Old RecordsI think the railroad has been good to land surveyors in providing all those spikes that have been set for property corners over the years. I love to find them when they are deed calls. The project I was working on today has a deed that indicated a spike existed at the property corner in the middle of a private road. This spike was there in 1950, making it about 64 years old. I found it about two inches deep.

The description of the following line in the deed was to a spike in a stone wall. I was encouraged by the visible stone wall and thought that somewhere, probably on the top, the spike would be found. I located the spike in the pavement and noted the coordinate number. Then I shot the edge of the top of the wall and inversed back to the spike and was within a few tenths of the deed distance. Unfortunately the spike called to be on the wall was not there. The end of the wall had signs of disturbance so I assume it was knocked out.

The line in the deed that led up to my found spike started at a marble stone in the middle of the private drive and digging that up seemed a task few would undertake without very good reasons. So I hooked my cloth tape onto the edge of the fresh hole in the road and measured the deed distance back and heard a signal. Taking note that the new signal was similar in strength to the spike I had excavated, I measured how deep my now existing spike was and so would anticipate the same depth. As expected, the spike was there and at that depth.

Why did I not find the stone? I can’t answer that. I do know that there were no other signals where I found the first spike. I want to also comment that the first spike had its head torn off. In my experience, snow plows will catch spikes and shear off the tops or pull them out of place. Perhaps the stone suffered a similar fate and a previous surveyor set the spike over the bottom of the stone, or in place of the removed stone. They measured well between the spikes and overall the two spikes worked with another pin I found on a side line.

There are a few tools I carry that make life easier for me. Some years ago, I researched the purchase of a portable hammer drill for digging up spikes and nails in pavement. The department manager at one store told me that the portable hammer drills do not hold up and I ought to use one that plugs into the wall. That does not work well on a highway, so I decided to buy the cheap model from a large home supply store. In addition to the hammer drill, I also obtained a portable vacuum. They both use the same 18-volt battery pack. Combine this drill with quality six-inch carbide tip masonry drill bits and you can make good time in the blacktop.

I took a two-inch chisel and placed it on the pavement next to my crayon “X” that marked my spot. Then I drilled holes at each end of the blade to cover the width of the chisel. Then I mirrored the holes on the other side cutting the corners of a box. Then I drilled the middle of each side. Finally I used a two-pound maul and drove the chisel home to pay dirt. The vacuum assisted by pulling the small dust particles out of the hole to expose the head of the spike.

This method really cuts the time to dig up a spike or nail in the pavement. On occasion I have simply drilled the heck out of the pavement and skipped the chisel. There are times of the year when old dogs lie on hot country roads and the tarmac seems to want to give way to a cold chisel, but in the colder months the road can flake away and wear me out. I have no regrets on the purchase of the hammer drill, and though the drill is cheap and predicted to fail, it has stood the test of time. I recharge the batteries when necessary between jobs with the built-in power converter in my truck.

A few years back, I surveyed a property and on one side near the right of way a marble stone existed that in my opinion was leaning and had been disturbed. I found a lot of monumentation in the neighborhood and felt I had proved the leaning monument was the odd duck. My party chief staked the line and the stone was marked as being about three-tenths over the line.

Not long after, another surveyor called and said he disagreed with my stakeout and explained that he held the stone and it was called for on the old plot plan. He was nice enough to scan it and email me the old plan. It was not his company’s plan so it must have been obtained long ago and filed with their plans. I had no way of getting a copy and relied on the deeds for the lots in the neighborhood. I saw the stone on the plan and I believe it was the plan stone. I also saw a notation calling for a spike in the road.

Although my party chief or I must have looked for the spike during the survey, I felt it warranted another trip to the site. There in the middle of the road was the spike called for on the old plan.  After chiseling and exposing the spike, I  located it and found that it was where I would have driven in a mag nail. I phoned the other surveyor and gave him the location of the spike. I explained that the stone was a point on line and the plan and deed calls were for the points we now both had in the field and there was not an intended angle point at the right of way. He agreed the spike should be held and sent his crew out to remove his set of stakes.

Perhaps one of us should have straightened up the stone. I noted its location on my plan of survey as being off the line a specific amount. I also gave a revision for the added spike found and held at the property corner in the middle of the road. It was the cooperation of two surveyors that brought about the correct staking of that property line. The old records his employer kept helped us both.