The Lebanon Valley Rails-Trail was created from two local railroads, The Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad and the Cornwall Railroad.
The Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad built by Robert H. Coleman during the late 1890’s traveled from Lebanon, Pa. south to Cornwall then southwest towards the Conewago Station in Lancaster County.
The Cornwall Railroad built by William Coleman Freeman ran parallel to the Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad to Cornwall where it then headed south to the Cornwall Iron Ore Mines and then onward to the Lancaster Area.
Both railroads were built to support the Cornwall Iron Ore Mines and transported iron ore and other by-products to the various iron furnaces and process mills.
As the Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad traveled towards Conewago Station it passed through the beautiful, wooded area now known as Mt. Gretna. Passenger service was soon established and Mt. Gretna became a primary stop for local businesses and churches to hold picnics and events. Several churches also established summer Camp Meetings in the area and many of the “Summer Cottages” still remain today. Besides the picnic grounds there were also carnival rides, concerts and a swimming lake and the Narrow Gauge Railroad which shuttled passengers around the Mt. Gretna Area including the Lake, Military encampment and the passed by the beautiful Conewago Hotel. After departing the main train station you would walk down the main thorough-fare to the park you would pass by a round stone fountain which marked the entrance to the park. Even today as you depart the Rail-Trail and head towards Mt. Gretna, you can still see the remains of this fountain on the left side of the trail.
In 1885 the Pennsylvania National Guard established a training center in the Mt. Gretna, Colebrook area. Troops were trained here and many of them went off to support our military during both the Spanish American War and World War One. Foundations and markers can still be found throughout the area from these encampments. During its peak time periods as many as 10,000 troops could be found here. As you look at Mt. Gretna today it is hard to imagine this many military personnel, tanks, artillery, rifle competition, military drills and band concerts happening in this quite wooded landscape. In 1934 the National Guard moved the encampment to Ft. Indiantown Gap, some of the original smaller buildings were also moved to the “Gap” and they remain there today, the best known of these buildings is the Rifle Range House which is now located at the Pennsylvania National Guard Museum.
In 1928 Passenger service was discontinued and the Pennsylvania Railroad purchased the Railroad Line. Then in 1972 Hurricane Agnes came through the area flooding the Cornwall Mine and sections of the track initiating the end of the line as we know it.
In the mid 1990’s the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail acquired the corridor and began the development of the Rail-Trail as we know and enjoy it today.