Parkesburg to Creswell

The Atglen and Susquehanna Branch

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Amish running parallel to old rails. Photo by Mike Carter.

The Atglen & Susquehanna Branch of the PRR was constructed in the early 1900s to funnel an increasing amount of freight traffic from the passenger line serving Lancaster and Harrisburg. Actually one of about five different branches under the single moniker of Low Grade, the Atglen & Susquehanna was electrified in 1936, and was a busy, double-track line connecting Parkesburg with the (still active) Columbia and Port Deposit line at Creswell, about a mile geographically northwest of Safe Harbor. By way of a bridge nine miles northwest of Creswell spanning the Susquehanna River between Shocks Mills and Wago Junction, the trains could reach Enola Yard across the river from Harrisburg. The Atglen & Susquehanna became redundant in the late 1980s, and in 1989 (using the name "Enola Branch") it was petitioned for abandonment by Conrail. Tracks were removed beginning in 1990.

Thanks to Mike Carter for contributing information about this route.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD
Docket Number: 15613 Date: 2/14/1947 Section: 1
App, of Pennsylvania RR Co. and Reading Company for the former to abandon the Susquehannah, in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, approx, 4.51 miles and the latter to abandon operation thereover under trackage rights.
Length: 4.51 miles Citation: 267 ICC 811  

Every so often in Lancaster country you hear about turning this section in to a rail trail. It gets hot and heavy media attention for a few days or a week and then it dies. There are a bunch of safety concerns about railings, the power lines, access by ambulances, etc, and the project gets dropped. However, there must be some way to access the road bead because you can see jeep tracks in the weeds. The view of Safe Harbor hydroelectric plant is quite good from the top of the trestle. Or so I've heard...

Hank
York, PA
12/16/2008

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They started talk about the rail trail again this year, however there seems to be more 'hype' then cash going into it.

Danny H.
York, PA
1/5/2010

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Currently the low-grade can be used for recreation. The part in Manor township is not open. Most of the other townships have access for the public. The Martic Forge trestle is closed for use. The only current news is the removal of the existing wires and putting new power lines up as part of the stimulus Amtrak has received. This is supposed to start over the summer.

Chris
Lancaster, PA
4/18/2010

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Thanks Mike Carter for some great photographs of this line, particularly the bridges.

Kevin M. Smith
Cicero, NY
4/20/2010

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Does anyone know a good access point to get on to the main straight portion of the trail that you cross over by way on Rawlinsville Rd.?

Matt
Mount Joy, PA
9/13/2010

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The conversion to a Rail Trail has been an ongoing battle for close to 20 years now. At one point, it is my understanding The Friends of the Atglen and Susquehanna had lined up close to a $million dollars to convert the trail. Local legal opposition has delayed this plan. Locals claim the Rail Trail attracts the "wrong element". I see the folks that use rail trails: Hoseback Riders, Mountain Bikers, Hikers, Women with Baby Carriages, Families. On Sunday's you see Mennonites using the Trails wearing their Sunday best. I guess all of those groups (of which I am included) represent the "wrong element". I got news for the locals, the "wrong element" is already using the trail. Making it a Rail Trail would push out the wrong element. At one point DCNR had offered to improve the trail, but legal obstacles remain. The last I heard was Amtrak may take out the old catenary and will be laying down cinder and ballast in some sections. It's a start. Thanks for the photos.

Randy
Elizabethtown, PA
4/12/2011

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A couple years on our way to strasburg we were riding on Route 896 and went over the old line but when we looked down there were SEPTA and Amtrak trucks down there dumping ballast. When we reached strasburg we had to pick up some rail we bought from the railroad. The track workers than loaded it onto the truck said that there was a Rumour that Amtrak may use the line again for NS/Amtrak connection. The next year they had stopped and all remins of a track were gone but because of this package Amtrak has recieved this maybe a very possible thing soon. May I also mention im 13 years old lol

Christian Bentley
Kirkwood, DE
8/2/2011

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I road this trail on Mt Bike from Quarryville to Safe Harbor as an out and back coarse. There was one trestle we had to take trails to get around and back. The tresle at Safe Harbor is also closed. I read they received funding to repair this for the rail trail. On the way back I passed my car and continued to Rt 896 and back to Quarryville. The trail continued on and the signs indicate there are intentions to start mile 0 in Parkesburg and the last mile marker 27 is at Safe Harbor. The next time I head out I will continue past 896 towards Parkesburg and see how far they have gotten. The trail for the most part is 16' wide crushed stone that is packed. It is rumored that next spring they will put a layer of crushed limestone across the surface. This is a very nice trail that passes through scenic Amish Farms. It has alot of potential. I also climb and they opened back up climbing at Safe Harbor along the new rail trail. This climbing area dates back to the 70's and has been open then closed then open again then closed again. Let's hope this time it is open for good.

Scott Saunders
Wilmington, DE
11/26/2011

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i am interested in how much of the rail line is still in place and what is being done to it.the reason why i am asking is because i am currently writing up a small business plan which covers rail removal along with bridges and other equipment associated with this particular rail line.i am also looking to working with rails to trails.any information on the current status would be greatly appreciated.thank you.

george oakley
reading, PA
12/2/2012

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Pennsylvania Railroad Atglen & Susquehanna Branch - The Enola low-grade

https://www.facebook.com/gregory.pawelski.9/media_set?set=a.567964173323208.1073741886.100003288929249&type=3

Gregory D. Pawelski
Wernersville, PA
5/29/2014

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