1865 York County Railroad Proposed from Wrightsville thru Long Level, Apple Grove and Beyond
Years ago, John Denney, Jr. told me about a railroad planned thru York County near the end of the Civil War; it was part of a new railway from Washington DC to the Northeastern States. This subject came up only as a brief side-discussion while we talked about the 1868 chartered Peach Bottom Railway; Neff’s Summit and Apple Grove happened to be common locations to both discussions. Apple Grove, in Hopewell Township, incorporated as Winterstown in 1871. Neff’s Summit, in York Township, became the southeastern part of Red Lion, which incorporated in 1880.
John Denney, Jr. noted a previous railway (previous to the Peach Bottom Railway) was to parallel the canal south from Wrightsville and head inland thru the Fishing Creek Valley to Neff’s Summit. From there the route would avoid creeks by following the ridge thru Apple Grove and all the way to New Freedom, where it would join-up-with or parallel the Northern Central Railway. I utilized this 1865 railway route as an adventure in a recent installment of my historical novel, Railcar Gold.
This is the railway route I’ve depicted on an underlying map showing major watersheds of York County. I’ve also used yellow boxes to indicate possible railroad stations along this railway, which was never built.
I drew the railway route on this map showing the major watersheds of York County not only for the watershed boundaries but also because it showed shaded terrain. For the railway route to avoid creeks by following the ridge thru Apple Grove and all the way to New Freedom, it basically has to follow the boundary of watersheds. This works for a railway at this location because the shading shows there does not appear to be major elevation changes occurring along the watershed boundaries in this specific area of York County.
An article in a recent book by Scott L. Mingus, Sr. and James McClure provided a documented source for this 1865 railway; it gave only a slightly different description from the one provided by John Denney, Jr. Endnote 232 in their book “Echoing Still: More Civil War Voices from York County, Pa.” is from the Washington Evening Union, Jan. 16, 1865, citing the York Democrat. Quoting from page 121 of their book:
They were scouting a possible route for a new railroad from New York City to Washington, D.C. The proposed railroad would enter York County at Wrightsville, once the bridge was rebuilt, and proceed southerly through Windsor, York, and Hopewell townships, before passing through the village of Winterstown. The tracks would then go through Shrewsbury Township to the Maryland line, running between New Freedom and New Market.
I’ve highlighted these townships, so they are easier seen on the map, and copied the railway route from the first illustration. The newspaper article in the Washington Evening Union, which came from the York newspaper York Democrat, corroborates the information John Denney possibly got from another source.
Hopewell Township did not split into the three townships of Hopewell, North Hopewell and East Hopewell until 1885. Thus in 1865, when this railroad was proposed, only Hopewell Township would have appeared on maps.
What were the reasons this railway was never built? It was being surveyed in York County during January 1865, four months prior to the end of the Civil War. Did the end of the war, or the new President with Lincoln’s assassination, cause the need or the finances for this railway to dry up? Since the railway bypassed the City of York, did York businessmen have a hand in the railways’ demise? Maybe I’ll stumble upon the answer or perhaps we’ll never know.Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts