No good deed goes unpunished it seems, and in the case of proposing a completely abandoned railroad in Northampton Township the rather nice idea of getting something good to replace something not so good has put the good taxpayers of Northampton township and by extension the taxpayers of Bucks County, the State of Pennsylvania and the United States in a quandary.Should Northampton collect perhaps $4 million from the local taxpayers to pave over and abandoned railroad tracks to make a paved “trail” or not?

It looks like getting two benefits but only paying for one. A completely useless and overgrown railroad track would be eliminated and replaced by a “trail” that could be used for bicycling, jogging and walking. Useless land would become useful once again.

What happened to the railroad? Why was it abandoned?

It seemed to be a wonderful idea to build it. By taking a small amount of land from the owners the government could build a railroad and that would benefit not only the landowners whose land was taken but all of the citizens. How nice that sounded so the railroad land was taken and given to the railroad, actually to the private company, the Philadelphia Transportation Company, “PTC” which was taken over by SEPTA after which the railroad through Northampton was abandoned by SEPTA. A private company, PTC was the successor to the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (PRT), in operation since 1902, and was the immediate predecessor of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). The rail service wasn’t needed because cars because far more useful than trolley cars so people bought cars and stopped using trolley cars.

But all wasn’t well with the folks who control SEPTA. They wanted to hang onto the land even though they didn’t use if anymore. Enter “RailsToTrails” another 501 3(c) private “non-profit) company that doesn’t have anything to sell so they sort of tell people they are here to help them then they get money from the taxpayers, about $500,000 a year for the leader, about $10 million for 2016 if they keep on going as they have been. There’s money in “non-profit” companies, sometimes more than in outright racketeering. Racketeers at least have the grace to admit they are thieves.

SEPTA no longer provides train or trolley car service to Bucks County but it never addressed the ownership and the use of the land upon which a rather massive construction project leveled the ground, built bridges over obstacles, brought hundreds of tons of stones, installed pitch impregnated railroad ties and massive steel rails were laid. The rails themselves evolved and are subject to very high stresses and have to be made of very high-quality steel alloy.

Building a railroad is not a simple or quick undertaking. . In 1998, DC attorney Nels Ackerson described Rails-to-Trails as a “vast program for the quiet confiscation of land.”  ”Murphy’s Law” apparently is operative today. We’ll try to get around it as much as we can, but of course everybody knows you can’t get around ”Murphy’s Law.”

Here’s information from the Northampton Parks and Recreation website, about how many places in Northampton where people can walk and commune with nature, places where trails are “people ready” right now:

1. Big Meadow 289 Stoneyford Rd. Holland, PA 18966
2. Civic Center Complex 451 Newtown-Richboro Rd Richboro, PA 18954
3. Hampton Estates Baseball Fields 350 St. Leonards Rd. Holland, PA 18966
4. Northampton Municipal Park 281 Hatboro Road Churchville, PA 18966
5. Northampton Township Swim Club 299 Newtown Richboro Road Richboro, PA 18954
6. Pheasant Run Quail Dr. and Chapel Dr. Holland, PA 18966
7. Recreation Center 345 Newtown-Richboro Rd Richboro, PA 18954
8. Welch Elementary School 750 New Road Churchville, PA 18966
9. Bucks County Ice Sports Center 1185 York Road Warminster, PA 18974
10. Senior Center 154 Township Road Richboro, PA 18954

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