Edited by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The PRR built the A&S between 1902 and 1906 to relieve major congestion on the Main Line and Columbia Branch, which both ran through Lancaster County, Pa. The A&S, while paralleling the Main Line, was often quite far away from it to achieve its goal of minimizing grades. This feature gave the line its unofficial nickname, "The Low Grade."

Combined with the Philadelphia and Thorndale and the Trenton branches, the A&S gave the PRR a low-grade route that primarily bypassed the Main Line, had few grade crossings, and that ran from the Harrisburg area to Morrisville, Pa., on the Delaware River.

Conrail gradually downgraded the line, first removing the catenary and later abandoning the line in favor of the ex-Reading line running Harrisburg-Reading-Allentown-northern New Jersey. This line, while not having as many bridges, fills, and cuts as the A&S, has many more grade crossings and is heavily congested under Norfolk Southern.

When the PRR built the A&S it devised a system to identify prominent features along the A&S in addition to the usual mileposts (identified as M.P.). The system consisted of two letters, LG (for Low Grade), a dash, and a number. After Conrail renamed the A&S the Enola Branch the "LG" became "E." The LG number does not correspond to the milepost. For example, there once was a tower in Columbia called "LG-42," located at M.P. 37.7.

Also, in later years, the Pennsy identified all the signals with an L and the M.P. multiplied by 10. For example, L71 was at M.P. 7.1. Odd numbers are westbound signals and even numbers eastbound. Typically, if the difference between signals was only one, they were at the same location. So L72 was at the same spot as L71. The locations of signals come from a 1950 track chart. These are not all the signals; generally they are just the automatic ones between interlockings. Most of the signals were also telephone locations by this time.

Reportedly, the A&S was one of first long steam railroad routes controlled by telephones. I'll show the locations of telephones (based on Philadelphia ETT No. 1, May 23, 1920) with a "Telephone." These generally have LG designations. Because the sources for locations of signals and telephones are chronologically 30 years apart, the geographic relationship I show below is my best guess and may not always be accurate.

You'll notice that many of the telephones are in watchboxes on fills or in cuts. Generally from Port east if the A&S was not up on a fill it was down in a cut. Both fills and cuts were potential locations of slides that could derail trains. So the PRR, in the days when labor was relatively inexpensive, had watchboxes staffed with people to watch for disrupting slides.

I also used a PRR Eastern Region ETT (No. 22), October 30, 1966.

In describing the A&S I'll use the LG, E, M.P., and L designations. All designations run east to west.

As a more detailed reference see my article "The Atglen & Susquehanna, Lancaster County's Low Grade" in the Winter 1994 issue of The Keystone.

M.P. 0.0: Park Tower ("PG"). At Parkesburg the A&S connects with the Main Line. The tower still stands although Amtrak does not normally use it now that CR abandoned the A&S.

LG-1: Telephone, jump-over bridge at Parkesburg.

L18 and L19.

M.P. 3.2: Atglen Tower ("NI"). Tower no longer remains.

L37 and L38.

LG-3: Telephone, M.P. 5.5.

L64 and L65.

LG-4: Telephone, M.P. 7.0.

L71 and 72.

LG-5: Telephone, M.P. 8.0.

L89 and L90: Bart, top of the grade.

LG-8: Telephone, East end Q westward passing siding. This siding did not last into CR days.

L106 and L107.

M.P. 10.8: Quarryville Tower ("Q"), long gone. A manual crossover between tracks. Also, for east bound trains, a set-off track, which was probably the remains of the eastbound passing siding. Quarryville actually was about 2.5 miles farther West.

LG-9: Telephone, West End of Q eastward passing siding, which did not last until CR.

LG-10: Telephone, Culberra Cut watchbox.

L125 and L126.

LG-12: Telephone, Sub-division 5.

E-13: Quarryville: after Hurricane Agnes in 1972 wiped out much of the line to Quarryville, Penn Central put in a connection here to service the few industries in Quarryville.

L146 and L147.

LG-14: Telephone, 1,000 feet west of M.P. 16.

L165 and L166.

LG-15: Telephone, Beck's Cut watchbox.

L185 and L186.

LG-16: Telephone, West End of Fronk's Fill, on the North side.

LG-18: Telephone, North side of Smithville Fill.

L202 and L203.

LG-20: East End SF Westward passing siding.

M.P. 22.2 Shenks Ferry Tower ("SF"), long gone.

M.P. 22.2 Smith Tower, site of tower that succeeded SF, named for nearby Smithville. East End of an 86 car eastbound passing siding. Later an emergency interlocking site. Lancaster County still has a Pennsy Road running near here.

L222 and L223.

LG-21: "LG-21," West End of the eastbound passing siding. PRR, PC, and CR would often have this small interlocking open in the summer to control trains while work trains were out on the line. "LG-21" had phone lines connecting it to "Cola" whose operators would normally control traffic in this area.

M.P. 23.8 (approximately): High steel bridge over the Pequea Creek. Easy to get to for photographs.

L239.

LG-23: Telephone, Sullivan's Cut watchbox.

L246.

L255.

L262.

L271.

LG-27: Telephone, West End, Safe Harbor bridge watchbox. At Safe Harbor the A&S crossed the Conestoga River on a high, curving steel trestle. Down below the Columbia and Port Deposit Branch crosses the Conestoga on a steel bridge. The two lines then ran parallel to one another and the Susquehanna with the A&S gradually dropping down to meet the C&PD. Also easy to get to for photography.

L280.

LG-28: Telephone, Steigerwald's Fill watchbox.

LG-29: Telephone, Sower's Point watchbox.

L289.

L298.

LG-30: reverse crossover.

LG-31: Telephone, Buzzard Rock watchbox.

L309.

LG-32: Telephone, Crow's Head watchbox.

LG-33: Telephone, Mann's Run watchbox.

LG-35: Telephone, Turkey Hill watchbox. Those in the local area will recognize the name Turkey Hill as a chain of convenient stores. The dairy that started the chain is at the top of the hill.

LG-36: Telephone, East End of Creswell westbound siding (long gone).

L325.

M.P. 33.3 Creswell ("CO").

LG-37: Telephone, Creswell Eastward distant switch signal.

M.P. 33.7: Port (R-Cola (Remote from Cola)). Here the C&PD or Port Road joined the A&S.

L35.1 and L35.2 Washington Boro.

LG-39: Telephone, M.P. 36.5.

M.P. 36.5: Manor (R-Cola), start of Manor siding. Other end was within Cola's interlocking.

LG-41: Telephone, Switchbox for PB&W (C&PD) connection at Columbia.

LG-42: "LG-42" (M.P. 37.7), Columbia. Here the Columbia Branch, which was the original Philadelphia and Columbia, joined the A&S.

M.P. 38.4: Cola Tower. Cola went up during the 1938 electrification and was a consolidation of several towers. It was not unusual to have two operators in Cola. One for the Port Road and the other for everything else. In summer Cola could be extremely busy with the operators trying to fit M of W equipment in with all the freight trains. The brick tower still stands with its windows completely bricked over. Inside sits a computer to link with NS dispatchers who now control what Cola once did.

LG-43: Telephone, Crossover switches from A&S to Columbia No. 3 Yard. Columbia had several yards. Their importance began to decline with the completion of the A&S and by 1958 the PRR closed the last one.

LG-43.5: Telephone, Material and Equipment Yard.

LG-44: Telephone, West End of Columbia siding. Within Cola interlocking there were actually four tracks. From land to river side they were, Columbia siding (62 cars), No. 2 track, Lake siding (134 cars), and No. 1 track.

M.P. 40: Lake (R-Cola). Lake siding ended here at the base of spectacular Chickies Rock, a sheer cliff whose base was beside the A&S. Lake got its name from Kerbaugh Lake which the contractor formed while having the A&S cut off part of the Susquehanna by running straight rather than following the curve of the hills as the Columbia Branch did. In the 1936 flood the Susquehanna cut through both ends of the fill turning part of the A&S into an island. After World War II the PRR filled the lake in and it is now part of a Lancaster county park.

L415 and L416.

LG-45: Telephone, RQ's East End switches.

M.P. 42.1: Marietta ("RQ").

L433 and L434.

LG-46: Telephone, Eastward distant signal west of RQ.

M.P. 45.4: Shocks (R-Cola). Here the Columbia Branch left the A&S. The Columbia Branch continued up the Susquehanna's east shore while the A&S crossed Shock's Mill Bridge and went up the west shore.

LG-49: Telephone, East End of Shock's Mill Bridge.

M.P. 46.2 (approximately): start of Shock's Mill bridge, 2,221feet long. Contractor H.S. Kerbaugh used 28 stone arches to span the river. Being built about the same time as the more famous Rockville Bridge, Shock's Mill had the same general appearance. The bridge cost about $400,000, but the much less noticeable but equally important approaches, cost $600,000. Hurricane Agnes destroyed the center section, but so important was the bridge, that the bankrupt Penn Central rebuilt the center and quickly got it back into operation. The York County side is the easier of the two sides to get to for photography.

LG-50: Telephone, West End of Shock's Mill Bridge.

M.P. 46.9 (approximately): six arch bridge spanning the Codorus Creek.

LG-51: Telephone, M.P. 47.5.

L476 and L477.

LG-52: Telephone, Holland Tool House.

LG-54.5: Telephone, Kohler's Cut.

M.P. 49.5: Telephone.

LG-55: Telephone, 800 feet west of M.P. 50.0.

M.P. 50.6: Wago Junction. At this Junction the A&S met the Northern Central Branch coming up from Baltimore. The York Haven Line then took over to carry the A&S trains the rest of the way to Enola.