If you happen to be a bicyclist and enjoy a great ride along a beautiful river, you definitely need to check out the Allegheny River Trail. On a recent ride we started our ride from the trailhead at Emlenton and pedaled upriver toward Franklin. This is a paved trail through a relatively desolate and unpopulated area other than an occasional small gathering of camps here and there. Riding this trail will offer you beautiful wooded scenery to the one side and a river view to the other. So you may wonder if that is all this trail has to offer and I might say, what more do you want! But there is more and that added bonus would be two awesome train tunnels. The first tunnel from the Emlenton side would be the Rockland Tunnel. This tunnel is 2700 feet long and definitely requires a headlight. I promise you that as you near the center of this tunnel you would not be able to see your own hand in front of your face because it is pitch dark in there. There is a slight curve in this tunnel which adds to the darkness factor.
The Rockland Tunnel was built in 1915 and it's age is definitely showing. It's very evident that stone and brick occasionally falls to the trail surface and also there are places that you may encounter some running water dripping or maybe running down through the ceiling. In the winter this water creates some beautiful ice formations. We rode this trail in early April and the southern end of the tunnel for about 250 feet had a surprising amount of ice blocking the trail. These ice formations were 2-4 feet high and forced us to pretty much hug the east wall to get around the ice. Aside from the ice, there was a also a good stream of ice cold water running from the ceiling right onto the center of the trail. On our return trip from upriver and beyond the Kennerdell Tunnel we passed back through the Rockland Tunnel once again and paused to capture a few photos of this awesome tunnel with the ice formations.
In a few weeks this trail will be colored up and shaded by the beautiful colors of summer.
Below is a picture of one of the many safety alcoves that are very common in the old tunnels. These small archways provided a place for workers or hobos to tuck into and be safe from a passing train. We have been in many old tunnels and this is a very common practice. These alcoves are staggered from one wall to the opposite wall and a person wouldn't have but a short distance to get to the nearest alcove. These are large enough for a couple people to seek safety.
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