River Road and U.S. Route 40- A memorial to a Garrett County railroad--This Castleman River Railroad caboose was left at Dewey Yommer's Grantsville house/service station when the rails were pulled in 1959. Yommer was the conductor on the CRRR. Yommer is gone, his service station is no more, but the caboose remains as the only rolling stock of a Garrett County railroad.
In the 1870's Robert Work Garrett extended a subsidiary railroad of the B&O from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. The railroad was basically the "best route" identified by the early surveyors, using Wills Creek from Cumberland up to the Eastern Continental Divide and then following Flaugherty Creek, Casselman River and the Yough to McKeesport. This great railroute was built about 30 years too late (see Railroutes of the Alleghenies), the effect being that this so called Pittsburg and Connellsville Railroad had to fight for all the traffic it could get, including local coal and timber.
By the the 1890's logging railroads were springing up all along the P&C to tap the hemlock and hardwoods along the creekbeds and ridgetops and other places too rocky to farm. By coincidence, about this time the advent of small geared locomotives made steep and twisty logging roads practical and secondly, the great northern Pennsylvania forest tracts were just about harvested for the time being. At Meyersdale, the B&O had built the Salisbury Branch to travel south along the Casselman to tap lumber and coal traffic. Some of the logging operators were locals but the more substantial ones came from Northern Pennsylvania.
So it was in 1900 Worth and Cortez Jennings moved from Sullivan County Pennsylvania to Northern Garrett County to start a logging enterprise. Recall that 1900 was a much different world than today, the Jennings brothers had to create their own town, labor had to live close to work without the ability to commute in autos. Likewise, each logging capitalist had to provide his own transportation system (the logging railroad) in this time before taxpayer supported highway systems. In this case the Jennings Brothers Railroad was built from near the end of the B&O's Salisbury Branch (appropriately called Worth Junction) to the mill site at the town they founded (Jennings), a total of about 12 miles. If you walk along a railroad sometime, take notice of the amount of steel, ties and ballast involved to appreciate the capital investment of even a modest shortline railway. All of this needed to be in place before the revenue from the timber could start to pay. When we criticize the clear cutting of these loggers, we should also appreciate what they had at stake.
The Jennings brothers' logging and sawmill operation was successful, running for a respectable 18 or 19 years and, for a time, the railroad thrived. Eventually logging and coal mines extended its route to near Bittinger Maryland. From Bittinger, a logging spur ran all the way to the end of the South Branch of the Casselman on a very old land grant,Cunningham Dale, many miles from Worth Junction. In the meantime, other timber operations set up along the Jennings Brothers Railroad and in 1912 the railroad was separately chartered with the improbable name of Northern Maryland and Tidewater Railroad. Putting lofty destinations in the names of railroads was a time honored practice, but tidewater was a goal definitely out of the reach of this road. Perhaps the incorporators had come across some of the C&O Canal literature, a nearly religious venture that laid claim to every river route in the Alleghenies including the Casselman. The Northern Maryland and Tidewater apparently was a thinly capitalized organization that had to reorganize when the Jennings brothers lumber operation closed in 1918. Because of the other lumber operations, coal mining and,in later years, a firebrick works, the railroad did not liquidate, but was reformed as the more modestly named Castleman Valley Railroad and later (in another reorganization) as the Castleman River Railroad( the spelling of the river's name was apparently in dispute, very old maps show the Castleman spelling as opposed to today's Casselman spelling). In any event, the Castleman River Railroad survived on coal and firebrick and maybe the odd carload of inbound freight. In later years when operated as the Castleman River Railroad, it might have been hard to distinquish this operation from the rest of the B&O's Salisbury Branch, as that road's motive power was used. Benjamin Kline reports that the Castleman River Railroad ran the last of the Buffalo and Susquehanna steam locomotives and that the B&O also leased the rail and supplied cinder ballast. Going back to the beginning, one wonders why the B&O did not build this natural extention of the Salisbury Branch themselves, maybe the B&O did not want to charter the Salisbury Branch in Maryland. Perhaps the B&O did give assistance to the Jennings Brothers, for example, on site examination indicates the B&O specifically bridged the Casselman River to reach Worth Junction.
By 1959, with lumber operations too small to use rail transportation and the locally owned coal mines playing out, the common carrier railroad filed for abandonment. The most likely continuing user, the firebrick works, continued to operate with truck transportation of its finished product. The Castleman River Railroad died a quiet death, in steam to the end. Whether the State of Maryland or Garrett County did anything to keep it alive is unknown to the writer, but it is doubtful.
Jennings, Maryland. The town the Jennings brothers created has a serene appearance on a quiet Sunday in late March 2002, belieing its somewhat feisty past. The railroad up the Casselman ran in the immediate foreground. The road to the left heads up through Bear Hill, an area that at one time had a reputation for some really independent mountaineers. Bear Hill is more formally know as Browning Bear Hill, named after Meshach Browning's favorite hunting grounds.
New Savage Works manufactures refractory at this location since the time of the Castleman River Railroad. Trucks bring in various grades of locally-mined fireclay, which processes through this building from left to right, ending up as firebrick that shipped out by truck. Fireclay is closely associated with coal deposits in the area.
Railroad right of way north of firebrick plant. The right of way is exceptionally clean after over 40 years of abandonment, perhaps because of the cinder ballast that still can be kicked up. The river is on the right looking down (north).
The right of way has switched over to the other side of the river looking upstream (south) here at Casselman (Maple
Grove Road). With the recent application of crushed stone to serve a nearby farm upstream, the right of way looks like its ready for reapplication of rail.
A panoramic view of the Castleman River Railroad right of way on the hill between Grantsville and Jennings, the river and railroad is on the arc between the fields and the woods.
Grantsville Station and Depot was located on the south side of present day I 68. Some of the foundation can be found in May 2002. A photo in Kline's Tall Pines and Winding Rivers shows the station operating as a loading point for mine props. Note in the background of this photo the guardrails on the embankment for I 68. A bridge would have been necessary on I 68 if the railroad was still in existence.
At Grantsville, a loop in the Casselman River made a water-powered mill ideal. In this photo we see the remains of the dam that stored the water head for Stantons Mill, adjacent to Penn Alps. The mill still operates under more modern power. Apparently the mill race was preserved under I 68 with a concrete culvert.
This large building was built as a "pea vinery", local farmers were contracted to grow peas which were processed, canned and shipped by rail from this location. These days it is Casselwood Furniture, a manufacturer of traditional wood furniture (no rail shipments, however). Close by is Penn Alps, a historical preservation enterprise started by Dr. Alta Schrock.
Immediatedly north of the pea vinery, the railroad right of way crossed River Road.
Railroad is across the river, running along the treeline in the middle of this field. The maple sugar season for these Amish farms is about winding down this unusually warm spring. Trout fishing is in full swing on this catch and release area of the Casselman.
Worth Junction, March 2002. These Castleman River Railroad rails have been bulldozed up apparently in an effort to clean up the cinder-based ballast. Limestone has been applied to area that also suffers from dumping.
The bridge connecting the Castleman to the long gone B&O rails presents a more scenic tribute to the CR RR.
Credited to the Garrett Co. News July, 1900, this article reports the beginning of the extension of the Salisbury railroad, leading credence to a theory that the Jennings Brothers' railroad was an unofficial extension of the B&O. Note the planned connection with the B&O at Altamont, this would have been possible using Cherry Creek and Deep Creek, but it would have been a long haul! More likely the Jennings Brothers Railroad would have connected with N.U. Bond's railroad in the New Germany area if a reason existed to provide a bridge route from the Sandpatch route to the West End. This route would have had almost a 2800 ft summit. Source of this article is Salisbury Historical Website
One of the owner of Shay 8 and probably an investor in the Jennings Brothers Railroad was Michael Knecht. Knecht was born in 1838 in Germany before immigrating to Keysers Ridge and then setting up a blacksmith shop in West Salisbury in the 1880's. The operation turned into a large machine shop and foundry operated by Mr. Knecht and his five sons, ending when a grandson died in 1956. Source of this photo and information is Salisbury Historical Website
The Salisbury Branch supported much logging and coal in its history. Here at Boynton, another manufacturer was represented at the turn of the century. Whatever else the New Century Works produced, it built at least one geared-type locomotive. A photo appears in Kline's Stemwinders of the Laurel Highlands. This facility is still operated by Faber Letang, at one point in recent history it was operated as Pittsburgh Nipple Works. Maybe as coincidence, on the day this photo was taken, a tractor/trailer rig was parked in the lot, the name on the trailer was New Century.
Castleman River Railroad 3112 Salisbury Junction, PA, July 28, 1957. One wonders if the Castleman River Railroad operated its own trains all the way to Meyersdale, rather than interchanging at Worth Junction. Bob Rathke Collection
Mr. Ted Gleichmann of Bells & Whistles reports that 3112 was built by Alco-Brooks, N. 30755 in March 1906. Ex B&O E-60. This shot was taken at Salisbury Junction (Meyersdale) on September 3, 1957, a couple of years before the abandonment. The train is pointed south towards CR RR rails with a B&O box car Theodore F. Geichmann, Jr. photo- Dave Cathell collection
Information on Jennings Brother's Only New Locomotive-Shay No. 8
Shop Number 2580 - Built for: Jennings BrothersFrom Shaylocomotive.com
[#-Diam x Stroke]
3 - 12 x 15
[Style - Diam.]
E.W.T. - 50"
Jennings Brothers, Jennings Brothers RR #8, West Salisbury, PA
M. Knecht & Son, Meyersdale, PA
(6-1923) Northern Maryland & Tidewater RR #8, Jennings, MD
(7-1924) Birmingham Rail & Loco. Co. (D) #1539, Birmingham, AL
(8-19-1925) Swift-Hunter Lumber Co. #80, Atmore, AL
(by 5-28-1943) Champion Fibre Co., Tennessee & North Carolina RR #80, Andrews (?Hayesville), NC
What do you do when you cannot download an appropriate map to show your point? Make one yourself !! So excuse the amateurish drawing and lack of proper scale and detail. The map attempts to show the valley with green being forest, white is farmland, blue lines being steams and red lines representing the many temporary logging railroads that snaked up every worthwhile hollow.
The point of this map is that the Casselman Valley has it all, coal, timber and farming. The valley created by the Casselman and its tributaries coincides with a syncline that trends in the same direction (northeast) and dips in the same direction. This fact is important to the existence of coal beds, as just as often, a stream will erode the same coal beds away on an anticline. In this section of the Alleghenies, about every other valley has coal deposits. In the case of the Casselman Valley, the coal close enough to the surface to be mined were smaller seams, as compared with the great Georges Creek field where the 14 foot Big Vein (Pittsburgh) seam was close to the surface. Casselman Valley mines, therefore, were smaller, local affairs. Reports are that large reserves of the Kittaning seams are in place, accessible only by deep mining, however, the upper (Maryland) portion of the valley has been sealed off from rail transportation by the National Freeway (I-68.)making their recovery doubtful
Subdivisions of the Pennsylvanian Strata in Maryland-Maryland Geological Survey
Coal in Maryland occurs in five elongate structural basins or snyclines, in Garrett and Western Allegany Counties of Maryland. These basins are The Georges Creek Basin, named for the stream that flows southwestward through the basin to the North Branch of the Potomac River; The Upper Potomac Basin along the North Branch of the Potomac River; The Casselman Basin, named for the Casselman River which flows northward through the basin into Pennsylvania; The Lower Youghiogheney and Upper Youghiogheny Basins, named for the Youghiogheney River which flows northward toward Pennsylvania.
The Casselman Basin lies in central Garrett County and is the southern end of the Somerset or Berlin Basin of Pennsylvania. The basin is 18 miles long by about five miles wide and extends from Deep Creek Lake at Cherry Creek northeast to the State line. The most important coal seams in this basin from the standpoint of known recoverable reserves and quality are: Lower Bakerstown, Upper Feeport, and Upper Kittanning.
COAL RESERVES BY TONS
The Georges Creek Basin contains the most recoverable reserves in the State, 354.1 million tons or 41%. The Potomac Basin contains 223.5 million tons or 26%, The Casselman Basin contains 116 million tons or 13.6, the Lower Youghiogheny Basin contains 107 million tons or 12.4%, and the Upper Youghiogheny Basin contains 54.3 million tons or 6.9% of the recoverable coal reserves.