Marion to Mercersburg

The Mercersburg Branch

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This view shows the location of a former Pennsylvania RR/Penn Central bridge over the West Branch of Conococheague Creek. Photo by Mike Palmer, November 2003.

This branch headed west from the Pennsylvania Railroad's main line that ran between Harrisburg, PA, and Hagerstown, MD, via Chambersburg, PA. It branched from the main near Marion, and passed through the communities of Stonebridge, Williamson, McCulloch, Lemasters, Mercersburg Junction, and terminated at Mercersburg. It appears to have been abandoned in the 1970s. At Mercersburg Junction, a 5-mile branch that had been abandoned even earlier headed north through Gap Road, Creigh, Fort Loudon and terminated at Richmond.

The right of way passed through rural farms and other open areas. The right of way is now largely obscured, and much of it is inaccessible on private property.

The site called Mercersburg Junction (there is no town there) is near PA Route 416, just south of where the highway crosses over the West Branch of the Conococheague Creek. The former branch to Richmond is used as a farm access road in this area.

My great grand father was the engineer on the locomotive that ran this line back in the PRR and PC days. My pap used to own the caboose that sat off of Guitner Rd. Today I own that piece of the ride of way along with the bridge. You might have seen me cutting wood up there.

Mark Strock
shippensburg, PA
11/19/2012

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i was looking on google and could have sworn i saw rail on the line.is this possible?anyone who has any information on this rail line about track or equipment left on it please let me know.thank you.

george oakley
reading, PA
12/3/2012

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Hellow! Myself and Mark Strock operate the page on FB called the Mercersburg Branch, Past Present and Future. The only rail left on the ROW is the track to Gibbles along Rt 11. About 7 or 8 years ago that crossing was taken out by PennDot, and the track along the factory is now apart of that land. NS still ownes the switch at the interchange, But Gibbles owns the ROW on both sides of the crossing. As far as equipment left along the line there is nothing but an old tank car in Leimasters at the feed store that is used as a big fish tank. Check us out on FB!

Christopher Bang
Mercersburg PA
4/11/2013

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I as a student at the Mercersburg Academy in the early/mid 1960's and can remember the station in Mercersburg, a rust red colored, wooden building that by that time was not in use. I seem to recall a freight car or two sitting at the station from time to time.

Apparently, that branch was used by the Academy to bring students on charters to possibly Harrisburg at the times of school holidays.

Serge Grynkewich
Tucson, AZ
4/28/2014

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thanks chris and serge for your information on this rail line.just curious as to what was left behind basically.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
4/28/2014

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On April 01, 1976, with the start up of Conrail, The Mercersburg Industrial track, which is how it was listed in the Penn Central Timetable prior to this date, was still in service--albeit 10 MPH over it's entire 13.4 mile length. This line would not be retained by Conrail. The shippers were looking for a shortline operator to take it over. Still the state mandated that Conrail continue to provide service on the branch until a buyer was found. The Mercersburg Railway took over in the early summer of 1980, I believe. By this time the branch, even at 10 MPH, was in pretty sad shape. The last new ties had been inserted during the summer of 1971 by Penn Central. But gradually, the new operator was able to fix the trouble spots in the track and continued to work the line until, I believe, 1984. By this time the only real staple keeping the line running was the raw tie business in Mercersburg. The state was still paying a cash bounty on each car handled by the railroad and some times as many as eleven gondolas loaded with ties would depart Mercersburg Saturday morning bound for South Penn Junction and the Conrail interchange near Marion. The raw ties were going to Conrail and they had a contract with lumber concern, stating that at Conrail's discretion, the ties could be loaded ANYWHERE within 30 or 35 miles of Mercersburg. Conrail was getting tired of having to work South Penn Junction, picking up loads and setting off empties for The Mercersburg Railway so they decided to have the lumber concern bring the raw ties to Hagerstown and load them into gondolas there. That was the end of The Mercersburg Railway. There just wasn't enough business left on the line to warrant its continued existence. I want to say they folded in 1984, $100,000.00 in debt and in 1985 the rails and ties were pulled up as scrap to pay off creditors. I worked for The Western Maryland Railway as an operator, hiring out of Hagerstown on June 26, 1973. In 1975, on third trick one summer night, I was posting with Joe Shatzer at Town Tower on the Penn Central in Hagerstown. The WM called it NC Tower as we worked it on third trick and PC handled the manpower on first, second and the relief job. They ran a Mercersburg turn this night out of Shomo Yard and I copied running orders and a message giving the crew permission to occupy The Mercersburg Industrial Track and hooped them up as they went by. A four axle, five cars and a caboose. IF I would have only kept a set of those orders and form A! When you are young, you think things will last forever! Mercersburg and the South Penn Branch is where I got my first exposure to railroading and is where I got bit by the railroad bug! I, like my hero, Bill Curlin, would make it a career--mine lasting 42 years until July 02, 2015, when I retired from CSX as a Train Dispatcher of 30 years. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the building of the line into Mercersburg in 1983, The Mercersburg Railway leased some passenger coaches from The Gettysubrg Railroad and offered excursions between Lemasters and Williamson one weekend during that summer. Sadly, I was working and could not get off to ride. Any readers get the chance to ride that weekend?

Brad E. Lowans
Mercersburg, Pa, FL
6/5/2016

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