Tag Archives: logging railroad

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!

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

Poe Valley Road is not on Roadbed

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d better put something up so readers know the project isn’t completely dead (it isn’t!).

Last October, Vince and I heard from a fellow named John Shingler who lives out in Poe Valley. He said he had found what he thought were remnants of RoW near the CCC camp location on Poe Valley Road. He also said his neighbor had removed roadbed when building his house, approximately at the junction of Siglerville-Milheim Pike and Poe Valley Road.

John’s report inspired me to get off my ass one day (well, I was already out and about) and explore around the CCC camp. Lo and behold, I found some very clear roadbed which needs to be surveyed. Go to the CCC camp location on Poe Valley Rd (there is a sign). Start in the clearing on the south side of the road. Follow the grassy road exiting the clearing to the ESE. Follow it through some pine trees
as it curves to the south towards Poe Creek. Eventually the road will head directly for the creek. You can cross on big rocks adjacent to the road. Continue maybe 100-150 feet on the other side of the stream and… rock roadbed! Continues in both directions parallel to the creek.

This obviously disproves my theory that Poe Valley Road obliterated much of the Poe Valley roadbed. I don’t mind that kind of disappointment!

Hopefully at some point we can connect with John and nail down some RoW in the Poe Valley region, maybe making the connection with our surveys from west of Rt 322.