Authored by: Dave Wojo, member of Bike Chester County
My trail riding buddy and I ticked another ride off our 2023 to-do list this week; The Enola Trail from Atglen to Quarryville.
A bit of recent history:
Since the last train rumbled through in December of 1988, Norfolk Southern Corp (and its predecessors) wanted to unload the old Atglen & Susquehanna freight rail road but AMTRAK needed the right-of-way to keep the power flowing from the Safe Harbor Hydroelectric Dam to Parkesburg where the lines form an integral part of the power grid for the Mainline passenger tracks. In a decision by the Public Utility Commission in July of 1997, NS would finally be able to decommission the road, demolish 6 bridges, pull out all the old track and ties, cut back intrusive growth for 50 feet, replace old catenary poles with high tension towers, and even lay down a coarse base of stone then deed Lancaster County the land for a rail trail.
Lancaster County instead awarded responsibility to the seven townships the trail passed through. As you might imagine each township prioritized this opportunity with their own responsibilities. To date, the trail from Quarryville to Turkey Hill has received the most attention and improvement with a crushed limestone base and two refurbished hundred year old Pratt truss bridges with spectacular views.
Those townships to the East, (Sadsbury, Bart and Eden) have been a little more challenged building momentum to prioritize the trail. This blog documents our second trip along the Eastern part of the trail.
Our trip starts from Main Street in Atglen Borough adjacent to West Sadsbury Township, Chester County, PA and proceeds West.
Just over the beautiful Noble Road bridge, the space opens up significantly. There is clearly on-going maintenance here with its stone base, mostly covered by grass that’s perfect for gravel riding.
All the overpasses and underpasses with the exception of two or three major roads are filled in forcing the trail to abruptly cross at grade then return to the rail bed. These grade crossings will need to be reduced and visibility increased as part of any pending trail improvements. In a few cases there is no walkway around the gate and we had to hoist our bikes over the guardrail to continue.
The fill at the west end (Hollow Road) and east end (Mt Pleasant Road) seems to interfere with the original well designed drainage system and as a result, the whole section retains storm water like a bathtub. This is the only place we encounter any mud on the whole trail despite the downpours we endured a day or two before. There is some remediation in the form of 24” drainage pipes that sunk to a depth in excess of 10 feet but I believe the overgrowth on the sides of the cut have caved in depositing a layer of silt on top of the stone base keeping even the new drainage system from working properly. As far as trail engineering goes, there’s a need to figure out how to pull the plug on this tub and dry it out.
Here the surface becomes wider and better maintained. There’s an at-grade crossing that is easy to pedal along with good visibility in both directions, an information kiosk, covered picnic tables, parking, and porta-potties.
The three miles west from Bushing Rd to Quarryville are well maintained, with the stone base augmented with crushed asphalt. We pedal as far as the pedestrian bridge over Rt 222 before turning around and heading back to Atglen.
To avoid the jungle in West Sadsbury we leave the trail at Orchard Buck Road and follow the roads back. This affords us a beautiful view of the Noble Road stone arch bridge which spans the East Branch of Octoraro Creek making it the highest arch bridge (60 feet) on the Enola Trail. The bridge also spans Lancaster and Chester Counties as Octoraro Creek is the dividing line between the two.
With the exception of the unmaintained West Sadsbury, Chester County section and a few steep grade crossings, the Eastern Half of the Enola Trail is quite rideable and enjoyable for experienced gravel riders. There’s a need for a trailhead for parking and some places to eat in Atglen but with the success of the western half and the proposed connection to the Chester Valley Trail on the eastern half, I’m sure some trail improvements are already in the works.