Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I'm woken some mornings by the mournful wail of the Nittany & Bald Eagle freight train ambling through town. I've grown almost immune to the screech of my alarm clock, but there's no way to turn off the mating call of the modern American railroad. A vestigial line runs from the water gap up to the limestone quarry outside of Pleasant Gap, and over to the fading industrial park by Nittany Mall. It used to run to the Corning-Asahi plant in that park, but they shut that place down over the winter. These days, almost all of the traffic must be between the limestone quarry and Sutton's gravel plant over on the other side of Bellefonte, in Coleville. You wouldn't think there would be enough freight to justify the line, but I guess limestone rubble is sufficient for the bottom line. They run a tourist bus along the lines on the weekend, but that's a pretty minor use of the rails, at least in this county.

The line used to run all the way through Lemont and points west, but that section of the line has been left to rust, or pulled up, or disappeared into the landscape. You can still see an overpass for it over Corl Street in West College - it's at least half of the reason they let that road go unplowed and closed for the winter - the plows can't get under the underpass, and there's nothing up there but the back end of the golf courses. There's another major quarry between Lemont and Oak Hall, but the line definitely doesn't go that far. They must be hauling with trucks instead of rail cars. Can't be very efficient. I remember folks making a fuss about that quarry, complaining that it was unsightly and a blot on the landscape. Must have been the rich folk in those new McMansions behind Branch Road, because you can't see the quarry from anywhere else, unless you actually drive the back road through Oak Hall.

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