Tag Archives: Stover Gap

Laurelton and Bishop Lumber (Snow Falling on Hemlocks)

On a cold, blustery Saturday with snowflakes trickling through the hemlocks, we decided to return to the Laurelton Lumber operations around Winkleblech and Buffalo mountains at the east end of Centre county.

We started by taking Rt 45 to Sheesley Run Rd., east of Woodward. I wanted to refresh my memory of Sheesley Run Rd, as some aerial views showed possible branches into hollows to the east of the road. A quick review from the truck showed that to be unlikely.

The next point of interest was Buffalo Creek. A study of Kline’s sketch map compared to modern map data suggest that a route must have extended along Buffalo Creek down into “The Gooseneck” and Buffalo Gap. USGS aerial views show something that looks like RoW in the lower reaches of Buffalo Gap, approaching Aichey Rd.

We therefore proceeded up Sheesley Run Rd, across Stony Run Rd onto Buffalo Flat Rd, and over Buffalo Mountain. Stopping at Buffalo Creek, we parked near the adjacent hunting camp and picked up trail to the east. Quickly, Vince declared we were on railroad grade, although I wasn’t entirely convinced. Before long we ran into a thicket where the trail diverged to the right. I pushed ahead through the brush (grumbling!), but soon became convinced that Vince was correct. Under the dense evergreens, snow was lying in clearly defined parallel depressions as the track began to descend towards the stream on a distinct ledge.

Soon, the RoW reaches the stream and an interesting area which well may have been a camp. A lot of rocks were moved around here to some purpose. The small dam on the stream is unlikely to have survived 100+ years, but may mirror an early creation here. At this point, we verified the RoW crosses the stream, and then discontinued our survey. It appears the route would continue at least 3 miles along Buffalo Creek, so a shuttle at the Aichey Rd end seems desirable.

Returning to Buffalo Flat Rd, we looked on the other side of the road, but it appears likely that the road is the RoW over Buffalo mountain. Its route agrees pretty well with Kline’s sketch map, and we can’t detect anyplace along it where right of way diverges. On the map below, we have shown the road as the route until the point where the trail diverges.

Re-crossing Buffalo mountain, we took Stony Run Rd to the northwest to Pine Creek. There, we had previously surveyed a small fragment of RoW, which we theorized was either part of Laurelton Lumber’s operation or Bishop Lumber’s earlier tramroad. Its origin seems unclear: the alignment seems to suggest a connection with Laurelton Lumber, who we know was along Stony Run farther to the south; the construction seems to suggest a tramroad such as Bishop Lumber would have constructed, but in that case its alignment seems wrong…

We decided the most practical approach was to simply reverse our earlier survey and see where we ended up. Parking at the camp just southeast of Pine Creek, we easily picked up the RoW at the end of their driveway. We proceeded to follow it to the northeast. We rather expected we might encounter a junction with Bishop’s “main line” more parallel to Pine Creek Rd, but we never detected anything solid. Rather we crashed through intermittent heavy Mountain Laurel until we had gone approximately a mile, traversing some nice road roadbed with good tie depressions as well as some swampy areas where the route became fairly vague. We then returned to the truck via the adjacent road.

Vince crashed about in the woods near the junction of Stony Run and Pine Creek Roads, and then nominated one final investigation: a drive up the un-gated road to the southwest along Pine Creek, which he thought was a likely route for Bishop’s tramroad. We proceeded about 2/3 of a mile until reaching a bridge that appears structurally deficient. We then proceeded on foot to approximately the end of the road as shown on the map. At that point, the track sort of continues, but doesn’t look much like RoW, even for a tramroad. Scouting around, we detected a more probable route departing slightly to the north of the obvious track. It rapidly enters a swampy area near the stream and is fairly indistinct, but the underlying amount of rock and width seems consistent with a tramroad.

So we still haven’t resolved exactly what’s going on in this area, but it seems most likely that Bishop’s tramroad route hasn’t survived the ages very well, and that Laurelton Lumber later built down Stony Run and over top of the Bishop RoW to head northeast up Pine Creek. How far they might have continued might be discovered by completing a survey along Pine Creek; it’s possible that at some point the RoW deteriorates from “railroad grade” to “tramroad grade”, lending credence to our theory.

We concluded the day with a visit to Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim, where they offer Winkleblink [sic?] Ale, suitable for thirsty logging enthusiasts.

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!