With a free January afternoon with temperatures near 40F, we decided to make a sojourn to the region around Woodward, PA, once logged by the Laurelton Lumber Co. and the short-lived Bishop Lumber Co. These roads are covered in chapter 2-5 of Ben Kline’s “Wild Catting” on the Mountain, book 2 in the series Logging Railroad Era of Lumbering in Pennsylvania. Technically, this is Bald Eagle State Forest, not part of our ‘Rothrock Railroad Re-survey’, but aren’t arbitrary limits made to be violated…?
We entered the region via Cemetary Rd off of Rt 45, just west of the village of Woodward. While a branch of the Bishop lines supposedly entered the Voneida [Von Neida] Run area, the road into that area is clearly marked Private Road. Thanks a bunch. So we headed NE along Pine Creek to the intersection at Whetstone Gap. This location seems to correspond nicely with the crossing of the Laurelton and Bishop lines shown on Kline’s map (p. 225).
Parking at the gravel pit by the intersection, we plowed into light undergrowth around several camps to the SE. Crossing swollen Pine Creek on a footbridge, I quickly found an interesting rocky ‘road’ paralleling Pine Creek on the south side and summoned Vince by radio. While much wider than we are accustomed to, it sure appeared to be rock roadbed, complete with faint tie cribs in places and distinct edges. We decided to follow it to the SW, where it intersects the road to the south along Stony Run. Total distance wasn’t much, but it obviously continued in the other direction as well. It appears the line probably followed the course of the road to the south, so that leaves a line parallel to Pine Creek to find, right? [foreshadowing]
We then went a ways south on the road and plunged into the woods to the SW, hoping to pick up the line continuing SW along Pine Creek. We found nothing interesting on the south side of the creek. Hmmm. Vince was daring and decided to find a natural way to cross the creek. I decided to return to the road bridge. I then headed SW along the north bank of the creek. Still nothing. Checking in with Vince via radio, we had a grand total of… nothing. We decided to head back onto the road.
Reaching the road, I decided to poke around “Camp Loco” (complete with steam locomotive on its sign). Heading north into Whetstone Gap along a small stream, I finally reached and climbed onto the road. Just as I did, I noticed a few interesting rocks. I gave Vince a call to come up and get me while I took a break. When he arrived, we examined my minor find. We determined it looked like a fairly good fragment just off of and parallel to the road into Whetstone Gap. Rather than map it, we decided to drive up the gap and get the lay of the land.
Going up the gap and curving to the NE, we noticed what might be RoW off to the right in a few places, but kept going. The road rapidly became quite steep. Steeper than seems reasonable for a railroad. Rats. At the top we decided to continue down the other side to the switchback in the road shown on the map. It seemed to correspond with the switchback shown on Kline’s railroad map, so why not check for a tail track?
At the switchback, I plunged off along a forest road, while Vince took the more logical course of trying the clearly marked (and ubiquitous) Mid State Trail. After a short distance, I crashed over to the MST to find Vince on some very nice rock RoW, thank you. We decided to map it, figuring the railroad’s switchback might be farther NE. Well it went, and went, and went a bit more. Eventually, we did notice a bit of RoW switching back alongside to our left. But Vince determined the line clearly continued, with more rock ballast, and some suspicious timbers in several wet areas. We continued ahead for a while and then decided to continue that direction on another day.
Returning to the previously-noted diverting track, we followed respectable RoW through moderate undergrowth until reaching a forest road we had crossed on the previous track. The RoW continued on the other side of the road, and we suspect this is the route through Stover Gap to Livonia and its enticingly-named “Railroad Creek”. But we decided to call it quits and check a few other places. We walked the forest road back up to the original track, and followed it back to the truck at the road’s switchback.
Heading back up the mountain, Vince halted just past a camp driveway near Horse Path Spring/Trail and backed up, stating: “You know, we really ought to check behind that camp…” I left him to go about it and after a few minutes he returned, tracking a path past me with the GPS. Hmmm. Sure enough, he’d found RoW right behind the camp, which continued to another blasted forest road. Could this explain how they crossed the steep portion on the other side of the mountain? Some course completely off Kline’s map?? We continued a short way up the main road, discovering an open gate leading onto the road to Wohlford Gap. Was this the forest road Vince had just encountered? We headed down it to find out. Sure enough, after a short distance it became obvious it was. So this rail line appears to have headed down towards Wohlford Gap, a situation not shown on Kline’s map… It seems unlikely this would help them get over the mountain, however, so we saved that lead for another day as well. [Vince has since concluded that his RoW behind this camp might be bogus. We will examine it again – ed.]
We headed back over the mountain to the SW. I wanted to look for a “ledge sort of thing” [technical term] I had seen on the north side of the road on the way up. There it is! Damned if it doesn’t look like some sort of RoW. It’s too narrow for a road, relatively level, and seems to ‘go’. We saved it for another day, but it might explain how they coped with the steep parts on the ascent (descent?) of this side.
Nearing the curve to the left in the gap, we stopped and checked the suspicious area we noted on the way up. Yep, clear RoW for a short distance just off the road. Is it possible this continued along the stream past the headwaters, then switchbacked up onto the top of the mountain? It looks plausible on the map, and more realistic than ascending the way the road does. Again, saved for another day.
Upon studying Kline’s book and map preparatory to writing up the day’s adventures, I realized I had misinterpreted the map. The crossing at Whetstone Gap was that of Bishop and Laurelton–two distinct entities. That means the construction of the N/S line might differ from that of the E/W line… But then why did the first line we found seem to swing from the E to the S…? That would be a Bishop-Laurelton connection, not impossible, but improbable. Might Laurelton have re-used part of Bishop’s RoW? We will have to go back and scrutinize that line and see exactly where it goes, that’s for sure!
All in all an interesting day, with lots of RoW within easy reach of Rts. 45 and 192, perfect for short breaks in winter weather.