This weekend, I took a hike on an unfinished part of the Tredway Trail that runs along the Allegheny River from River Forest up to the mouth of the Kiskiminetas River. This trail continues on the old railway that was the Allegheny Valley Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and previously was known as the Allegheny Valley Railroad. Carload Express currently operates the Allegheny Valley Railroad (AVR) shortline over an existing piece of this trackage between the Strip District in Pittsburgh and its current terminus in Arnold.
At the mouth of the Kiski, the Norfolk Southern Conemaugh Line crosses from the far bank of the Allegheny and then continues up the Kiskiminetas River for a ways until it breaks off and continues up along the Conemaugh River. Where these two lines used to intersect, there is now a wye that crosses another rail bridge across the Kiskiminetas. That line is operated by the shortline known as the Kiski Junction Railroad. The intersection is known as “CP KISKI” by Norfolk Southern, and informally “Kiski Junction.”
I’ve never walked this part of the trail, and was excited that it looked like I could get a decent vantage point for some photos of the Norfolk Southern line crossing the Allegheny. Hoping for some trains, I packed my new hiking pack with my camera stuff, tripod, water, snack, and safety stuff, and headed out to the trailhead at River Forest.
The trail from River Forest to Kiski Junction follows an access road that is the old railbed. There are stacks of old ties piled on the side in spots, and the trail surface is mostly that kind of black cinder material common along really old rail lines. It is kind of fun to think that you’re walking on the history of thousands of coal-fired steam locomotives crossing through the area. It was a cold day, so the surface was frozen stiff, which made for easy walking. As the sun warmed wet areas, those spots got a little muddy, but nothing out of the ordinary. The surface is mostly flat with some small ruts here and there, and is a little more disturbed in an area where there is some active logging going on along the trail. It was a super easy, super flat hike.
I intended to try to take the Baker Trail back to my car. The trail departs the “Allegheny Branch” of the Tredway trail just a little south of Kiski Junction, and heads up the hill, where it follows the ridge most of the way back to Route 356. From there, it is a short walk down 356 and back to the parking lot. Unfortunately, when I tried to actually take the branch and head up the hill, I was met with an imposingly steep climb up terrain that was a mix of frozen soil, loose rocks, and muddy leaves. I started my way up, but realized that the boots I was wearing were not going to cut it for this kind of terrain. I heard from a couple of other trail users that day that the hike up there is beautiful, but none of them had ever come down (or attempted to go up) the hill from this side, due to the difficult terrain. I’ll hike that another day from the other end. But, on with this hike!
The trail follows the Allegheny along a steep cliff to the east and the river to the west. It was a pretty hike, even in the winter. Arriving at Kiski Junction, there are several other access roads that had some hiker traffic on them. I should also note that some of these had some ATV/dirtbike traffic on them, but they were courteous to the foot traffic and were not tearing up the trail surfaces. I stopped at the junction and took a few photos, then planned out a few train shots…
For the trains that never came. It was an astoundingly quiet day on the Conemaugh Line. We can hear this traffic across the river from our house, and it is typically pretty busy. Not today, though. I didn’t hear a single train all day! A few photos of the bridge, an old fire hydrant, and exploring some brick-paved areas that must have been for a signal tower that is no longer here, and it was time for me to make my way back to the car. All in all, a really nice day out, even without any trains!