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!
After mom and dad’s anniversary dinner at Primanti Brothers we all went back to their house. My son Ryan and his wife Shana own White Rose Hobbies in West York. Ryan had to work at the hobby shop and was not able to join us for dinner. We were waiting for him to join us at mom and dad’s house.
My son-in-law, Ronnie and his boys, Colin and Conner brought their remote control cars. They were playing with them out in front of the house. They were having fun, until a bad collision happened. One of the cars suffered a broken suspension part. Luckily, Ryan had not arrived yet, this meant that White Rose Hobbies was still open! So Ronnie was off to the hobby shop for parts.
While we were waiting for Ryan and now Ronnie, the grand kids, Brooke, Colton, Colin and Conner broke out their devices. When Ronnie returned with the part. He not only had a new suspension part to replace the broken one. He also had all new upgraded suspensions for both cars! I think the guy at the hobby shop saw him coming! Ronnie started working on the cars, when Ryan arrived he helped install the new parts.
We’ve really missed seeing everyone. It was great to hang out with them and spend some time together!
While we were in York this past June, my mother and father, Roy and Linda Thoman, celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary! It was really great to be with them for their anniversary with the family that they started. We all went to Primanti Brothers restaurant in York. Primanti Brothers is from Pittsburgh. Their specialty is a huge sandwich your choice of meat with coleslaw and french fries on the sandwich between two thick slices of bread.
It was really great to be with the family again! We love you all! Happy anniversary mom and dad, we love you!
Our second day on the road from Lumberton NC to York PA went well, we didn’t run into too much traffic, a little but it wasn’t too bad. We did plan a small side trip but that didn’t work out so well. We wanted to stop at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. It took longer to get there than we thought it would. We didn’t arrive at Mount Vernon until after 4pm. Mount Vernon unfortunately closes at 5pm. There was not enough time to have a proper visit. So we took a spin around the gift shop and had a small break and got back on the road. We did a drive through Washington DC to take a quick look around and then headed to York. We arrived at my parents house around sunset. We stayed with them while we were in York. It was awesome to see them after being away for so long!
The next morning we wanted to take a drive around York to see the old and the new. Just to see what had changed and what had not. York has two farmers’ markets downtown. I would have like to have seen both of them but we only got to visit the Penn Market on where else, Market street. I always enjoy visiting farmers’ markets where ever we go. I enjoy the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the hustle and bustle. I think my fascination with farmers’ markets was born here at this market. My grandma Peggy lived just around the corner. Grandma Peggy lived alone and did not drive, but both markets were just a short walk from her apartment. There were no grocery stores close by so between the markets and the 5 and dime store, this is where grandma did her shopping. When my brother and I were young boys, grandma would take us to the market. She would grab her wheeled market basket and off we would go to the market. Two things I remember getting at the market were caramel cake and sugar cookies. This could also be where my sweet tooth was born. The caramel cake was very unique. It was a regular two layer cake with a very yummy caramel flavored butter cream frosting. The frosting was a weird brown color. To someone who was not familiar, it probably didn’t look too appetizing. But it was amazingly good! The sugar cookies were not really cookies. Although they were large for cookies, they were really a small cake that sort of looked like a big cookie. They were a round, sweet yellow cake with a sprinkle of coarse sugar on top. Very yummy dunked in milk, tea, or coffee. I think they are a Pennsylvania Dutch thing. My mom and dad now live close to a farm store that used to have a booth at the market. They still have the sugar cookies! I always enjoyed our trips to the market. Just going downtown when I was a kid was always a good time. I will always remember the wonderful smell of peanuts being roasted at the news stand. I don’t get this sloppy, wet Florida/southern boiled peanut thing. I was happy to see that the market was still open, but it was disappointing that it was only half full. I remember it being jam packed full of vendors and people. Market day was always a busy day for the farmers as well as the customers. We picked up some York county strawberries. York county strawberries are the best!
I was having a proud grandpa moment. I wanted to post some photos of my cute grandchildren.