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Mount Holly Rail Trail – Creek Island Park – Mt Holly, Burlimgton County, NJ
Distance: 0.75 miles (1 way) (officially listed as 0.5 miles), 1.5 round trip.
Updated: 11/25/2016

Type: Out and back
Difficulty: 1 of 10.

Terrain – Wetlands and creeks.

Trailheads – Madison Ave –  39° 59.461’N,  74° 47.592’W

Madison

Madison

Pine Street –  39° 59.207’N,  74° 47.050’W

Pine Street

Pine Street

Directions – Madison Ave Trailhead – 25 Madison Ave, Mt. Holly, NJ
Other trailhead is on Pine Street next to the historic St. Andrews Graveyard.

GPS NOTE:  When I enter “Creek Island Park” into my GPS, it takes me to the parking lot at Monroe Park.  This is the wrong side of  Rancocas Creek, and it’s a good walk from either trailhead,

Other Note: This is part of a proposed 10 mile rail trail between Mount Holly and somewhere or another (conflicting reports).  The railroad right-of-way across Pine Street seems to go through a Superfund site, so it might be a good, long while.

Dog friendly? Yes
Stroller friendly? Very
Benches? No

Markings – None, but impossible to lose the trail without trying really, really hard.

Map:




mthollyrailtrailmap

Description:  This hike isn’t terribly long, 1/2 a mile officially (one way), although my GPS was closer to 3/4 of a mile (one way), but there is a lot of awesome railroad stuff to look at, which you’ll shortly see.  This was also the first hike for my yet-to-have-a-ridiculous-nickname-attached son (later update: Tree Rider), age 8 days, so good job to him (admittedly, he had to be carried most of the way).  Even better job to my wife, who reportedly had a baby a week ago and did this walk today.

Isn't she awesome?

Isn’t she awesome?

Happy to be hiking (or asleep).

Happy to be hiking (or asleep).

The easier trailhead would seem to be the parking lot (a closed down Caribbean Restaurant) at Madison Ave, but we started with street parking at Madison (plenty of spaces).  Look for the bright yellow posts, and simply walk down the right of way.  The cemetery will be up on your right, and some houses will be up on your left.  You’ll shortly leave the settled area and come into some pretty awesome swamp.  Keep your eyes out for old poles (telegraph?) on the left side of the tracks, there are a lot of them!  There are also old railroad ties everywhere, including thrown off the right-of-way into the marsh.  This is the old right-of-way for the Burlington & Mt. Holly Railroad, which according to sjrail.com was built around 1836 and abandoned in 1927.  This particular section was part of an extension to Pemberton chartered in 1857.

Photo from the collection of George Hahn. Used with permission from the good folks over at sjrail.com

Photo from the collection of George Hahn. Used with permission from the good folks over at sjrail.com. Sadly, this did not run on this stretch of line, see the description from Paul Schopp below.

Manhandling TWO babies.

Manhandling TWO babies.

Heading away from Pine Street.

Heading away from Pine Street.

Old railroad ties are EVERYWHERE.

Old railroad ties are EVERYWHERE.

Old poles.

Old poles.  You can see where the insulators would have sat on the pegs.

Anchor for something. Also gives great advice to kids -

Anchor for something. Also gives great advice to kids – “Smoke crack”. I’m curious why the railroad company would have endorsed this. Maybe that’s why they aren’t around anymore.



As promised, swamps.

As promised, swamps.  Complete with skunkweed.

After a short stroll, you’ll approach the old railroad bridge.  This takes you across the creek (a split of the North Branch of the Rancocas) onto Creek Island proper.  The railroad bridge is really cool, so we checked that out for a while.

Bridge.

Bridge.

Over the creek!

Creek the bridge is taking you over!

Bridge from up top.

Bridge from up top (with toddler for scale).

Pretty sweet bridge.

Pretty sweet bridge.

From there, you walk the short distance across the island, through the marshes, until you hit the second railroad bridge.  This one was obviously built overtop of the old railroad bridge.

Fun swamps.

Fun swamps.

Old pieces of railroad.

Old pieces of railroad.  Monroe Park can kinda be seen on the far side.

More concrete.

More concrete.



Coming up on the second bridge.

Coming up on the second bridge.

Across the bridge!

Across the bridge!

Pretty cool, huh?

Pretty cool, huh?

From there, it’s just a short distance to the Madison Ave Trailhead.  Check out railroad bridge support off to the right (a spur line of some sort, or maybe this is the spur line.  Not sure!) and the cool railroad car along the way.  Don’t plan on eating at the restaurant, it’s been closed for years (2016 update – they were totally renovating the building when we were here, so there might be a new business here in the near future).

Almost there.

Almost there.

Part of another railroad bridge. NOTE: On private property, keep off!

Part of another railroad bridge. NOTE: According to posted signs, this in on private property, keep off!  On the map I provided, you can see where this line split and crossed the North Branch of Rancocas Creek.

Old train stop! (now a closed restaurant).

Old train stop! (now a closed restaurant).

Train car behind said restaurant.

Train car behind said restaurant.

Another old line pole.

Another old line pole.

At the Madison Ave trailhead, be sure to check out this sweet mural about another type of train line... the bicycle train that ran from Mt. Holly to Smithville.


At the Madison Ave trailhead, be sure to check out this sweet mural about another type of train line… the bicycle train that ran from Mt. Holly to Smithville.

We had a nice walk back too.

The Pres's new hiking nickname is soon to be

The Pres’s new hiking nickname is soon to be “Walks Miles Behind”.

Some information on this railroad that came my way after the post.  From the amazing and informative historian Paul Schopp:

The Burlington and Mount Holly Railroad and Transportation Company received its legislative charter in 1836, but the company became moribund from the effects of the Panic of 1837, so little or no work was completed. In 1848, the state legislature passed supplemental acts to the original incorporation, allowing construction to begin. As built, the line extended from a wharf on the Delaware River in East Burlington, near the present-day Curtin Marina, southward to Mount Holly, terminating near Grant Street. Here the company had an engine house, a station, cattle pens, etc. In 1857, management determined it would extend the line to Pemberton and received a legislative charter for the Burlington County Railroad and it is a portion of this route that you hiked. In 1865, the Vincentown Branch of the Burlington County Railroad received its charter. Then the Camden & Amboy, as the parent company and source of funding for these lines, decided it would extend the Burlington County Railroad to Camden and chartered the Camden & Burlington County Railroad in 1866. The line to Medford from Mount Holly was built in 1868-69. Eventually the line leaving Mount Holly for Pemberton branched off at Birmingham and reached the Jersey coast at Barnegat Pier and extended out across the bay on a long trestle, which burned in 1944.

The electric car you link to in your posting (see the black and white train car picture near the beginning of the description) represents the very first experimentation in electrification in which the Pennsylvania Railroad engaged. The company constructed a powerhouse in Mount Holly and strung trolley wire between Mount Holly and Burlington and operated these cars. The electric service only operated for a year or two before the powerhouse burned down and management decided not to rebuild the generating station. It was from this little experiment that the electrified Northeast Corridor grew. This car, however, never operated on the portion of the line that you hiked.

Thanks for all of the great information Paul!

2016 update – Did a hike here with Hike It Baby – Burlington County the week of Halloween in 2016. Trail hasn’t changed much, no extensions have been opened. However the railroad car looks like it got some love, and the water was very pretty that day.

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Last time we hiked here, Tree Rider was 8 days old.  How fast they grow!

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Nearby:  Mount Holly has a whole day’s worth of awesome stuff.  The historic St. Andrews Cemetery (founded 1742) is next door to the Pine St trailhead and has a lot of old gravestones, including crazy old Hezekiah Smith who ran nearby Smithville.  The Battle of Ironworks Hill during the Revolutionary War took place a short distance from here as well (it helped Washington win at Trenton two days later). Mill Race Village is also nearby, which has some cute shops, including the Pinelands Folk Music Center at 31 White St, from whom I will gladly accept one of those sweet dulcimers in exchange for this pitch to my millions of followers.  I also highly recommend the Mt. Holly Fire & Ice Festival which happens every January-ish and the Historic Mount Holly Prison at High and Grant Streets, who put on a sweet (and scary) haunted prison each October (as well as have tour year round).  Oh, and the Mt Holly Pumpkin Festival, which we walked to after the 2016 Hike It Baby hike!

Mount Holly Fire & Ice Festival 2014:

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Seriously. Fire & Ice Festival. Go next year.

Seriously. Fire & Ice Festival. Go next year.

The Good

Some nice swamps, remains of the railroad.

The Could Be Better

If only it were longer!

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Bottom Line

Very nice walk of near a mile and half, cool railroad stuff, what is not to love?

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  • June 26, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    This is an awesome trail. I found it by accident while trying to find geocaches in the area. ive lived in and near mount holly forever and have never noticed it. Anyway, i love how many interesting things there are along the trail considering how short it is. Mount Holly has so much great history.

  • February 17, 2015 at 12:21 am

    sjrail.com is an awesome link! just checked it out. lots of great, detailed info

  • November 25, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Reblogged this on South Jersey Trails and commented:

    Updated our post on the Mt. Holly Rail Trail in Burlington County!

    This was Tree Rider’s first ever hike (at 8 days old… slacker), so it made me feel old to see him hike it himself at 2 1/2 years old. But still an awesome trail.

  • SJBiker
    November 30, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Love the mural at Madison Ave trailhead!
    It was created by Theresa Turkot, Art Teacher, and her students from
    Burlington County Special Services School Dist. some years back.

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