HENDERSONVILLE, Pa. - Water trickled from the ceiling and sunshine melted away into chilling darkness the farther I walked into this dank tunnel along The Montour Trail in Washington County.
The 623-foot long National Tunnel - although cold, wet and eerie - was the highlight of a Tuesday morning jaunt on this rail-to-trail that extends 46 miles from Coraopolis to Clairton. Built in 1928 and originally used by the Montour Railroad, the National Tunnel burrows beneath Klinger Road and a couple homes in Cecil Township.
It was somewhat unsettling to see the cracks in the roof and water rolling down the walls, but those perceived blemishes made the tunnel surprisingly beautiful. The water created an artistic feature to the trail that rivaled the peaceful landscape along other portions of the crushed limestone passage.
Walking through the tunnel, though, made for a lonely experience. That was until a friendly biker entered while I was nearing the midpoint. The humming of bicycle tires and his whistling the entire way calmed the nerves in a portion where no natural light enters. These rail-to-trail projects seem to be a great community investment, as I saw dozens of walkers and bikers getting a little exercise on a beautiful August morning.
But as gas prices continue to fluctuate, it is a shame that we are dismantling our rail infrastructure - the former backbone of commerce - for recreation. Still, I suppose the rails-to-trails are useful and a better option than letting these railroad treasures fade away.
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