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Work is scheduled to begin in mid-July on a nearly two-mile extension of the H&BT Trail in Broad Top and Liberty townships situated in Bedford County.

Dave Thomas, secretary of the Broad Top Township Supervisors, told The Daily News Thursday afternoon that municipal employees are scheduled to begin work on the northern extension of the former Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad right of way to “Red Cut” in Liberty Township. The “cut” is located about two miles north of Riddlesburg.

When completed in about three months, the newest section of the recreational trail will add about two miles to the present 10.06-mile route which connects Riddlesburg with Tatesville on the trail’s southern end. All the work will be performed by municipal employees under the direction of township roadmaster, project coordinator and township chairman Donald Hedge Jr.

The new trail extension has been in the works for over a year with the township receiving the go-ahead for trail construction from PennDOT earlier this summer, added Thomas.

Funding for the project is coming from a $250,000 grant through PennDOT’s TA Set-Aside Transportation Enhancement Program, along with a $25,000 matching grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) that was earmarked for planning and design work, Thomas said.

In addition to the trail work preliminary plans call for the creation of a picnic area on the southern side of “Red Cut” and an interpretive area that will recall the Sept. 1, 1909 train wreck in the cut where two steam locomotives collided resulting in the deaths of four H&BT employees.

Looking to the future, the township supervisors continue talks with several private property owners, hoping to extend the railroad right of way north to the Warriors Path State Park in Liberty Township, situated a short distance south of Saxton.

Should the rail-trail reach the state park, Saxton area leaders envision tourism development in the community with plans to seek a designation as a “Trail Town.”

The DCNR Bureau of State Parks’ 349-acre state park access road, which once served as part of the main line of the H&BT, closely parallels the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River. State park officials and Saxton area community leaders continue to support the proposed H&BT Rail Trail extension from “Red Cut” to the state park and Saxton.

Owned by the Broad Top Township Supervisors, the H&BT Rail Trail saw its start in 2009, with the right of way being constructed in phases as funds became available, noted Thomas.

One of the highlights of the trail is the rehabilitated, 350-ft.-long H&BT Railroad trestle located near Cypher. Also a part of the trail system is the township’s Cooper Recreational Area located a short distance south of Hopewell.

Helping to promote the rail-trail development is Rails to Trails of Bedford County, a nonprofit organization created in 2009 for the purpose of supporting the development, maintenance and promotion of the recreation trail. The group’s advisory committee meets bi-monthly to formulate various fundraising activities to support the maintenance of the trail.

The rail-trail is a stone dust right of way having less than a 3 percent grade and is open year-round from dawn to dust.

Already a popular attraction in the region, the rail-trail represents the interests of non-motorized trail users. The mission of Rails to Trails of Bedford County “is to preserve the heritage and historical significance of the Huntingdon and Broad Top Rail Trail.”

Ron can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

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