This past weekend I went off in search of some authentic Pennsylvania history with a very good friend. During my years of research on the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike, I learned of a second rail tunnel through Sideling Hill. Although the Abandoned Turnpike / South Penn RR history is fascinating in its own right, what we sought had nothing to do with either. And thanks to a recent surge in interest in the Abandoned Turnpike (which I hope I’ve been at least a small part of), fewer Pennsylvanians have probably heard of our destination: The East Broad Top Railroad.
Remember that with the exception of the Allegheny Mountain & Lehigh Valley tunnels, all of the PA Turnpike tunnels were once railroad tunnels for the never-finished South Penn. The concrete shell you see today was built sometime between the late 1930s and early 1960s, depending on whether you’re travelling through the newer twinned tubes (mostly eastbound) or the original tunnels (mostly westbound). All of the original tunnels date back to shortly after the Civil War. I point this out only because in today’s Interstate-highway- and jet-based world, it’s easy to forget that railroads were once the dominant force in our economy.