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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
North Whitehall Township in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

From Rails to Trails

 
 
From Rails to Trails Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., September 30, 2018
1. From Rails to Trails Marker
Inscription.  

"Since most of the land was donated
to the railroads by the American public
in the first place, we believe it should
be returned to the public."

David Burwell, President,
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 1988

A Well-Worn Path
The path you are following was once an active rail line. The trains shipped Pennsylvania' coal, lumber, and ore to larger markets, such as Philadelphia and New York, and returned with finished goods. This process of exchange fueled the American Industrial Revolution, which relied on fast and dependable transportation networks. In the first half of the nineteenth century, newly built canals played this role. After the Civil War, however, railroads increasingly competed with their slower rivals and dominated for the next century. Only the post-World War II proliferation of long-distance trucking and the abundance of cheap fuel stifled the era of railroads.

Preserving Passageways
As trucks increasingly diminished the demand for trains, hundreds of railroad companies were forced to file for bankruptcy and sell or abandon their former lines.

From Rails to Trails Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., September 30, 2018
2. From Rails to Trails Marker
Looking north along the D & L Trail from River Street
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Congress' response was the 1980 Staggers Rail Act, which streamlined the process of selling or transferring abandoned rail lines and property. In 1983, the National Trails System Act was amended to allow for "rail-banking" of dormant lines. Rail-banking is based on the idea that rail corridors (graded, connected, open space) should be preserved, in case the need for rail transportation ever materializes in the future. Meanwhile, these corridors are made available for hiking, walking, and bike riding. Rail-banking was not the only means of creating trails on old railroad right-of-ways. Out of nearly 100 rail trails in Pennsylvania, only seven are on rail-banked corridors. The rest are on land the government purchased from railroad companies or on old rail beds reverted back to private property and publicly accessed through easements.

Restoring Connections
When not on the canal towpath, the 165-mile D&L Trail follows dozens of miles of former rail beds—26 miles run through Lehigh Gorge State Park alone. A number of regional rail trails intersect the D&L Trail, from the Switchback and Ironton trails in Carbon and Lehigh counties to the Nor-Bath and Spurline trails in Northampton and Bucks counties. These links create a network of trails that restore the vanished connections between communities and natural places.

Not As Easy As It Sounds
Former

D & L Trail Mile Post image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., September 30, 2018
3. D & L Trail Mile Post
rail beds provide paths, but ones that are full of large rocks, or ballast, which make riding bikes and walking difficult. Improving a rail trail often requires removing heavy timber ties and steel rails, rolling the ballast, filling it in with soil or cinders, and sometimes paving sections. Even after the construction is complete, regular maintenance is an ongoing challenge that requires long-term partnerships between volunteers, land managers, and local municipalities.
 
Erected by Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and PA DCNR.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: EntertainmentMan-Made FeaturesParks & Recreational AreasRailroads & Streetcars. A significant historical year for this entry is 1988.
 
Location. 40° 43.146′ N, 75° 31.569′ W. Marker is in North Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania, in Lehigh County. Marker is at the intersection of River Drive (Pennsylvania Route 145) and River Street, on the right when traveling north on River Drive. Marker is along the trail, just east of the highway at the River Drive Trailhead. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5291 River Dr, Laurys Station PA 18059, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Exploring the Corridor (here, next to this marker); Walking Purchase
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(approx. 1.1 miles away); The Famous Indian Walk (approx. 1.1 miles away); Veterans Memorial (approx. 1.3 miles away); The Mills of Allen Township (approx. 1.3 miles away); Troxell-Steckel House (approx. 2.6 miles away); a different marker also named Veterans Memorial (approx. 2.7 miles away); The Reformed Pastors of the Egypt Union Church (approx. 2.8 miles away).
 
Also see . . .
1. Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Info. (Submitted on September 30, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. About the D&L. (Submitted on September 30, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 3, 2021. It was originally submitted on September 30, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 110 times since then and 8 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 30, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

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Jun. 28, 2022