This trail follows a section of the Sinnemahoning Valley Railroad grade dating back to 1885. In that year, the Sinnemahoning Valley Railroad began running from Keating Summit (known as Forest House) on the Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad (later part of the Pennsylvania Railroad) east to a switchback and then south down the west branch of Freeman Run to the Goodyear's sawmill in Austin, PA. All that remains here today is the old railroad grade along the west branch of the Freeman Run which lies within Susquehannock State Forest.
Some of the north parts of this trail is on private land, but almost all of this trail is on state forest
In Austin, Frank Goodyear built a huge Hemlock sawmill, and hauled cut timber logs to Austin by rail to get sawed into lumber and then used his rail line to transport the sawn lumber to the large cities. In 1886, he extended the line 13 miles south to Costello, where there was a large sole leather tannery. The leather tanneries used the Hemlock bark, which was a by-product of the saw mills, for making tannic acid. This allowed Goodyear to benefit greatly by supplying one industry with the waste product from his lumber operation. Hemlock Tannins made the leather more resistant to decomposition and gave the leather a distinctive, deep reddish-brown color.
By 1893, the Sinnemahoning Valley Railroad merged with the Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad and by then extended sixty-two miles from Keating Summit on to Wharton and beyond. From Wharton, the rail line proceeded north east up a steep grade to Galeton. About 14 miles south of Galeton, four large switchbacks were required to get over the ridge and into Galeton. From Galeton the rail line ran eastward to Ansonia, with a 13-mile branch to the at that time booming logging town of Cross Fork. By 1901, the Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad had built another extension from the Wharton mainline, south through Sinnemahoning to connect the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad near Driftwood.
Austin became Goodyear's center of operations in the Sinnemahoning Valley, and was known as Hemlock City. Disaster struck when Austin was literally wiped off the map by a large flood caused by the failure of the Bayless Papermill Company concrete dam on September 30, 1911.The lumber profitability had already declined before then due to the total cutting of the Eastern Hemlock stands that completely cleared the hills of thier the old-growth forests. To make matters even worse, a board range of bad economic conditions continued to affect the rail lines and the once-prosperous industries operating in the Sinnemahoning Valley from then on. Even the state-of-art papermaking pursuits by George Bayless started in 1901 failed to revive the area's economy and prosperity due to the 1911 burst of the large concrete dam built in 1909 to provide adequate water to run the mill processes at full capacity during the seasonally dry periods of low flow in the Freeman Run headwaters. The rail line from Keating Summit to Austin was abandoned by 1941. By 1942, the rail lines south of Austin, running through Costello and Wharton, and all the way to Sinnemahoning, were also abandoned. And, that mostly ended of the railroad era in these parts, except for the tiny village of Keating Summit which has the only active Pennsylvania Railroad line still running in Potter County yet today.
The Goodyear Hemlock Sawmill closed in 1911, and the Bayless Papermill Company survived the breaking of the Austin Dam in 1911 as well as another smaller earthen dam break in the flood of 1942. However, a major fire in 1944 caused the Austin papermill to close forever. Only Ruins are left in this washed out valley on a 2-mile stretch along the east branch of Freeman devastated by the Dam breaks. The two Freeman Run branches that converge in Austin, from whence it flows as a single waterway to its mouth at Costello.
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