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Eden Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Atglen & Susquehanna Low Grade

The Pennsylvania Railroad's Dedicated Freight Road

 
 
The Atglen & Susquehanna Low Grade Marker image. Click for full size.
By Carl Gordon Moore Jr., April 25, 2021
1. The Atglen & Susquehanna Low Grade Marker
Inscription.  The Atglen & Susquehanna Branch was constructed (1903-1906) by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) as the middle segment of its Low Grade Line, an ambitious through-freight route which extended some 140 miles from Morrisville Yard near Trenton, N.J., to the Enola Classification Yard west of Harrisburg. The completion of the Low Grade alleviated the bottlenecking of freight approaching Philadelphia by separating heavy through-freights from passenger service and local freight on the PRR's main line through Lancaster, and by bypassing Philadelphia altogether. It was the PRR’s largest construction project to that date. For its near $20,000,000 investment and the movement of an estimated 22 million cubic yards of earth and rock, the PRR gained an unequalled freight route linking western markets to the ports of Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore. The contribution of the Low Grade Line to the subsequent growth of the PRR is incalculable.

To achieve the low grades and gradual curves that were critical for through-freight operation, the PRR extended a determined line across southern Lancaster County. Westward from Parkesburg (milepost 0.00), the
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A&S raised an earthen road on the Chester Valley floor and etched deep canyons through the hills of the Susquehanna River Valley in order to reach Safe Harbor (milepost 27.36). Certain of its optimal route, the eastern half of the A&S (M.P. 0.00-37.23) confidently spanned valley, stream and the shoed horse's dirt road with approximately 80 bridges and culverts of masonry and steel. When dedicated for service in July 1906, the A&S appeared unlike any historic path. It was a streamlined superhighway of rail that efficiently satisfied fuel and food demands of the eastern seaboard for decades.

The PRR's 1938 electrification of the A&S ushered out a century-long era of steam locomotion. Hydroelectric energy generated by the Susquehanna River at Safe Harbor Dam powered the A&S via a modern skyway of catenary and paired poles. The A&S met the freight challenges of World War II without any major changes. The national decline of rail service in the second half of the twentieth century eventually claimed the A&S. An alternate freight route to Philadelphia gained operational favor in the decade preceding the final freight on the A&S--December 19, 1988. Into the twenty-first century, a new generation of transmission mono poles have been installed along the route of the A&S. The 2011 Amtrak Transmission Line Upgrade Project continues to supply electricity from Safe Harbor to the regional
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grid in support of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor passenger service.

Panel courtesy of Amtrak (R)
 
Erected by Amtrak.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. A significant historical month for this entry is July 1906.
 
Location. 39° 54.422′ N, 76° 6.475′ W. Marker is in Eden Township, Pennsylvania, in Lancaster County. Marker is on Bushong Road 0.3 miles south of Valley Road (Pennsylvania Route 372), on the right when traveling south. Marker is located within the trailhead kiosk at the parking lot for access to the Enola Low Grade Trail, on the west side of Bushong Road and south of the trail. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 114 Bushong Road, Quarryville PA 17566, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A Job on the A & S (within shouting distance of this marker); Jackson's Mill Bridge (1878) (approx. 1.6 miles away); Bartshire (approx. 2 miles away); A Stream for Steam (approx. 2˝ miles away); Big Cut, Big Fill (approx. 4.2 miles away); Drumore Township Illustrious Americans (approx. 5.4 miles away); The Christiana Riot (approx. 5˝ miles away); History of Railroad Pump Cars (approx. 5.9 miles away).
 
More about this marker. This is a large, "billboard-style" marker, mounted on the north-facing side of the trailhead kiosk for the Enola Low Grade Rail Trail.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 28, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 26, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. This page has been viewed 43 times since then. Last updated on April 28, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photo   1. submitted on April 26, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.

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May. 11, 2021