Written by Danielle Taylor | Intro photo courtesy of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust

Several railroad relics can be found near the Brady Tunnel in southwestern Clarion County. Photo courtesy of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust.

In 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources identified 208 trail gaps across the state, and in the agency’s 2014-2019 strategic plan, it named the Climax Tunnel and Brady Tunnel in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region as two of the top 10 it wanted to bridge as soon as possible. Last summer, the Allegheny Valley Land Trust (AVLT) and the Redbank Valley Trails Association completed restoration work on the Climax Tunnel, located near the midpoint of the Redbank Valley Trail, and in November, Governor Wolf and DCNR announced the approval of a $663,400 grant that will help open up the half-mile Brady Tunnel, which spans the neck of the Brady Peninsula in southwestern Clarion County. Once restoration work is complete, this tunnel will become a key part of the Armstrong Trail as well as the longer, in-progress Erie-to-Pittsburgh Trail.

The Brady Tunnel opened in 1916 and operated as part of the Allegheny Valley Railroad network until 1989. Over the years, it has deteriorated and become unsafe for people to enter, but this DCNR grant will help significantly with restoring the tunnel’s structural integrity.

Although the bones of the tunnel are still intact, the structure will require considerable restoration work to repair damage, like this hole near one of the tunnel’s portals. Photo courtesy of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust.

AVLT executive director Chris Ziegler notes that the funding will cover 100 percent of the costs for engineering and design of whole tunnel and will also allow construction crews to stabilize and line the first 50 feet of the walls and ceiling inside the tunnel’s northern portal. Additionally, it will fund construction of roughly three miles of trail running north of the tunnel’s north portal along the Clarion County border with the Allegheny River, plus ADA access, landscaping, project signage, and other related site improvements.

“We want to have the base package of materials out by March and for construction to start in May,” she says. “When first 50 feet is done, we’ll move the barricade in 50 feet, then keep piecemealing.” If additional funding comes in as anticipated, Ziegler believes the tunnel can be open to the public by late 2020 or early 2021.

Volunteer groups, such as the Armstrong Rails to Trails Association, have pitched in to clean up the Philipston Turntable, a railyard relic near the Brady Tunnel’s southern portal. Photo courtesy of the Armstrong Rails to Trails Association.

Although AVLT has now been through the process of restoring a train tunnel once, the Climax Tunnel is less than a quarter of the size of the Brady Tunnel, and the Brady also features a sweeping curve, so this project involves a much larger undertaking. Still, Ziegler and her team are committed to restoring this historic piece of railroad infrastructure for the betterment of the East Brady community and its visitors.

“We have an obligation to honor our heritage and the men that built this tunnel by giving it a new life,” says Ziegler.

Learn more and find other interesting places to visit in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region by going to VisitPAGO.com or calling (814) 849-5197.

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