Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Crystalline Wall

The county park that Kali and I frequent when it's too muddy to walk in our own backyard features a long, deep railroad cut through metamorphic gneiss.  The cut is about twenty feet deep and about two hundred feet long - the longest and deepest cut on the entire line, which was built in 1876.
Perennial springs seep from the northern face of the cut, and the moist, rocky niches support hanging gardens of mosses and ferns.  The recent cold weather utterly transformed the vertical landscape.

8 comments:

Carolyn H said...

Hmmm, what does it mean when both of us post ice photos today?

John Gray said...

quite beautiful arn't they?

withywindlenatureprograms.com said...

Beautiful photos - I love admiring the ice formations on the rock cuts along the highway on my way to work; it must be great to find such a place on foot and take time to marvel over it. Thanks for sharing!

Scott said...

Carolyn: It means that it's cold! (I know--smart aleck).

Scott said...

John: They ARE nice. Now, if kids would just keep their hands off them they would be more beautiful because there wouldn't be shards on the ground and stubs on the wall.

Scott said...

Withywindle: Thanks for the compliment on the images. I wasn't really happy with them, but it was very late in the afternoon when we encountered the icicles, the light was going out of the world, and my hands were FREEZING. In fact, my left ring finger started to develop Reynaud's syndrome--cold, numb, and white.

packrat said...

Beautiful ice stalactites. (I know, technically there's no ceiling.)

I'm interested in the railroad cut. Here in New Mexico there are some really interesting cuts and switchbacks in the Sacramento Mountains. New Mexico Rails-to-Trails has created some great hiking opportunities on old railroad beds.


http://www.railstotrails.org/news/recurringfeatures/trailmonth/archives/0610.html

Scott said...

Thanks for the link to the Sacramento Mountains rails-to-trails, Packrat. This railroad was part of the commuter rail network that served the suburbs northeast of Philadelphia. The line, built by the Reading Railroad, was intended to link Philadelphia to New York City, but the Pennsylvania Railroad's line was faster and served more populous areas en route, so the Pennsylvania Railroad's line won out and this line only extended about 25 miles to the small community of Newtown.

Though the area served by this line became completely suburbanized, the fact that there was only a single track (i.e., trains could not go inbound and outbound without one or the other waiting on a siding), it was not particularly convenient and was not used heavily enough by commuters to keep it profitable. Service on the suburban portion of the line was abandoned in 1986, although service within the city of Philadelphia continues, stopping at the city line.

The rails have been removed from the two miles of right-of-way from the city border outward and have been converted to a trail by our county. The county has the legal right (though not the money) to take-up the rails and extend the trail another 4 miles up to the border with our adjacent county; they'll get to it eventually. The adjacent county holds on to the crazy idea that rail service will be re-established on the line sometime in the future, but it's not going to happen--at least not in my lifetime.