Having found ourselves the remains of a rather expansive rail bridge in the middle of the woods, we looked for the next logical piece of the puzzle: the rail line itself. Following along with the towering concrete pedestals above our heads, we moved southward and found ourselves scaling a rather steep hill rising up out of the forest floor. The hill looked rather out of place for the area, and we assumed that it must be part of the railroad grade we were looking for. Sure enough, as we reached the top we came across a massive concrete abutment tucked up against the hillside – a sign that we had reached the end of the trestle and the resumption of the railroad grade.
The abutment was rather impressive in size, standing a good dozen feet in height and six to eight feet in depth. Atop of this concrete pedestal would have sat the northern end of the trestle, its steel girders reaching out towards the concrete pillars further south. This would also mark the start of the rail line, so we climbed up on top to take a look behind it.
Behind it stood this interesting artifact – a simple iron fence marked with a “Danger Keep Away” sign. I would suspect that this was put in place soon after the removal of the bridge, to keep ATV’s from driving off the now empty abutment. Today it seems rather redundant, considering the amount of trees and brush that now block the way.
Further along we find yet another sign, this one a much smaller sign placed along the edge of the rail bed (the rail bed sits off to the left). As for this sign, I would guess that it was placed here by Copper Range itself, probably as a warning for people to stay off the bridge back when it was intact and in use. No it sports a few orange and brown stripes.
Past the signs the old rail bed continued on into the trees. While the trail was largely overgrown and obscured, it was quite easy to imagine where the old rails once ran. From here the line heads southward towards Freda and the last stop on the line – the Champion Mill.
At our feet we could find various clues to the old rail line’s existence, including several of these iron plates scattered about the leaves and deadfall. These were used to hold the rails down to the wood ties and would have been pried off when the rails were removed for scrap. Some apparently were left behind, spike and all.
But something else was far more interesting within our line of sight atop the old Copper Range Railroad grade, something that we had least expected to see at the start of the neighboring trestle…
It was yet another concrete pedestal, this time sitting just off to our west alongside the very same railroad grade we were standing on. In fact there were several more just like this one, all in a line and all running parallel to the rail line we were already standing on.
The presence of these pillars only meant one thing, there was a second rail trestle running next door to the one we had already discovered. Two trestles crossing the same valley. Usually this would meant the presence of another rail road, but we knew that only the Copper Range made its way out this way.
We decided to follow these new pillars back southward to see from where they came, ending up at this interesting specimen. From here the ground drops away quickly and disappears down into the thick forest around the stream.
Climbing on top of this last group of pillars we walk up to the edge and peered out into the green canopy. Ahead of us stood yet another concrete pillar, and yet another beyond that. By the angle of the pillars we determined that this second trestle was actually a spur line that branched off from the main trestle about halfway down into the valley.
By this time it was pretty apparent what we had discovered, and we knew that our final destination was just below us. We had discovered the old rail line that once fed the Trimountain Mill, the remains of which would be sitting down below our feet at the base of the hillside.
It was time to head down and take a look…