camp, reporting via radio that he had a small bridge remnant in the bushes and that he was tracking back up to me. I removed rocks from my boots and pulled up my socks. I also pondered Chestnut Spring Trail. It’s possible there was a loadout or siding or something in the area. There just seem to be excessively orderly rocks about.

We continued ENE up along the small stream, enjoying clear rock RoW only intermittently blocked by dastardly undergrowth. At several places we marvelled at the steepness of the grade. The dinkies were undoubtedly huffing in here. Once past them, it appeared a large area was going to be easily accessible. Could it be that there was RoW out towards Conklin Rd and Lingle Valley…? My imagination began to work overtime. Then our rapid progress began to peter out… the track was less clear. After examining the GPS device, Vince made a disturbing proclamation: county line. It seems likely that–despite having reached a vast new area of potential timber–the builder’s were stymied by a simple ownership barrier, and built no further.

Determination. Despite Noisy Birds.

Nevertheless, we continued to scout about a bit on the fairly level ground near the county line, hoping we might pick up something concrete. We didn’t. Eventually we reached a trail going to the south along the county line, which probably goes to CG Rd. We debated what to do. We were considering going a bit further ENE, but were a bit alarmed by a racket coming from that direction. It sounded like thousands (and I mean thousands!) of crows were roosting in that direction. I pointed out to Vince that Penn State recently dislodged large quantities of crows from campus; maybe they were living here now? I didn’t have much desire to be ‘aerially decorated’ by crows on such a fine spring day.

Eventually we steeled ourself and headed ENE. After a short ways, the croaking of the crows began to change in character. It also began to get closer to the ground. Were the crows not in trees??? A bit further and it became clear… the crows were on the ground. And they were very hoarse crows, even as crows go. Finally we realized these ‘crows’ were not only small and green, but they were swimming in a small pond with hundreds of their compatriots. Never have I heard such harsh sounding frogs! As we got closer, they ducked underwater one by one, eventually leaving silence. Well, silence except for the noise from another evident frog pond a short distance through the woods! Feeling a bit sheepish about being fooled, we decided to head back to the right leg of the grade. What’s that? Forgotten the right leg already? 😉

Back to the Right Leg

We followed Chestnut Spring Trail back down to CG Rd, then the road to the vicinity of the hunting camp. We cut through the camp, back across the pipeline, and down to Fallentimber Switch. I warned Vince that we were in for some rhododendron, and off we went.

We quickly came to the crossing of the trout stream which Chris apparently fishes, and Vince admired the nicely squared timbers as I had on my last visit. We then plunged on into increasingly dense rhododendron. Before long, we were remembering just how much we despise it. And we were still in the thin parts! Despite the blasted rhodo, we continued to make our way upstream, tracking clear rock RoW. Eventually, the ravine became so narrow and the stream banks so choked with vegetation that I elected to climb up the bank to the SW. There I found clear signs of a convergence of log slides, some of which seem to have been used rather heavily.

Vince elected to continue trying to go straight (roughly south) into one ravine, while I headed up a diverging ravine (roughly southwest). This could well be the most rugged place we have been in our logging railroad explorations… when I say ravine, I mean ravine! My ravine quickly became too steep for a railroad grade, though there appeared to be evidence of logs having been slid down the ravine. I elected to try to again climb out of the vegetation and up the hillside, cutting over to the ravine where Vince was. I couldn’t really hear him on the radio due to the stream crashing down the narrow crevice, but it seemed he thought I should come visit him. Finally I made it over to ‘his’ ravine, only to learn that there was no way any railroad went up it, even before all the trees blew down into it! If you want to practice your bushwack skills, I suggest you start here.

We elected to get out by climbing up into the area of the major log slides, and Vince noted a couple of them on the GPS. We angled downstream and descended back to stream. At Vince’s urging, we then headed for the next ravine to the east, though it too seemed awfully steep. At its base the rugged rocks and dense vegetation dissuaded us from attempting exploration. Vince pointed out that there was one more ravine even further east, but thankfully he succumbed to practical time considerations and we got the heck out of rhododendron for the day. Despite our frustration in the ravines, we had undoubtedly logged some nice mileage for the first survey of the year!

Note: If anyone finds a squirrel in this area listening to weather service reports on a Motorola walkie talkie… it’s probably Vince’s. The radio, that is, not the squirrel.

Here da map:

Cooper's Gap survey


I was just pondering the name “Cooper’s Gap”… I wonder if there was someone named Cooper involved, or if they were harvesting wood for barrel-making in this area. Interesting possibility!

Mystery Narrow Gauge of Parkton, Baltimore County, Maryland

In my post Mystery Narrow Gauge Railroad of Glen Rock, York County I mentioned the Mystery Narrow Gauge of Parkton. I meant to return and elaborate on that, but haven’t been inspired until now (it’s eleven degrees outside and I drove past it last weekend).

On December 31, 2000, I was traveling south on I-83 below the Mason-Dixon line and noticed a distinct hump which appears to intersect the highway at right angles. I’m not talking no little hump. I am talking a big hump, as in serious railroad fill. The location is just north of the Middletown Rd exit (used to be exit 31) near Parkton, Maryland. It’s close to the Northern Central Rail Trail (NCR), which is built on the former Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), but it is definitely not part of that track. This grade intersects the highway at almost perfect right angles, while the PRR was running almost due north at this point.

I spent some time pondering satellite views and topo maps of the area, concluding that it probably would have connected with the PRR at Parkton. I mentioned it to my brother, who used to work on the LaMonica’s large farm in the area, on Rayville Road. My questions spurred him to remember two strange cuts, one on either side of Rayville Road, roughly in line with the dam constructed to form their lake. He sent me a map showing the dam (black), cuts (blue), and a possible route for the railroad, which matches nicely with what I saw from the highway. He theorized that they might have been headed for Manchester…

Proposed route of Manchester-Parkton railroad
Proposed route of Manchester-Parkton railroad

Some time later I was at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum for a meeting. They had their archives open and I asked their archivist if he knew anything about the possible railroad. He looked through their collection of clippings from the narrow gauge era (~1870-1880) concerning Maryland railroads and found mention of a Manchester and Parkton Railroad (sometimes Parkton and Manchester Railroad). Seems my brother was somewhat prescient! The railroad seemed interested in reaching Bachman’s Valley to the southwest of Manchester. Coincidentally, this seems to be about where the Mystery Railroad of Glen Rock seems to have been headed. I guess Bachman’s Valley looked like a pretty rich source of local iron ore at that time.

Most of those snippets of history regarding the charter and modifications to the charter can now be found on Google Books. Unfortunately they don’t give much detail. I just found a “History of Baltimore City and County…” by John Thomas Scharf on Google Books, which includes this passage:

“The proposed Parkton and Manchester Railroad commences at Parkton and was projected to extend into Baughman’s Valley Carroll County It was chartered by the Maryland Legislature in 1868 and sixty thousand dollars was spent in surveying and grading but in 1870 the company ceased operations Its charter empowers it to connect with the Western Maryland Railroad or the Frederick & Pennsylvania Line Railroad and it is hoped that the suspended enterprise may be revived The line as laid out runs through a section of country rich in agricultural and mineral resources a distance of thirteen and three fourths miles The town of Manchester Carroll Co is authorized to subscribe to the stock or indorse the bonds of the company to the amount of twenty thousand dollars and if this money ever becomes available the construction of the road may be taken up again”

Assuming it did indeed “commence at Parkton”, it seems reasonable that the sixty thousand dollars would have covered grading across the present I-83 and Rayville Rd. It would be interesting to do a GPS survey of just what they managed to construct. Unfortunately, this area is now becoming infested with “country manors”, so it’s not getting any easier. If I get a chance, I will try to visit the LaMonica farm and track the roadbed on their property, and waypoint the crossing of I-83. Maybe I can find a few other public road crossings to record.

I’d like to hear from anyone else interested in this railroad, or who is intimately familiar with the area between Parkton and Manchester!