I'm gratified that in Run 308, Rich Melvin got the chance to explore at least part of the former CB&Q line to Deadwood that is now the George S. Mickelson Trail. Both prototype fans and modelers should take time to exploit the wonderful resource of rail-trails.
Glad you enjoyed the mini-article.
Someone needs to tell the folks who promote the Michelson Trail that they aren’t the longest bike trail in the country. I got that factoid directly from their literature, and I stand corrected.
Just to add one more, the Olympic Discovery Trail - on the Olympic peninsula in WA state - is ~140 miles long. It runs from Port Townsend on the east end (basically at the point where ship traffic enters Puget Sound) west to La Push on the Pacific coast. I don't think it is entirely complete nor do I know how much of it is actually 'rails to trails'. Certainly from Port Townsend to Port Angeles (~60 miles as the rail car flies) it's mainly the old Milwaukee Road RoW (and very briefly, the attempted successor, Seattle and North Coast). Not certain about the sections west of Port Angeles, except that I think it picks up an old logging RR near Lake Crescent in Olympic NP. Port Townsend is where the RR cars were loaded on the dedicated ferry toward Seattle. I know that they rehabbed and repurposed several old RR bridges and reopened a tunnel, with another on the way.
Yeah the "GAP" is 150 miles but connects to the old CO canal which adds another 180 or so into DC, if you dare ride it all it's something like 333 miles ... not sure it's all purely on separated from other vehicle traffic trails and much is unpaved I think. (i have not done it, so no first hand info)
Only one I know of that is rails to trails, part of it is about 20 minutes from my house. I believe it follows the old Wabash Cannonball line. Though it doesn't look very easy to traverse from what I have briefly seen of it.
Responding to a few of the replies:
"Severn": I left out reference to the Cumberland-Washington D.C. leg because, as you correctly point out, that segment is on the old C&O Canal towpath and so is not a rail-trail, whereas the Pittsburgh-Cumberland segment is. My wife and I bicycled from McKeesport to D.C. in 2008 (Between McKeesport and downtown Pittsburgh there were then gaps requiring street-riding.) The "GAP" was then "paved" in heavily-packed, very fine sand, laid down by a conventional street/highway asphalt paver and subsequently rolled by conventional pavement rollers. This surface was both smoother and quieter than asphalt and is the finest bicycling surface i've ever ridden. The C&O towpath portion was basically hard-packed dirt (except where there were mud puddles).
"TCochrane": The Wabash Cannonball Trail website describes the trail as "comprised of two rail lines that converge in Maumee [Ohio] at Jerome Road. The 'North Fork' of the Trail runs in an east-west direction, 46 miles from Maumee to within 15 miles of the Indiana state line near Montpelier, Ohio. The 'South Fork' takes a southwesterly route from Maumee to the edge of Liberty Center, Ohio for a length of 17 miles." That website further states, "the surface varies within the different jurisdictions, from asphalt to hard packed cinder ballast." I've not ridden it.
"RichS09": Again, I don't have personal knowledge concerning this trail, but it has a very informative website at <olympicdiscoverytrail.oeg>. It appears that a few miles in, and just out of, La Push, might not be on former rail right-of-way but I believe the rest is. This trail appears gorgeous in website photos.
For Milwaukee Road fans, there is a lot more rail-trail available in Idaho and Montana than just Saint Paul Pass that I mentioned in my opening post. However, some of these portions are open to motorized traffic as well as non-motorized. The "Route of the Hiawatha" segment from the east portal of Taft Tunnel down the west side of Saint Paul Pass (over the sequence of spectacular trestles and 9 tunnels) is strictly non-motorized - as are the overwhelming majority of rail trails (including the ones described above.
Falling water, that would be an interesting side trip. I'm going to give a half-thumb up to the New River Trail down nearish to Virginia Tech. Half-thumb because: never gone the entire length & last ride was years ago on it so perhaps it has changed. But when I did it, it's nice -- a little overgrown in places. I did it then on a road bike with some cyclo-cross tires I stuck on it. I'd probably not do that again though.
Not sure what the rail line is or was....
Thanks for recommending the New River Trail. I've long wanted to bike it (as well as several others in the Eastern/Mid-Atlantic states) but not yet gotten to it. (Living in California means that those locations are hardly over-nighters.)
Besides the Virginia State Parks website to which you provide a link, there's also an excellent website at <trailink.com>. The right of way was donated to the state by Norfolk Southern but I'm not sure which of its predecessors actually operated the line.
My wife and I do all our riding on regular road bikes with "combination" or "cross-over" tires that have a road or touring surface in the center for easy rolling but more-or-less all-terrain surfaces along the sides which really help on less-developed (or less-maintained) trails.
FWIW, two Railtrails we have ridden have very rough surfaces with stones protruding from the fine gravel surface (unless resurfaced since). The Hiawatha Trail and the Virginia Creeper both see heavy use, both have not-insignificant user fees and both desperately need resurfaced. The Creeper is so worn down tree roots are exposed in places! This was 2012 for the Hiawatha and 2014 for the Creeper. Both are wonderful rides and both offer shuttle service to the top. The Mickelson Trail Southbound out of deadwood offers shuttle service to the top as well. IMO the most scenic portion of the Mickelson is either direction out of Mystic trailhead.
Thanks so much for contributing to this thread.
I haven't ridden Virginia Creeper since 1999, so have no current knowledge.
However, my wife and I just did complete the "Route of the Hiawatha" Trail, the 15-mile segment of the Milwaukee right-of-way between the east portal of Taft Tunnel (aka St. Paul Pass Tunnel) and Pearson near the west foot of the pass on October 3 (minus the 1.7-mile Taft Tunnel which was then closed for the season), biking both up- and down-grade, and found the surface excellent, so it appears improvements have been made since 2012.
NOTE: It's important to distinguish between the "Route of the Hiawatha", which refers to this specific 15-mile segment which is restricted to non-motorized transit, while the segment extending east toward St. Regis, Montana, which is "multi-use", i.e., open to some motorized travel, is known variously as the "Trail of the Hiawatha" and/or "Olympian-Hiawatha" Trail". There is also railtrail west from Pearson through Avery to St. Maries, Idaho that is similarly "multi-use" which I've seen referred to as "Old Milwaukee Scenic Alternate Trail" or "Old Milwaukee Railroad".
Finally, far-and-away, the best quality railtrail in the nearby area is the fully-paved 72-mile "Trail of the Couer d'Alenes", following the river of that name from Mullen to and around the southern end of the lake of that name to Plummer, Idaho. Strictly non-motorized, lots of rest areas with tables and toilets, and the only trail I've used that includes on-trail, do-it-yourself repair stations with holding rack, complete sets of tools and tire pumps. (This is a former Union Pacific branch, and crosses a 3100' trestle and swing-bridge across the south end of the lake.)
Bill, I'm really glad to hear the surface has been redone on the Route of the Hiawatha because that is such a great ride. I can't resist posting a couple pics:
And this is what the surface looked like in 2012:
Again, thanks for posting these which demonstrate the splendors of this trail - wish I'd had the opportunity to ride the Olympian Hiawatha on this route.
For those not familiar with the route, roughly 10 (of the 15) miles consists of an elongated horseshoe curve with the tracks ascending (at between 1 1/2%) along one side of a valley , doing a U-turn (in a tunnel) at the end of the valley and then continuing the ascent (in the reverse direction) up the other side of the valley. Both sides of the main valley are intersected with a series of ridges and gorges, which required approximately 10 each spectacular trestles and tunnels.
Your first two photos are taken from well up the upper side, looking across the valley and down at a trestle on the lower part of the grade. Your fourth photo is taken from the lower line but fairly close to the actual U-turn, so there is not as great a difference between its elevation and that of the trestle across the valley on the upper side. As your third photo illustrates, St. Paul Pass was on one of the two electrified portions of the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Extension.
A spectacular place to bike, and if you want to use the shuttle, it's all downhill!
Bill, it is such a shame that the Olympian Hiawatha ran over those mountains at night.
The Westbound arrived Avery, Id at 10:40 PM. The Eastbound arrived Avery at 2:05 AM.
Link to a 1956 Timetable:
Looks like an awesome ride.
Correct, and thanks for posting the schedule. I do believe (but am uncertain) that an earlier eastbound schedule ran a couple hours later with the result that a somewhat-late running train might encounter the Pass during morning light.
Until 1955, I believe the secondary Olympian crossed the pass during the daytime in both directions.
In 1952 Dad took Grandpa on a train trip around the country (literally, Pittsburgh-Chi-NOLA-LA-SF-Tacoma-Chi-Pittsburgh) and they rode the Olympian Hiawatha from Tacoma to Chicago. According to a 1951 Timetable the train arrived in Avery at 1:20AM. Dad made sure they were awake for the ride through the Bitterroots.
Lucky Grandpa! Lucky Dad! Lucky YOU for having the memorabilia!
All right - I'm obviously off-base on my knowledge about the schedule. (Still, I'll engage in the without-basis fantasy that it would have been something to ride the Hi over the pass.)
I only know because I remember Dad growling about why they scheduled that train to go up/down that wonderful route at night. The rest of the whole Milwaukee route to the East is sorta boring clear to Chi.