Ghost Town Trail
A Rail-Trail in
Cambria & Indiana Counties
Pennsylvania

The Ghost Town Trail extends for 19.5 miles in the Blacklick Creek Valley of Pennsylvania from Nanty Glo and White Mill (near Belsano) in Cambria County to Dilltown in Indiana County. The trail surface is packed limestone. The trail project began in October, 1991, when the Kovalchick Salvage Company donated the former Ebensburg & Blacklick Railroad property.

 

Map of the Trail

In October, 1993 the Cambria & Indiana Railroad donated four miles of the former Blacklick & Yellowcreek Railroad known as the Rexis Branch. The Rexis Branch follows the abandoned Cambria & Indiana Railroad for about four miles along the north branch of Blacklick Creek from Rexis to White Mill near Route 422. The Ghost Town Trail name is derived from the sites of once thriving coal mining towns of Bracken and Wehrum along the trail corridor. The trail is operated by the Cambria County Conservation & Recreation Authority in Cambria County and by Indiana County Parks in Indiana County.


Nanty Glo Terminus


Trail Distances from Nanty Glo Terminus

Twin Rocks 2.5 miles
Vintondale 6 miles
Eliza Furnace 6 miles
Wehrum 9 miles
Dilltown 12 miles


Ghost Town Trail Grand Opening Ceremony
Twin Rocks, PA on October 1, 1994

Postmaster Margaret Lanzendorfer Hancherick, of Twin Rocks, hands mail to "Pony Express" for delivery to Vintondale and Dilltown. This ceremony was conducted at the site of the former railroad station that served Twin Rocks.


Twin Rocks
The Village of Twin Rocks was established in 1875. The name was taken from the two identical rocks located near the big bend in the South Branch of Blacklick Creek. Near this area was a stone quarry and a deep excavation, locally known as "The Cut", which was made to route the rails to Vintondale. During construction of the railroad in 1893-1894 the "twin rocks" were reportedly cut into building stone and used in the construction of the Rockville Bridge across the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg. In earlier times the community of Twin Rocks was also know as Big Bend, and Expedit.

Hikers on trail near "The Cut"

 

Twin Rocks --A Town of Many Names
It is a curious fact, says the Mountaineer Herald; and no doubt an annoying one, to the business men of Big Bend, that they must, if they want anything shipped to them, by railroad, give the shipping point as Twin Rocks, while if they want an answer to a letter, they must tell the other fellow to address them as Expedit. In other words, Big Bend is the town name, Twin Rocks is the railroad station, and Expedit is the Post Office. A part of Big Bend is also called Seldersville which adds somewhat to the confusion.

Get together gentlemen, get together.

Johnstown Weekly Tribune, Friday, August 19, 1904

 

The name of Big Bend originated from the large curve in the Blacklick Creek and Expedit was the name issued by the Post Office Department in 1896. The name on the application for a post office was Twinrocks, which was crossed out and replaced with Expedit.


Bracken


Location of the former village of Bracken. In the background is a stack of auto tires retrieved from Blacklick Creek by volunteers. The red notice under the Bracken sign is a warning of trail conditions after one of the several washouts of 1996. Bracken once had it's own Post Office, originally proposed as Weber's Siding, but rejected by the Post Office Department. Bracken was the site of Commercial Coal Co. mine No.4 which began shipping in 1904 and operated until about 1920. Author Malcolm Cowley's unflattering description of the town noted that "Bracken was the God-awfulest mining camp in Pennsylvania; all of the trees gone, all the houses squalid, not even a company store".

Just north of this location, on the road between Twin Rocks and Vintondale, there have been reports of ghost sightings.


Eliza Furnace


The Eliza Furnace, located in Vintondale, is a Registered National Historic Site and is regarded as the best preserved hot blast furnace in Pennsylvania. Eliza Furnace was built by David Ritter and George Rodgers in 1845-1846. Eliza operated for only three years and was closed in 1849. At peak production the furnace employed over 90 people and utilized about 45 mules to produce 1,080 tons of iron per year. Besides the furnace stack, the property included a bridge house, a casting house, wheel and bellows houses, two two-story framed dwellings, 21 log dwellings, a stove house, an office, a smith shop, a log stable, and a charcoal house.

The village of Vintondale is shown in the background. The history of this area is extensively documented in the book Delano's Domain: A History of Warren Delano's Mining Towns of Vintondale, Wehrum and Claghorn, by Denise Dusza Weber.

 

The Eliza Furnace during dedication ceremonies of the Ghost Town Trail.


Two Forks

 
 


Photo on the top shows the fork in the Ghost Town Trail. Branch on the left goes to White Mill via Red Mill. The bridge at Red Mill was destroyed by the flood of 1977 and was replaced in 1999, permitting travel to the White Mill terminus. The right branch terminates at Nanty Glo via Bracken and Twin Rocks. The lower photo shows the junction of the North and South Branches of Blacklick Creek taken from the trail bridge crossing the North Branch of Blacklick Creek.


Wehrum

Wehrum 1901-1934

Built in 1901 through the efforts of Judge A. V. Barker and Warren Delano, Wehrum was named for Henry Wehrum, general manager of the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company. Wehrum was a non-union closed company town. The town plan was 6 streets, 60 feet wide and consisted of 250 houses, a bank, hotel, company store, post office, school and two churches. Coal mined here was shipped to Buffalo on the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad.

Wehrum was the scene of several mine explosions. In 1909, twenty-one miners were killed in Lackawanna's No.4 mine. In 1922 the mine was sold to Bethlehem Mines Corporation. Notices of Wehrum's closing were posted unexpectedly in May 1929. The houses were sold for lumber and the mine buildings were sold for scrap. Mining supported many families, and when mining died so did many mining towns. By 1934 only one house, the school, and jail remained. Wehrum had truly become a "Ghost Town". (Historical marker at Wehrum)

Visit the Wehrum Cemetery


Blacklick/Wheatfield Furnace


Near this site once stood the Blacklick/ Wheatfield Furnace built by David Stewart in 1846. The Blacklick furnace was the second hot blast furnace built in the Blacklick Creek Valley: the Eliza furnace was the first. The furnace stood thirty-five feet high with an eight foot bosh. The furnace used one tuyere, was waterpowered and possessed a rated production capacity of 1,400 tons.

In 1849 the furnace produced 756 tons of pig iron. The iron was shipped by wagon to Ninevah and Johnstown on the Pennsylvania Canal. The furnace employeed an estimated 80 men and boys and used forty-six mules and horses.


Dilltown


The "Pony Express" is greeted by the Postmaster at Dilltown Post Office 15929 on October 1, 1994, as part of the Ghost Town Trail Grand Opening.


Dilltown Terminus


Sign near the Dilltown terminus showing trail distances. Bridge over Mardis Run is shown in the background.

 

Dilltown Access Area

The Dilltown Pavilion and restrooms shown in the background..

 

 

 

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