I’m going to tell you a story about how a person can go along a path for years never dreaming of the presence of a secret located literally right beneath her feet.
And of course I am talking about myself. Here is what happened.
This morning my husband and I were walking along the Green Ribbon Trail in the Fort Washington State Park. Before the Sunshine Project, I often dropped off little clay figurine women here and there. Not on a schedule, just as I felt like it. I’m returning to that tradition and I took one with us to set along the trail.
You may remember that this trail mostly follows the flood plain of the Wissahickon Creek. There is, however, a section of it that was originally the roadbed of a rail line – it cut across the countryside and passed through Flourtown about 2 miles away. There is still a slight rise in Bethlehem Pike, the main road, where the tracks passed over it and were covered up, and you can see the path of the train line (now part of a parking lot).
What’s this got to do with the figurine? Well, I wanted to set her on a little concrete bridge on the trail.
I’ve run this route for 5 or more years, but I never stopped to look over the bridge. Just never bothered.
Today I set the figurine to one side of it.
Then I looked over. I expected to see a culvert for water runoff. Instead, I saw what looked liked a pedestrian underpass, the kind going under countless train tracks at stations all over our area.
Naturally we had to investigate. So we scrambled down the bank and – here is what we saw. It was an underpass, beautifully designed and solid as a rock, for the now-extinct train line. What a dignified structure it was. We looked around a bit and then climbed back to the trail.
Curious now, we noticed a short way down the trail that the rail roadbed continues. It’s only in this season that it is apparent – any other time the vegetation disguises it. The trail makes a sharp turn away from it and I’ve run by it many times and never ever noticed.
We worked our along, fighting through thickets of wild raspberry bushes. Once we knew what to look for, the railroad’s path was obvious. It dead-ended at a road that, now that we knew what to look for, had obviously been raised and is now above and covering a section of the line. Walking a little further along, we could see the remnants of the line crossing a nearby golf course – a softened embankment marked its course, with a break in it for a little creek, the train bridge long gone.
We made our way back to the trail. We figured the line might have had something to do with a nearby quarry. But maybe not. We’ll have to look into it. But what is almost magic about this experience is the idea that this structure, what I thought was just an ordinary bridge, really was a gate into the past, wasn’t it?