South Mountain Trolley Greenway

About the South Mountain Trolley Greenway

Launched in 2016, the South Mountain Trolley Greenway initiative aims to develop a trail along the route of the former Dillsburg Branch of the Cumberland Valley Railroad between Mechanicsburg and Dillsburg. Since then, a growing regional coalition of support has been researching, planning, and advocating across the Cumberland and York County borders. The South Mountain Partnership served as an early facilitator for this project and is pleased to announce that in 2021, the South Mountain Trolley Greenway transitioned and officially became an initiative of the Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council, giving the Greenway greater ability to promote and fundraise. Click here to visit their website.

South Mountain Partnership is managed as a public-private partnership by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and helped to facilitate the Feasibility Study for the South Mountain Trolley Greenway from 2016-2022.

Past Support: Rail-Trail Feasibility Study

A Bike/Walk/Run/Ski Trail Connecting Mechanicsburg and Dillsburg

The South Mountain Partnership was pleased to support this initiative in its early stages as it embarked on a Rail-Trail Feasibility Study. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy served as a fiscal agent to assist in raising match funds for the study.

A feasibility study is a written report that explores the feasibility of constructing the project and how much community support exists. A feasibility study is required before considering construction grants in the future, should our communities choose to move forward with construction.

Our communities have an amazing opportunity to help explore building a rail-trail that connects Mechanicsburg to Dillsburg. The South Mountain Trolley Greenway has secured additional funding from a several York and Cumberland County agencies to match a grant request to the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Over the past year, a regional coalition of support has been growing, researching, and working together across Cumberland and York Counties.

Heritage + Health & Recreation + Economy

Completed in 1872, the Dillsburg Branch of the Cumberland Valley Railroad extended 8 miles and connected the vital rail network at Harrisburg with the ore fields of South Mountain, surrounding Dillsburg. Later, passenger service to both communities helped them prosper and grow, while the annual Granger’s Picnic at Williams Grove continuously attracted tens of thousands of train riders over the course of the one week event.

In the early 20th Century, the branch became incorporated into the larger Pennsylvania Railroad system, and was electrified in 1906. Electrified passenger car service between the towns began, and “trolleys” across the farmland of Monroe and Carroll Townships became a common sight.

Eventually, as the automobile began to replace the railroads for moving people, the branch began to fade into history. By the late 1970’s all trains had ceased running on the line, and the tracks were removed in the early 1980’s.

In 2000 and 2005 respectively, Cumberland and York counties identified the potential trail route as part of their greenways, trails, and open space planning efforts.  

Growth and Potential

Today, this somewhat forgotten story and railroad corridor presents the South Mountain region with a truly unique opportunity to link the historic communities once again. Riding the momentum, and with examples of the widely popular and successful Cumberland Valley Rail Trail, the Letort Nature Trail (along the former Reading RR line), and the York County Rail Trail, the Greenway will continue the growth and potential of trails throughout the region.

The potential to connect with trails such as the Mason Dixon Trail, the Appalachian Trail, State Bicycle Route J2, the National 9/11 Memorial Trail, and the Yellow Breeches Water Trail, to name a few, offers fascinating opportunities to both trail users and communities.