A popular stop along the Northwest River Trail north of Columbia is the 180-foot Rock Point Tunnel. The tunnel was constructed between 1850-1851 for the original Pennsylvania Railroad Columbia Branch.
The railroad was built on a tight shelf along the Susquehanna River’s east bank between Columbia and Chickies Rock. When it came to Rock Point, the railroad had little choice but blast through. What little land remained between mountain and river was barely wide enough to accommodate the canal already in place.
The curved tunnel was built by blasting through solid rock. This type of stone doesn’t require a lining, which gives the passage a unique appearance.
Later in the early 1900s, to minimize grades and increase capacity, the Pennsylvania Railroad completed its new “low grade” in 1906. This new alignment cut through the Susquehanna River on a fill between Point Rock and Chickies Rock, creating Kerbaugh Lake between the new and old grades and bypassing Point Rock Tunnel.
Following a Susquehanna River flood in 1936 that destroyed the low grade at Chickies, the Pennsylvania Railroad rebuilt but sought a long-term solution to the flood risk. Shortly after World War II, Kerbaugh Lake was filled and tracks removed from the original grade, including Point Rock Tunnel.
While trains no longer pass through the tunnel, bikers, hikers, and ghosts are frequently sighted there.
One such paranormal entity is said to be the spirit of a man struck by a train long ago. According to local lore, the ghost of a bearded old man with a staff and red lantern is seen in the tunnel. His spirit is said to frequently appear between midnight, and 1 am. In 1875, a railroad worker reported seeing the ghost on three separate occasions. One time he knows that the spirit saw him as it greeted him with a wave before disappearing.
Other ghosts are said to drift along the path of the old railroad tracks, as well.
When and Where to find it
The ghost is said to appear inside Rock Point Tunnel between midnight, and 1 am and rumored to carry and red lantern or handkerchief.
Rock Point Tunnel is located about 1.3 miles north of Columbia from the Northwest River Trail parking lot on the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail. Click here for the exact location.