First, the bad news: our first benchmark hunt of 2016 didn't result in a find. But the good news: it was nice enough for a survey mark hunt in January!
A few days ago, dad suggested that we join him on a trip to Tunkhannock for Jeff Mitchell's yearly presentation of Pennsylvania hiking photos. We expected chilly but sunny conditions, so we planned to make a full day of it. We took our time eating breakfast at the Yearbook Diner, but we still had an hour and a half before the presentation. We decided to use that time to walk down to the railroad tracks to search for this benchmark.
There were two ways to approach the mark, both of which looked interesting. We chose to walk down toward the big bridge over the Susquehanna. Just before crossing the bridge, on the south side of Route 6, a small lane leads off to the west. We passed a busy gym and a pleasant riverside park and after two thirds of a mile reached the end of vehicle travel; we could still walk toward the tracks and the location of the mark.
Initially my impression was that the railroad was nearly untouched from the old days—through the brush and trees we could see an old brick building that might have been an old freight station or some other operation connected to the railroad. It was entirely plausible that an old signal base might still be intact. But as we approached the road crossing, our hope faded. The crossing was obviously quite new and no older structures were to be found along the tracks, which we walked for the last hundred yards or so, just to be sure we didn't miss anything.
We also noticed that the tracks sit atop what appears to be new ballast rock. And when we read over the description again, we noticed that it clearly refers to the "west-bound track," implying that there were at least two sets of tracks when the mark was set. Now there is only one. Could this mean that we weren't looking in the correct spot after all? Possibly!
We made another interesting find as we walked up the switchback road toward the highway underpass: there is a clear grade parallel to, and higher than, the current tracks. Could this have been the original railbed, or the location of at least the west-bound track, before the construction of the highway? It's certainly possible. Even if it was, it's pretty clear that the old semaphore base no longer exists (at least not in any location that we can see or access). We decided to check PennPilot once we got home and see if the old aerial imagery could shed any light on the situation. If we gleaned any information, we could always come back. While we poked around in the area, we were treated to a train (really just two engines), horn and all, crossing gates down, and a friendly engineer, on its way west toward the Vosburg Tunnel.
We made a loop out of our walk by heading back via the other route—through the highway underpass and north on West Street back to West Tioga Street in downtown Tunkhannock.