How could so much money and labor go into chiseling holes through the mountains, laying a road bed, only to be walked away from? Twice!
It is a story of greed and revenge.
Two robber barons, whose only goal was to be richer, fought each other with rail lines.
Back in the late 1800's, railroads had a virtual monopoly on transportation, and connecting Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and Ohio was an early goal.
William Vanderbilt who owned the NY Central was angered when George Roberts built the Penn Central Rail Road.
To get revenge, he started the South Penn Rail Road. $16 million and 5 years were allocated, but at the end of 5 years the line was only 40% complete and $10 million had already been spent.
Realizing that it would never make money, one of his major backers, J.P. Morgan, sold his shares to a competing railroad, thus pulling the plug in 1885.
Thousands of workers had labored in the tunnels for $1.25/ 10 hour day, 26 of them lost their lives and the unfinished project became know as Vanderbilt's Folly. (More history)
The South Penn Railroad was abandoned. It sat fallow until it was resurrected to become "The Highway of the Future.
The History of the Pike 2 Bike trail!
America's First Super Highway, the Pennsylvania Turnpike,
our nation's first limited access toll highway.
Opening on October 1, 1940, with hundreds of motorists waiting for days to be the first to ride "The Road of the Future", the Turnpike was an immediate success.
Easy and fast. Nothing to slow you down, (not even a set speed limit at first, and then 70MPH!)
Nothing except the tunnels.
From the start they were bottle necks. The 4 lane traffic funneled to 2 opposing lanes.
Trucks had little clearance. Traffic often backed up for miles.
The Sidling Hill Tunnel had a hard time clearing the fumes.
In the 1960s, four of the tunnels were "twinned" and retrofitted with new lights and tile walls, while 3 were bypassed.
In 1968 the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (TPC) bypassed the Ray's and Sidling Hill tunnels and 11 miles of pike.
Then the highway was completely abandoned...again!
This section was used by the TPC to train snow plow drivers, prototype rumble strips, road reflectors, reflective road pant, do vehicle crash, roll over, truck brake distance, and road sign distance visibility tests.
They also stored jersey barriers here. State troopers patrolled the section to stop vandalism. Mostly it just went to seed.