McDade Recreational Trail
April 12, 2016
Ghost Town Trail
April 14, 2016

Enola Low Grade Trail

This is the current name of what was formerly Atglen-Susquehanna Trail and is 29 miles (47 km) long. Enola Low Grade Trail lies on the bed of the former branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad that ran from Lemoyne to Atglen and was built between 1902 and 1906. This branch was mainly constructed to ease congestion on Columbia & Port Deposit line and the Philadelphia to Harrisburg Main Line.

The rail road branch was designed to accommodate freight services and at the same time minimizing the grade profile of this line was found to be necessary since this service was affected by the relatively steep grade profiles of the main line. This is why this branch came to be known as “Low Grade” the name it has retained to date in part.

When this branch was being constructed, the C&PD stone bridge at the Conestoga River washed out and thereafter, it was combined with A&S Bridge to form a two-line, two-level viaduct which was named the Safe Harbor Trestle. This is what was opted for rather than having to rebuild the bridge and when works on the new trestle were accomplished, the line started operations in July 1906.

The new line also eased congestion of freight trains on the steep grades of the Main Line as well as the eastern seaboard since a low-grade bypass was now operating between Morrisville Pennsylvania and Harrisburg. After several years of operation, Penn Central transferred ownership of this line to Conrail and when this happened, the line was downgraded, the overhead catenary was removed and traffic was rerouted to the former line that ran from Harrisburg to northern New Jersey.

In 1988 the last trail ran through the line after which tracks were removed but the right-of-way was retained due to disputes over the historical nature of bridges along the line. Plans to convert the line to a rail trail followed, but failed and eventually this line was sold to the seven townships through which it passes which means that it was divided into sections.

Today, each of these townships manages its own section of the Enola Low Grade Trail which means that conditions will vary from one section to the other. There are some sections with crushed limestone while others have heavy ballast requiring bikers to use wide tires. A 5.25 mile (8 km) trail is the latest addition on Enola Low Grade Trail that runs from Conestoga River to Manor Township and the plan is to refurbish the bridge.

When this is done, it will become a pedestrian crossing that links the segments of this rail trail on each side of the river. There are various activities you can participate in when you visit the trail. These include cross country skiing, biking, mountain biking and walking. Bringing your dog along on a leash for a walk can be a great idea too.

Parking space is also available at various points including Eden Township, Manor Township, Quarryville, Conestoga Township and Martic Township to serve all visitors. This is enough space to accommodate as many visitors as possible. Manor Township specifically has parking space for about 60 cars.

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