Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wendel of York


Before I rode many miles on the road I rode many miles on the trail. I returned to the trail today. It is different than road riding but a more relaxed ride since the only cars one has to worry about are when you cross roads.

York is an ancestral home for me. My 5th-great-grandfather, Wendel Laumeister, arrived from Germany aboard the ship Priscilla in Philadelphia in 1750 and settled in York. My 4th-great, Frederick Laumeister, and 3rd-great, George Lowmaster, were born there. George would later leave York and settle in Indiana Co., Pennsylvania.

The York Heritage Trail is a crushed limestone trail that runs next to a rail line for 21 miles to the Mason Dixon line where it becomes the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail in Maryland. In Pennsylvania it parallels the former Northern Central Railway but the tracks end at the Maryland line. While signs and some websites warn it is an active railroad, it isn't. Well, I didn't expect it to be.

I brought out the mountain bike with fat tires although I saw a few road bikes on the trail. None passed me though and there were sections the gravel or sand would have presented some tough steering.

Around Mile 7 I was passed by maintenance car (speedster) on the track coming from another direction. And a second. And a third. Maybe ten in all. The occupants in the cars didn't look like railroad workers.  And some of the cars looked old while others looked like they just rolled out of the factory. It was a strange site.

The Heritage Trail is a beautiful wooded trail that goes through miles of forest and passes some farmland. Unlike the Great Allegheny Passage which I have ridden many times, there are no stunning vistas looking out over the valleys nor high trestles. There is but one tunnel, the Howard tunnel.
New Freedom, Pa.

I had gone one mile and realized that my water bottles were on my road bike - back in the van. I worried about riding the entire 42 miles (round trip) but it was cool (60s) when I left so I wasn't too worried. At 10 miles I passed a bike shop on the trail and knew I could stop there on the way back.

After seeing the bike shop at Seven Valleys, I came upon more potential stops. Glen Rock presented a few places to stop and shop if I wanted to, and New Freedom had a beautifully restored train station with two cabooses, painted in the Pennsylvania Railroad colors. And clean restrooms.

After New Freedom the tracks end and the grade turns down for a mile to the Mason Dixon line. There I turned around to go back.

Back at the Howard Tunnel the speedsters were all stopped and I heard a cyclist ask how one get ride one of those. One of the guys said "you had to buy one of these 18 years ago."

And thus I learned that the speedsters were all phased out by the railroads, replaced with pickup trucks that run on the rails. Many railroads dumped these cars for $25-$100 just to have someone haul them away. Private individuals bought these cars, refurbished some, and now have organized group rides on railroads. This railroad is perfect since the tracks are still in place but apparently no rail traffic runs on it. It would be interesting to know if they run every Sunday. Note: They were probably members of North Central Railcar Association.

I doubt that I find out. This was a nice trail but not one I would normally plan to return to.

Christ Lutheran Church

Back in York I went searching for Christ Lutheran Church. This church, founded in 1733, was one my ancestors were affiliated with. Found it. Walked around a bit, even through the old cemetery which has been encroached by a parking lot.

I don't know that any of my ancestors are buried there and most of the stones were impossible to read.  But it certainly was a nice way to end a bike ride. 

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