During our recent trip to York PA, Robbie and I took walks on the York County Heritage Rail trail. This is a great trail for riding a bike or walking. On our last walks we visited the Howard Tunnel and Hanover Junction. This time we started our walk South of Seven Valleys in Glen Rock PA. Glen Rock is another quintessential American small town along the rail trail. Most of the rail trail is pretty flat. Glen Rock is in a valley surrounded by rocky hills and dotted with small farms. Heading south out of Glen Rock there is an uphill grade. Trains from the 1800s did not like going uphill so it’s not a very steep grade, but it does give your legs an extra workout.
My great uncle Roy lived in Glen Rock. I remember visiting with my grand parents when I was a kid. They lived in an old three-story farm house. The house was built into the side of the hill, so the lower level was partly under ground but the front was exposed. This was not a basement but additional living space. My aunt and uncle lived in this lower level. They were avid antique collectors. The upper floors of the house were jam packed full of antiques as well as the barn. I always enjoyed looking at them when we visited. I especially liked the old organs; they had several. They were huge, well huge for a six year old boy. They had ornate oak cabinets with lots of keys and buttons. Their house was like walking into an early 1900s parlor.
Many generations ago the Thoman family immigrated from Bubendorf, Switzerland to southern York County. Several years ago Robbie and I visited Bubendorf. I was amazed at the similarities between Bubendorf and Glen Rock. Bubendorf is a small town in a valley surrounded by rocky hills and dotted with small farms. It was easy to see why the Thoman’s chose southern York County.
The lane to my uncle’s house is right next to the rail trail. The last time we walked the trail in Glen Rock we could see a little of my uncle’s old house through the trees. This time it was too overgrown. We could not see the house. Keeping with the bicycle art theme all along the trail, there are some old bikes in a garden and a big dog sculpture made of old bike parts.
While Robbie and I are visiting York PA, we like to take walks on the York County Heritage Rail Trail. The trail is a 20 plus mile long trail through southern York County. We like this trail because it’s very scenic with lots of things to look at along the way. In the heat of the summer the trail is covered in shade by trees on both sides of the trail. The shade keeps it nice and cool while walking the trail. The other day we walked from the Brillhart Station parking lot to the Howard Tunnel. We wanted to walk a different section of the trail, so today we started from the Seven Valleys trail parking lot. We walked South past Hanover Junction for about two miles before returning to the Seven Valleys parking lot.
The rail trail winds its way through 200 year old small town America. It’s like a trip back in time before suburbs and urban sprawl. Seven Valleys is one of those small towns, population 517. There are several bike themed art pieces all along the trail. The Seven Valleys parking area has three large bike sculptures. There is also a building with old bikes mounted to a wall. There is an antique store that probably has that amazing piece you have been looking for. Back when I rode my bike on the trail, it was more of a general store. On my way back home I would stop for a snack and a drink. Seven Valleys is known for cigars and ice cream.
Just past Seven Valleys is Hanover Junction. In Hanover Junction the Northern Central Railroad line split and headed west to Hanover PA. Trains would either go west to Hanover or continue north to Harrisburg. Abraham Lincoln passed through Hanover Junction twice. The first time he was on his way to Gettysburg, to give the Gettysburg address. There was an infamous photograph that was said to be Lincoln at Hanover Junction on his way to Gettysburg. It has been determined that it was not Lincoln. Photo or not, his train did stop in Hanover junction. The second time, his funeral train passed through Hanover Junction on the way to Harrisburg PA. The train station has been restored to look the way it did in the mid 1800s. There is a small museum inside. It is currently closed due to covid. Outside there is a small butterfly garden full of butterflies. There is a man and horse sculpture, sculpted from old bicycle frames and parts.
The other day we noticed new railroad ties laying along the tracks all of the way from Brillhart Station to the Howard Tunnel. Today we ran into the railroad tie machine in Seven Valleys. There is a steam excursion train that is based at the New Freedom train station. New Freedom is the southern most town in PA along the trail, close to the Maryland line. They have been running the excursion train for several years. They needed to do an extensive rail restoration in order to be able to run the train. The restoration work was completed north as far as Hanover Junction. The train has been running from New Freedom to Hanover Junction and back. After the track is renovated into York, the train will run from New Freedom to York. That will be a really nice train ride!
The York County Heritage Rail trail is a 20 plus mile rails to trails project. The trail winds its way through scenic southern York county. It follows the old Northern Central Railroad line. The NCR served Harrisburg PA and points north and south through York County to Washington DC. It was an important freight and passenger route from 1838 to 1972. The rail line was abandoned for many years, in 1990 one of the two sets of tracks was removed. Starting with an Eagle Scout project from two Boy Scouts, the rail bed from the removed rails were transformed into the Heritage Rail Trail.
When I lived in York the trail started in the middle of downtown York. It goes a little farther north now. The trail is a multi use trail it’s great for walking, jogging, bike riding and horse riding. No motor vehicles allowed. I would ride my bike from my house on the east side of town to the beginning of the trail downtown. Depending on how I was feeling that day, I would ride 8 to 15 miles south and then turn around and go back to the house. I really enjoyed riding the Heritage Rail Trail. When Robbie and I visit York we like to walk the trail as much as we can. My parents live a short distance from the Brillhart Station trail parking lot. We parked in the lot and walked just under two miles to the Howard Tunnel.
The Howard tunnel is a 275-foot brick lined tunnel with stone facades. It’s a pretty cool looking tunnel and worth the walk to get to it. It can be a bit creepy to walk through with water dripping on your head. It’s not quite long enough to be too dark. When you get far enough into the tunnel you start to see the light from the other side. It’s only a little bit dark in the middle. The York County Heritage Rail Trail is my favorite trail!