Petition statement to be delivered to Janie French, Executive Director, Headwaters Charitable Trust

Save the Rails: Mt. Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge

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Save the Rails: Mt. Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge

To be delivered to Janie French, Executive Director, Headwaters Charitable Trust

Petition Statement

We believe the last few miles of the historic rails in the Knox-Kane Corridor from Mount Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge should be preserved as part of the proposed multiuse rail-trail conversion, with the trail development adjacent to the rails, so that the rails can be used for light rail transport, with the possibility in the future of establishing seasonal steam engine transport on this short line. If the rails are removed, however, rail traffic will never again travel to the Kinzua Bridge.
There are currently 984 signatures. NEW goal - We need 1,000 signatures!

Petition Background

The Mount Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge (MJ2KB) T[RAIL] Group believes the last few miles of the historic rails in the Knox-Kane Corridor from Mount Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge (aka the Kinzua Viaduct) should be preserved as part of the proposed multiuse rail-trail conversion, with the trail development adjacent to the rails, so that the rails can be used for light rail transport, with the possibility in the future of establishing seasonal steam engine transport on this short line. Preservation of the rails as part of the multi-use rail-trail project is supported by our local communities, Mount Jewett and Hamlin Township. If the rails are removed, however, rail traffic will never again travel to the Kinzua Bridge.

The Kinzua Bridge is a historic landmark. It was originally built from iron in 1882, rebuilt from steel in 1900, and stayed in commercial service until 1959. The bridge was 301 feet (92 m) tall and 2,052 feet (625 m) long, and was once considered the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. In 1963 it became a part of the Pennsylvania State Park system. After nearly three decades of inactivity, Sloan Cornel’s Knox and Kane Railroad operated excursion passenger sight-seeing train trips from Marienville and Kane through the Allegheny National Forest and over the Kinzua Bridge; this service continued from 1987 until the bridge was closed in 2002. These steam driven trains were the last trains to ever cross the bridge.

Restoration of the bridge began in 2002, but before it was finished, a tornado struck the bridge in 2003, causing a large portion of the bridge to collapse. The excursion trains continued for approximately one year, and ceased in 2004. Since that time, no trains have operated on this corridor. For several years there was some effort to revitalize the train service, but tourism to the bridge had decreased and the project was deemed “non-profitable”.

With the building of the Kinzua Bridge Sky Walk, which includes a pedestrian walkway to an observation deck with a glass floor at the end of the bridge that allows views of the bridge and the valley directly below, and with the current building of the Kinzua Bridge Visitor’s Center at the Kinzua Bridge State Park, tourism is on the rise and there is renewed interest in re-establishing tourism rail traffic on the small intact section of rails from Mount Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge. If the rails are removed, however, light rail and/or a train will never run in this corridor again.

The entire Knox-Kane rail corridor from Clarion, PA to the Kinzua Bridge State Park is now in the process of being sold to Headwaters PA, which plans to convert it to a multi-use rails-to-trails project. In the meantime, the rails are being removed. While this process has begun, and all of the crossings have been removed, along with several other sections, the rails from Center Street in Mount Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge are intact and in good condition. We believe that without the rails it will be far harder to put the Bridge into the proper perspective it deserves, as an essential part of the industrial development of this area, than if we preserve the last few short miles from Mount Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge and continue to use the rails. We believe that these historical rails are essential to the interpretation and the understanding of the full story of the Kinzua Bridge. We are petitioning for these rails to remain intact. This is the first step necessary for re-establishing rail traffic from Mount Jewett to the Kinzua Bridge. Our plans are to first save the rails, then establish light rail use (handcars and motorized rail maintenance cars) on these few short miles of this corridor. Eventually, we may begin occasional tourist train service, which would likely begin with a diesel engine pulling a couple of passenger cars, and ultimately, with a steam engine, in all its glory, once again traveling these rails. These plans are not incompatible with a multi-use rails-with-trails project.

The MJ2KB T[RAIL] Group deeply appreciates the Kovalchick families' legendary contributions in railroad history by not only preserving the East Broad Top Railroad as one of the most original railroad sites in the United States, but also of their important part in preserving the Kinzua Bridge itself. We firmly believe that the few miles of important historic rail line that remains between Mount Jewett and the Kinzua Bridge, that brought about the construction of this phenomenal architectural structural - the Kinzua Bridge, can become one of the longest and most important four miles in the Kinzua Bridge experience if not in American excursion rail history itself.

Please help us Save the Rails.

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