Little Shingletown (map)

With a little time to spare on a sunny and warm Sunday morning, Vince and I decided to continue a previous survey along Little Shingletown Rd near Hubler Gap. This would seem to be the extreme reaches of the Linden Hall Lumber Co., reaching back into Centre county just a short distance from Tussey Mountain ski area.

We started by taking Little Shingletown Rd a short distance NE from Hubler Gap. Parking at a pulloff on the left a ways before the road gate, we went north through a bit of open woods to find a minor fill along the stream previously identified by Vince. This is near to a wooden bench built along the stream, apparently intended for (very) rabid railfans to await the next log train. We started upstream along what I thought was the logical course, although traces were very slight. After a while, Vince (who was following with the GPS) got tired of my vague reports and crossed back to the south side of the stream, promptly finding what was clearly the actual RoW.

We followed this course upstream. At the first stream crossing, we found what appears to be a surviving bridge timber, although this one is square enough that it might actually be a sawmill product, rather than a hewn log. A short distance further upstream we encountered a stone fire pit, replete with three stone recliner chairs. Apparently the LHLC railroad crews pioneered the “Lazy Boy” concept during their lunch breaks! Or not.

The right of way continues through the middle of the party site and trends a bit up the north hillside from the stream, through a fairly vicious thicket of mountain laurel. Eventually it comes back down to a stream crossing which holds several remnants of timber. Unfortunately at that point I had to call time due to previous obligations, so we began a better survey back down the track we had just followed. It appears the track continues solidly. The only problem is that this portion of the paralleling road is well beyond a gate, making access a bit of a pain…

On the return trip, we continued along the path which Vince had discovered, realizing that my supposed track along the stream from our starting point was b-o-g-u-s, and that the real course was a much nicer, straighter track through fairly open woods, which appreciably departs from the stream course for a ways. It rejoins the fill along the stream just barely upstream from our original starting point.

0.91 miles added

Hubler Gap along Little Shingletown Rd
Hubler Gap along Little Shingletown Rd

Missing the Obviously Purple Lizard

With a relatively mild March Sunday, I decided to go poke around nearby regions of Rothrock State Forest in search of overlooked tidbits. Truth be told, I wanted to ponder possibilities for the “Beidleheimer Shay” which people keep insisting “someone they know has seen”. We doubt it exists, but…

My first stop was Greenlee Rd, just southeast of Whipple Dam park. I explored a bit of the very steep hillside off the road. If a locomotive went over this bank (i.e. the road was former RoW), recovery would have been exceptionally difficult. No trace of RoW on the hillside, but there is an interesting fragment of something on the northwest side of the road. It merges smoothly onto the road at one end and becomes a trail over the hump of the hill. Curious, to say the least.

I then decided to head up Greenlee Run. It’s always bothered me that we don’t have RoW mapped in that region. It just seems conspicuously absent. I stopped at Sand Knob Trail. A short trip up the trail showed nothing of interest along Greenlee Run there.

While perusing the Purple Lizard map (large, water resistant version, (c)1997), I noticed a funny dotted line in the area. Examining the key, I found it to be “abandoned railroad”. Ummm, why have we missed this? Well, normally I use the smaller (newer?) PL map with abandoned railroads shown as the traditional railroad symbol —|—|—|— and I honestly don’t think that version shows this piece. It’s gone missing, so I can’t verify that.

Anyway, I therefore headed up Bell Ridge Trail from Greenlee Rd and promptly found very substantially built RoW about halfway up the hillside. At a guess, I think one end of it comes out on Beidleheimer Rd as a track that Vince and I had examined before and noted as “curious”. I went the other way (NE) and followed it at least 0.6 miles. It gets quite close to Greenlee Run (closer than the map shows) and continues beyond Beidleheimer Trail (which the map does not show).

Walking back along Greenlee Rd, I noticed a curious track merging up onto the road. It looks like crude road, but it has some railroad characteristics as well. I also noticed at least two log slides coming down from the south side of Greenlee Mountain, one of which is probably Owl Gap Trail. It’s sort of curious that these slides end a ways from the RoW on the other side of the run. Could this mean that there was a branch along existing Greenlee Rd? Maybe.

I continued NE on Greenlee Rd and spot-checked for further RoW. For a while it doesn’t seem like there is anything. But just before the first sharp turns, there is a crude track curving off the road. Again it looks like crude road, but while exploring down it and cutting back across to Greenlee Rd, I think I may have encountered railroad grade. If so, these guys were determined to get every inch up this hollow that they could. I can’t believe they made it much farther!

It’s interesting to note that Croyle Run Trail goes from near here to the location of the Croyle Run sawmill on Beidleheimer Rd. It might be worth walking it sometime, keeping an eye out for grade, as we know there is at least a short leg headed this way from the sawmill site.

I headed out by way of Big Flat and Keith Spring. Just past the spring I stopped to look at what I think is the start of Wildcat Gap Trail. It seems unlikely that this could have been a railroad route, but it might have been a gravity-only route. Someone needs to walk down through there when the snow is gone.

I’m currently GPS-less, so no map of today’s trek, but perhaps we will record it next weekend.

Mystery Narrow Gauge Railroad of Glen Rock, York County

Years ago I was exploring in southern York county, Pennsylvania, near the town of Glen Rock on the Northern Central (NCRR) branch of the PRR. I had been exposed to the area while riding over the railroad line on a railroad motorcar owned by a friend of mine, during an organized “motorcar meet”. This was probably 1992 or 93.

Just outside the town of Glen Rock, in an area probably best defined as Centerville, I noticed a curious little structure which resembled a very modest railroad station. It stood on a level area partway up a hillside, near a big tree. It was one room, board and batten sided, painted white, with overhanging eaves. And it just screamed “railroad!” at me.

As I recall, I examined the level area on the hillside, and how it was basically aimed at the level of the NCRR, and proclaimed “railroad!”. I must have headed upstream (SW) along Centerville Creek to see if I could find any further evidence. What I found was ‘Narrow Gauge Rd’ (actually, at that time I think the sign said Narrow Gage Rd, but regardless, it was attention-getting!). Hence began the saga of the Mystery Narrow Gauge Railroad of Glen Rock, York County.

insection of Narrow Gauge Rd and SR 216

Following Narrow Gauge Rd, I came to its intersection with SR 216. While I stood there pondering a curious embankment which continued along the creek through someone’s yard, the property owner noticed me and asked what I was doing. I explained my curiosity about the road name and the embankment. He said he had always figured there was some kind of something-or-other there at one time. I think he said he may even have found cinders or something similarly suggestive along the embankment in his yard…

In the intervening years I have considered the case of this mystery railroad several times (often in connection with the nearby Mystery Narrow Gauge of Parkton, Baltimore County, Maryland–more to come!). I’d never made much progress finding any info on it, however.

Today I set off with GPS and maps in hand, and our recent experiences hunting railroad grades, figuring this couldn’t be half as hard as tracking century-old logging railroads buried in Mountain Laurel. Well, yes and no!

What I Found

The day’s hunt actually began somewhat accidentally. I was headed for a tack shop (StableMart–nice people) on SR 851 just a hair north of the Maryland/Pennsylvania line. Approaching Hildebrand Rd, headed south, I noticed a peculiar curving embankment going through a farm field on the east of the road. Very odd!

Concluding my business at the shop, I returned to examine the embankment. It’s not much, just a smooth curve, built up about a foot or so above the field. No signs of cinders or ballast, just dirt. It comes out of the woods and curves towards the road and the summit of a hill. If it were railroad grade, it probably would have required a small cut to get through the crest of the hill. It has a crude farm road alongside it, but it sure looks like it was built up, not just that the road was built down.

curious curve through field

With GPS tracking on, I conducted a discreet foray along the track and into the woods, finding that the embankment suddenly ended after a few hundred feet in the woods (later examination of maps shows this to be approximately the headwaters of Centerville Creek). Attempting to examine the terrain ahead, it wasn’t clear where it could have been going. Was I suckered? Maybe this was nothing, but it sure felt funny…

Returning to the car, I proceeded NW to Bonnair Rd and took it NE. At various points along the road it looked like a feasible railroad route. Regretfully most of it is in the yards of lovely country manors, the owners of which usually have little curiosity for history.

At the village of Bonnair [sic], an old farmyard on the north side of the road showed faint signs which could be grade. Turning north briefly on Sunny Slope Rd (?), I found signs of what might be grade near the creek. And in the yard of a rather nice home to the east of the road, I saw curious linear patterns. Approaching the homeowner cleaning their car (which maybe I should do sometime), I was pleased to find a warm reception to my crazy tale and ready permission to tramp around the yard.

After a few minutes in the yard and nearby woods, I concluded that there were definite possibilities, and not much more. But there does seem to be a fairly distinct hump through the yard, with fairly distinct trenches on either side. Once it enters the woods, it becomes more vague. Returning to the house, I told the resident about this, and she said they had always wondered why there was the hump in the yard and why water collected in long lines there. Hmmmm. Hopefully someday I will return to tell her much more about who, what, when, where and why!

fairly decent track in yard

Does This Tale Ever End?

I briefly explored south of Bonnair (road name forgotten), then headed NE along Bonnair Rd again. Not far east of the fair homeowner’s place, I found a large open field sloping down from the road on the north side. In one area, a hump clearly crosses the field in a straight line right in front of an old farmhouse and barn. Ok, I am not imagining this. That has got to be railroad grade. Despite a strong desire to track this grade with the GPS, the place didn’t look particularly welcoming.

path across farm field

Instead I continued NE to SR 3015, where I briefly headed NW to pick up Ridge Rd. A short distance SW on Ridge Rd, I again encountered Centerville Creek and what appears to be a fill. Closer examination showed a rather crude (as in possibly incomplete) fill on either side of the creek, as might be used for a bridge approach. The end towards SR 3015 looks pretty sweet, which the other end seems to have no clear goal. It is possible that road construction destroyed portions of it, or that it was never continued along the creek. Or flooding of the creek damaged it, as there is a large section of it which is washed away. Recall that this area was very hard hit by Hurricane Agnes in 1972…

With waning light, I took SR 3015 up to the southwest end of Narrow Gauge Rd. I stopped to look at the embankment in the yard encountered 15 years ago and had a conversation with a fellow who is apparently an employee of the aforementioned friendly homeowner, who obviously thought I was quite insane (railroads, satellite navigation, computers, huh?).

insection of Narrow Gauge Rd and SR 216

Finally I headed back for the NE end of Narrow Gauge Rd. I can’t quite reconcile what I find there with my memories. The little station under the trees very regretfully seems long gone (as I think I observed some years back). A number of new houses and possibly a new driveway have confused my recollection of the arrangement. There does seem to be a grade headed towards the NCRR across the road. There is a concrete pad which might have been the location of the “station” (a concrete floor hardly seems likely in a building of an 1870s railroad, but it could have been added later).

possible station site

Ah, So It Does End!

I hope to return soon and continue exploration of this route. I’m convinced there was a narrow gauge railroad built here, although it seems unlikely it ever operated, at least for very far or very long. But it appears they had fairly lofty goals, and someone needs to record what they can of it before it is lost to urban sprawl.

area map

If anyone in the areas of Glen Rock, Shrewsbury, Bonnair, Centerville, Fiscal, Rockville, Hildebrand, Krebs Valley, Rocky Ridge, Pierceville, Stiltz, Sticks, Glenville, Hokes, Intersection, Black Rock, or Lineboro Pennsylvania can shed any light on this mystery, I would sure like to hear from you!

Follow Up

I’ve been discussing the mystery with Pennsylvania historian Tom Taber, who worked with Ben Kline on the Pennsylvania Logging Railroad books. It seems likely that the mystery railroad was the Shrewsbury Railroad. If so, the route I found suggests that it was named more for the township of Shrewsbury than for the town of Shrewsbury. Curiously, I located information on an 1839 act to incorporate a “Shrewsbury Railroad”, although that seems far too early for the narrow gauge railroad craze, which was more like 1870-80.

Woodward in Winter, Part II (maps)

Continuing the previous day’s adventure…

At Vince’s suggestion, we started by heading south on Stony Run Rd from the Whetstone Gap 4-way intersection. A bit south, we noticed pretty obvious remains of a splash dam next to Winkleblech Camp. Nearby we detected a suspicious grade curving off the road to the SW. Within a few yards of the road we found nice tie depressions and off we went… For the first hundred yards, the RoW has been disturbed by the nearby stream. After that it evolves into very nice RoW, climbing a substantial grade up a hollow. These guys were determined to get somewhere, that’s for sure!

Eventually the grade intersects several roads at a local summit. Vince headed straight ahead out a forest road for a ways, reporting back that it seems like a likely continuation of the grade, but no firm evidence. I headed south on a similar road towards Winkleblech Mtn Rd, which could also have been grade.

We returned to Winkleblech Camp via the road the roughly parallels the grade (as shown below). At the end near the camp, it becomes very steep and there are some curious trenches paralleling the road. The trenches seems to aim for the area of the splash dam at the camp. There were probably several log slides in this area.

We next closely examined the dam. It sure looks like a splash dam. There are large, vintage timbers in the stream where it pierces the dam; would these not be surviving parts of the floodgates opened to cause “the splash”? On the north side of Stony Run Rd, it appears there is another log slide going up the hill.

Branch opposite Negro Hollow

Next we headed up Negro Hollow, since Kline implied RR in that direction. It’s a lovely hike along the stream (bears seem to like it), with some really pretty areas, but we could not conclusively find evidence of grade. Later consultation with maps suggests that the RR probably did not pass through the lower end of Negro Hollow (near Stony Run Rd), but entered farther NE.

It seems pretty likely that one of the roads around the Old Shingle Rd junction with Stony Run Rd is the grade which accessed Negro Hollow. Future investigation required!

Next we headed for Cinder Pile Spring. There we examined the surrounding areas. The pile of cinders directly in front of the spring seems to point to the grade being under the existing road.

Our final search was along Sheesly Run Rd. Once the hollow narrowed, we rapidly discovered some clear RoW alongside the road. Vince insisted (twist my arm) on following it upstream. As anticipated, it curved towards Cinder Pile Spring. Then at the last moment, it curved east! What the heck, folks? Probably we missed a switch to the west in all the Mtn Laurel; we’ll check it out again sometime. This is a pleasant little stretch of RoW, and we felt good to have added it to the survey.

From Cinder Pile Spring to Sheesly Run Rd

Reviewing maps at home, Vince turned up “Hook Tram Trail” and “Negro Hollow Trail” (which seems like the probably rail route into NH) on the Bald Eagle State Forest map. Fifty Hikes in Central Pennsylvania (see “Resources” at right) also discusses a hike on railroad grades in the Hook Natural Area.

Woodward in Winter (maps)

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]

Area of Whetstone Gap

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.

Stover Gap switchback area

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.

Pine Swamp and Little Shingletown

[contributed by Vince]

Today’s objective was to record a track for previously identified grade sections along Pine Swamp Road to the southwest of Hubler Gap. We had probed the area on two separate occasions in weeks prior and confirmed the existence of rock roadbed in this area as indicated in Kline’s map. Earlier in the year, we had regarded the possibility of finding any significant construction in this region with considerable skepticism due to the difficult terrain and distance from the sawmill in Linden Hall. As it turns out, this outer extremity of the Linden Hall Lumber Co.’s railroad was a rather ambitious line extending from the head of Hubler Gap up through a tight hollow (i.e. many stream crossings) and reaching at least as far up as the power line clearing near the saddle between Rudy Ridge and Tussey Mountain.

Starting from that point and working down the hollow, I was able to record a 0.91 mile track with only a few minor gaps where the exact route has been obscured by time.  I concluded the day’s survey at a point between the first and second camps situated above the junction of Pine Swamp Road and Little Shingletown Road.  At this point, the roadbed appears to swing out onto the present-day Pine Swamp Rd and probably proceeds under the road to a point within Hubler Gap where it comes out from under the roadbed and joins up with the previously surveyed segment in this gap.

One of the highlights of this section are the numerous stream crossings, some of which still have timbers remaining from the crude bridges. One of these contains two very well-preserved parallel timbers with nicely flattened tops to which rail may once have been directly affixed.

It should also be noted that the presence of roadbed to the northeast of Hubler Gap along the Shingletown Branch was confirmed in the earlier probes of this area mentioned above. As of this date, no tracks have been recorded but a pair of parallel bridge timbers and a section of rocky fill have been identified.

Trainspotting, Interstate Style

Had occasion today to travel I-80 east of State College, through the region formerly occupied by the White Deer and Loganton Railroad. Since I am now perpetually scanning hillsides for signs of rocky right-of-ways, it wasn’t too hard to notice a nicely-preserved stretch of what’s probably the WD&L, just a few dozen feet off the passing lane of I-80! The scrap is on a steep hillside contained within the median, just before milepost 202 when eastbound. This location is in the ‘Sugar Run Narrows’ between the White Deer and New Columbia (US 15) exits. This will be a nice starting point when we eventually begin surveying the WD&L.

I’ll try to get a picture of this to post.