• Reading RR Clarks Valley (or Clark Valley) Branch

  • Discussion Related to the Reading Company 1833-1976 and it's predecessors Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway.
Discussion Related to the Reading Company 1833-1976 and it's predecessors Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway.

Moderator: Franklin Gowen

  by pumpers
Digging into some Reading history because of a post on the PA Railfan forum, I have a question about the purpose of the Clarks (or Clark) Valley Branch. It was a switchback extension running several miles down in the Clark's (or Clark) Creek Valley, a few miles south of Tower City. It was extension of the Kalmia Branch, which itself was an extension of the Lorberry Branch off of the Tremont and Lebanon branch of the Reading. See these old maps to get oriented: http://historical.mytopo.com/getImage.a ... g&state=PA and http://historical.mytopo.com/getImage.a ... g&state=PA

The Lorberry Branch and Kalmia branch led to coal mines. But what was the Clark Valley branch for? I can find no reference to collieries down there, and looking at old Penn Pilot photos there is clear evidence of old mines at Lorberry adn Kalmia, but not down in Clark Valley. Why would they have gone through all the trouble to build a switchback route down there. THere were no towns along it either. Maybe it was for logging to supply mine timbers? Google was not helpful

Thanks, JS
  by Trails to Rails
There was and is still logging in the Clarks Valley along with the Victoria Iron Furnace that could have made use of the branch despite the map not showing the narrow gauge lines which I would venture to guess, interchanged with that branch.

A gentleman named William P. Zartman also constructed a sawmill near Dauphin, PA in 1909. Leaving the sawmill the 42" logging railroad was built on the towpath of the abandoned Pennsylvania Canal until it reached the southern boundary of Dauphin. Turning east, the logging railroad passed under the Pennsylvania RR at the "subway" and followed along the Stony Creek for a short distance. Here Zartman constructed a siding across Stony Creek to reach the Schuylkill & Susquehanna Branch of the Reading.

The logging railroad followed the north shore of Stony Creek for half a mile, then using a switchback to climb the hill directly east of Dauphin, continued around the brow of Third Mountain, and northeasterly along its north slope while gradually descending into Clarks Creek Valley until it reached the location presently occupied by Dehart Reservoir. These steep grades, some as much as 10% were handled by a Climax and a Shay.

I discovered some remnants of that 42" line like footers and a barely visible grade while fishing Clarks Creek in the vicinity of Victoria Furnace.

Hope this helps.
  by pumpers
Trails, thanks. Wikipedia says the Clarks Valley extension was gone by 1920, and the whole line past Lorberry by 1940. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanon_an ... t_Railroad I will look tonight to see if I can find the logging RR you mention on maps.
On some official PA maps from around 1880 or so of coal fields I found, the whole ridge southeast of Clarks Valley (Stony Mtn/Sharp Mtn) has a coal field under it, but no signs of any mines past Kalmia Colliery (which was at the east end of the switchback just south of Reinerton on the first map link I posted earlier). All the coals fields were labelled "Reading Coal and IRon Co." so maybe the Reading was planning on building more mines further west. Don't know if they ever did. JS
  by Trails to Rails

Interestingly enough, the terminus of the Clarks Valley Branch as shown on your map would be at the back end of Dehart Reservoir which is where Mr. Zartman's narrow gauge line ended. Another thing to contemplate is the origin of a nearby Appalachian Trail section. The AT comes across the Susquehanna from a westerly direction along the northern slope of Peters Mountain, descends into the Clarks Valley and crosses Clarks Creek not too far below Dehart and runs parallel to the old Schuylkill & Susquehanna Branch ROW in the immediate vicinity of Rausch Gap. It continues to a point midway between Cold Spring Road and Gold Mine Road where it crosses both the old Schuylkill & Susquehanna Branch ROW and Stony Creek.

Could possibly some of the present day AT have been old logging RR right of way? Coincidentally, the Appalachian Trail was conceived and construction began around the time that the Clarks Valley Branch became defunct and if that isn't enough, Wm. P. Zartman Lumber Company was placed into bankruptcy in 1917 and all assets at the Dauphin mill were sold at auction in May of 1919. That may expalin why the Clarks Valley Branch went away in the 20's.

You also may want to check out the PA Game Commission maps for State Game Lands 211 which takes in the area in question. There are three maps that comprise the SGL 211 set. While not historic in nature, I would venture to guess that many of the trails on those maps were old narrow gauge RR ROW's.

I'd be interested in anything you come up with as I spend a lot of time in that neck of the woods.
  by choess
The Clarks Valley Branch was built by the late 1880s, but only seems to have made it down to about the 700-foot contour, well above the upstream end of the DeHart Reservoir. Zartman's line, according to Taber, reached the dam for the reservoir (not the upstream end) and was built in 1909, so I doubt they were correlated. (Besides, his interchange was with the Schuylkill & Susquehanna near Dauphin and his sawmill.) Zartman's line was also descending *toward* the creek as it ran upstream, so it's unlikely to have much of a co-alignment with the AT. Part of the Water Tank Trail looks like it might use the narrow-gauge ROW, though.

The only person I can think of who might be able to shed light on the matter is Brandy Watts, who runs http://www.stonyvalley.com/. She knows the area very well and has led hikes on the old switchback coming down from Kalmia, so she may well know what was at the end of the line.
  by Schuylkill Valley
This is copied from a Pennsylvania Magazine from 1987

The Lebanon and Tremont Branch proper consisted of the former Lebanon and Tremont RR lines from Lebanon to Pine Grove and Lorberry Junction to Tremont, and the former Union Canal RR line from Pine Grove to Lorberry Junction. The Good Spring RR became the Brookside Branch, and the Lorberry Creek RR became the Lorberry Branch. Around 1872, the tail of the second Lorberry Branch switchback was extended, and ran by a switchback down the north side of Stony Mountain to reach the Kalmia Colliery. This line was known as the Kalmia Branch, or sometimes as the Lorberry Extension Railroad. It was then extended by another switchback into Clarks Valley, and ran some distance along Clarks Creek. This was known as the Clarks Valley Branch. In 1892, the Williams Valley Railroad built a line into the Williams Valley from Brookside, which later came under Reading control.[1]
Several other Reading branches connected with the Lebanon and Tremont: the Lebanon Valley at Lebanon, the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Branch at Pine
Grove, and the Tremont Extension and Mount Eagle Branch at Tremont.


The Clarks Valley Branch and the Kalmia Branch between Ecco and Kalmia collieries were removed before 1920. In 1940, the rest of the Kalmia Branch was removed; around this time, the second switchback on the Lorberry Branch was abandoned, as the Lincoln Colliery had ceased operation in 1930.[9] A new spur and loop was constructed at Lorberry, possibly to serve strip mines. In 1965, the Lebanon and Tremont Branch between Pine Grove and Suedberg was abandoned, severing it. The whole of the Lorberry Branch was abandoned in 1966. In 1971, the Good Spring Branch was cut back from Brookside to Keffers, and in 1973, back as far as Good Spring.[1]
The remaining trackage was transferred to Conrail in 1976. The line from Lorberry Junction to Pine Grove was abandoned before 1978, and the remaining parts of the Lebanon and Tremont Branch (Lebanon—Suedberg and Pine Grove—Lorberry Junction) were abandoned before 1981.[1] Only the Brookside Branch between Tremont and Good Spring remains in operation.

Dauphin County Railroads in the First Coal Field

All of the lines described to this point were completely within Schuylkill County except the Lebanon & Pine Grove to the iron city of Lebanon. By switchbacks the Reading extended both their Good Spring route into Lykens, in the Wisconisco Valley, and their Lorberry route into Clarks Valley, in northeastern Dauphin County. Both valleys drain into the Susquehanna River and form the fishtail of the First Coal Field. U. S. Topographic Maps of 1892 and 1893, reprinted in 1936 and 1939, locate the now-abandoned Clarks Valley switchback. Climbing to above 1400 feet out of Lorberry Creek, the westernmost point of the upper switchback was at 1250 feet. Kalmia Colliery and the eastern point were at 1150 feet, while the lower section extended down Clarks Creek nearly 6.5 miles from Kalmia to the 700-foot level. The abandoned right of way can be seen in 1956 from Gold Mine Trail, between Tower City and Lickdale.

The Good Spring-Brookside switchback, existing in 1956, parallels Big Lick Mountain at levels from 1400 to 1200 feet, while Lykens station is near 650 feet. There never was any physical connection between this Reading branch and the P. R. R. at Lykens, though authorized in 1870.

The Williams Valley R. R. received legislative sanction on September 19th and November 24th, 1891, to build 7.2 miles from Lykens to Brookside on the Good Spring Branch. Train operations began on July 1st, 1892. Tonnage in 1894 consisted of 5287 of anthracite and 12,022 in miscellaneous freight. Capitalization in 1896 was $90,000 in stock and $87,000 in five percent bonds. By 1906, the P. & R. owned $20,000 in bonds. Operating deficits by 1909 were $15,685. When taken over by the Reading, between June, 1908 and June, 1909 one locomotive, the "A. F. Baker," No. 1, came to the parent company, becoming No. 1460. It was a Baldwin 2-6-0, shop number 12806, 1892, having 18"x24" cylinders and 54" drivers, and was scrapped by the Reading in 1916.

An item in the Harrisburg Patriot of September 27th, 1956, stated that steam locomotives would replace Diesels on some Reading Company coal lines; especially mentioned was the Good Spring-Lykens switchback.

Among the lines proposed to tap the northern prong of the First Coal Field fishtail in Dauphin County were the William Valley Rail Road & Mining Company, and the Union Rail Road & Mining Company, of 1839-40, both financed by Harrisburg capital. The Williams Valley plan called for a two-mile tunnel completely through Big Lick Mountain from the floor of Wisconisco Valley to Rausch Gap, thereby cutting every coal vein. Unfortunately, the coal pitched northward, opposite the slope of the mountain and, as a result, the eighty yards excavated failed to reach coal. This "Red Shale Tunnel" is visible today at the head of Seventh Street in Tower City. The railroad was to have run southwesterly from this tunnel to and down Clarks Creek Valley to the Susquehanna. Joseph W. Cake was president and Hother Hoge was chief engineer, with headquarters at Pine Grove. Litigation over land titles ruined the company. On May 7th, 1855, this corporation revived as the Schuylkill and Dauphin Improvement Company. That the tunnel plan was feasible is proven by a similar post-War II project of the P. & R. Coal & Iron Co., in this same valley.

Hope that helps.
  by loriented
I would love to hear the true answer to your question... perhaps it was just used for transportation or as you said, for timber for the mines. The P&R serviced a very large area according to this 1923 map ( http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... eading.gif ).

It was not related to Zartmans dinky track. It is not used by the Appalachian trail.

also, interestingly, where gold mine rd (state route 1001) crosses thru a small peice of dauphin county (coming down Stoney Mountain into clarks valley) it appears to use parts of the original railroad switchback as its own switchback (as seen on google earth).

another interesting link (picture of the Lincoln Colliery) ...
http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~papgh ... ustry2.htm

and another general link...
  by pumpers
I have heard back from Brandy Watts. In short, the 2nd switchback, the one going down into Clark's Valley, was built for lumber for the P&R coal mines. Here are some things I found out in the meantime and also what Ms. Watts replied.

myself (well, from the internet): The Kalmia mine was opened in 1869. Presumably the first switchback in the region, the one going to the mine, opened then.

B.Watts: Yes, the second switchback that heads southwest into Clark's Valley was the Clark's Valley Branch aka Clark's Valley Extension aka Gensemer Siding. I have no online references to your specific questions, but do have the following newspaper and book references:

According to the Frederick (MD) News, Sept. 4, 1889, under "The Clark's Valley Extension":
"Pine Grove, Pa., Sept. 4. - Two car loads of Hungarians arrived here to work on the new extension of the Philadelphia and Reading railroad. The branch will run from Kalmia into Clark's valley and will be about six miles long. It will form an outlet for thousands of acres of valuable timber lands."

According to "A Centennial History of Tower City and Porter Township, Schuylkill County, Pa., 1868 - 1968": John Jameson was in charge of "building the railroad from Kalmia to Clarks Valley for the purpose of transporting the timber to the P. & R. C. & I. Company operations across the mountains to Lincoln and Lorberry."

The [second ] Switchback was ... used to haul lumber when the "Gensemer Siding" was constructed. A sawmill sat at the end of the line in Clarks Valley, operated by the Gensemer family. I am uncertain what other companies could have operated the sawmill as well.

J. R. Glass additionally used the siding for hauling his lumber as well, until the siding and switchback closed in 1905.

The Zartman Lumber line never made it as far as the Kalmia Switchback.

Myself: sometime between 1885 and 1895, the Kalmia mine closed (mostly mined out). By 1898, it had opened as "Kalmia Washery", where the piles of waste from the old mine were washed to recover small size coal, for which there was now a market (mostly residential I think I read).

B. Watts: According to the Pinegrove Herald (Pine Grove, PA), Nov. 1905:
"The railroad running from Lorberry Junction into the Gensemer siding in Clark's Valley, the property of the P. & R. Co., on account of its not paying is to be abandoned. This will work great hardship and expense to Messrs. Glass & Bailey as it was the only outlet for shipping timber from their several hundred acre tracts in Clark's Valley. This action of the railroad company was brought about through the abandonment of the old Kalmia washery, the revenue from the haulage of timber alone not being sufficient to pay the running expenses of the branch. The train service will be discontinued after Thursday, November 23d, 1905." [Note that Nov. 23, 1905 was when train service was discontinued NOT when the washery closed. I don't know exactly when the washery closed.]

myself: I found an obituary [EDIT: biography, not obituary] of someone who became a foreman at the Washery in January 1905, and can't imagine they operated it without a rail connection, so presumably 1905 was the last year the Kalmia washery was in operation.

One of the wikipedia posts earlier in the thread said the branch from Kalmia back to Ecco Colliery (back towards Lorberry and the connection to the main) was removed by 1920.


Choess, thanks for the tip about contacting Ms. Watts.
Last edited by pumpers on Mon Feb 07, 2011 5:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  by choess
A fascinating post.

The pre-1920 figure in the Wikipedia article (I compiled most of it) is from Taber's "Railroads of Pennsylvania"; it looks as though 1905 would be a more precise figure. Per other information on stonyvalley.com, it looks as though the construction of the famous incline at Yellow Springs c. 1908 was probably to compensate for the loss of the Clark's Valley railroad outlet.

I found the obituary of Elmer E. Artz mentioning his appointment as supervisor at the Kalmia washery in January 1905. Note that he was transferred to Anchor washery in January 1906, which supports the idea that the washery closed permanently in 1905. Volume 1 of that book states that "Daniel J. Gensemer had such early advantages as the schools of Pine Grove offered, and later entered the Lebanon County College. His first independent venture was in the lumber business at Goodspring, Pa., which he carried on from 1884 to 1906, as a contractor for the Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company. Meantime he was also engaged in merchandising at Goodspring, Pa." I'm inclined to believe the "Centennial History" was more accurate, and that he was in fact contracting for the timber dept. of the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Co., which is how Kline describes Zartman (i.e., Gensemer was also a prop merchant). From factory inspection reports online, it seems that Goodspring was the location of the Gensemer sawmill.

I read over Kline's piece on Zartman's operations, but there's no mention of either Gensemer or Glass.
  by pumpers
some relevant links:
1869: opening of Kalmia colliery: (search on the word "kalmia" ) http://files.usgwarchives.net/pa/schuyl ... st0023.txt

1898: article about Kalmia washery: http://books.google.com/books?id=d5SX0R ... 22&f=false
also http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/ ... d-1/seq-1/

Annual report of PA mine commission, with production from each mine, etc. going through these is tedious, as only some text words are searchable. I lost my notes from going through them unfortunately -- the Kalmia mine was in 7th or 8th district for some years but not all - I guess they redefined the districts... http://www.northernfield.info/documentR ... on+Reports Note these files are 50 Mbyte each more or less -- you need a very fast link.