Take a detour north off I-80 in western Pennsylvania and visitors will come across the remains of the Allegheny Portage Railroad, first designed during the late 1860s. Initially, a four-mile railroad loop was created in Woodhill as part of a section of track designed to help export crude oil from the region. However, this loop proved inefficient due to its sharp turns, ice jams, and rockslides. By the 1910s, a more direct route was needed.
That direct route was the Rockland (Woodhill) Tunnel, a half-mile largely straight tunnel that opened in 1916. Excavating the rock to create the rail tunnel was unsurprisingly difficult. Railroad workers worked in two shifts, putting in 10-12 hours per day, six days per week, earning $0.13/hour (about $3.50/hour in modern money).
The Rockland (Woodhill) Tunnel remained in use by the railroad until the late 20th-century. In an inspired move, the tunnel was transformed in 2003 to be part of the local hiking and biking trail system. The tunnel now has an asphalt path running down the middle complete with reflectors.
Yet the tunnel remains very dark, which helps it maintain a creepy feel. Walking in from the car park side, visitors can barely see any light at the other end, as the tunnel curves slightly to the left. The tunnel walls have a moderate level of graffiti. Once visitors reach the other end of the tunnel, they are treated by a trail that runs along the picturesque Allegheny River. Enjoy the river views before turning around to plunge back into darkness.
Know Before You Go
A flashlight for walkers or a bike light for cyclists is strongly recommended. While in the area, it's worth stopping by the nearby Freedom Falls for views of the overgrown Rockland Iron Furnace.