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vanessa day

A Trip Through Time:

MARYLAND’S

HISTORIC

RAILROADS Train museums and scenic excursions spotlight the state’s industrial heritage

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad excursions through the mountains go from Cumberland to Frostburg.

n a world dominated by advanced technology and gas-guzzling machines, it is difficult to remember a time when locomotives were the primary means of transportation. A time when depots bustled with passengers boarding and disembarking from the train as it billowed steam from the smokestack. A time when trains were the gateway to the West. Those humble days are long gone, but the memories linger in Maryland like a train whistle in the distance. The state is home to some of the most famous railroad lines and locomotive museums in the country. It was Baltimore businessmen who were behind the creation of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, America’s first common carrier

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Walkersville Southern Railroad passengers enjoy a blast from the past. 22 June 2010

LeisureGroupTravel.com


and pioneer of the Western Frontier; the Western Maryland Railway carried Abraham Lincoln to Pennsylvania to deliver his Gettysburg Address; and the birthplace of American railroading, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, houses the largest collection of railroad artifacts in the nation. Groups touring Maryland get a glimpse of the past through locomotives, milestones in our industrial history. The

tion people have had with trains through the years. Apart from the compelling exhibits, the museum also features operable replicas of historic steamers. Children and adults alike can climb aboard and enjoy a ride down the first commercial railroad track in America. Train rides are offered Wednesday to Sunday, April through December. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum hosts events throughout the

Maryland brims with old train depots and stations, dotted throughout the state. Most of these stations have been transformed into small museums. Visiting these relics is perfect for tourists looking to explore more of Maryland’s countryside while simultaneously taking in railroad history. Ellicott City Station, located on the Old Main Line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, is said to be the oldest existing railroad

Riders on the Walkersville Southern Railroad, just north of Frederick, Md., can ride in a vintage 1920s passenger car or open flatcar.

best place to absorb the tradition of Maryland’s railroads is at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. Known for its extensive collection of 19th century locomotives, the museum has become a must-see attraction in Baltimore. Not only does the museum collect and preserve thousands of railroad artifacts for guests to peruse, but also displays scale models and toys to convey the fascinaLeisureGroupTravel.com

year for tourists and locals to enjoy. One of the most loved celebrations is Railfest Steam Days (Oct. 16-17), where rare steam engines travel along the first mile of track that was laid down in 1827. Spectators can ride behind the museum’s famous locomotive, the #4 St. Elizabeth, built in 1950 to transport coal for the U.S. Government’s St. Elizabeth Hospital. (borail.org)

station in America. Here, guests can see the original depot building, dating from 1830, as well as the freight house and a replica of the first horse-drawn rail car. (ecborail.org) Bowie Railroad Station was built in 1910 and now houses not only rail exhibits, but also an interlocking switch tower, waiting shed and caboose. (www.cityofbowie.org/museums). On June 2010 23


on location: northeast ❖ the shores of Chesapeake Bay lies the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum, located in the original railway’s station. This rail line operated from 1900 to 1935, shuttling vacationers to the resorts every summer. The museum showcases a range of artifacts from rail ties and photographs to authentic bathing suits and postcards from the era. This railway station truly represents the beautiful landscape and carefree lifestyle of the Chesapeake area. (cbrm.org). Gaithersburg Community Museum is yet another attraction in a restored Baltimore & Ohio railroad station. The museum holds both a permanent collection of artifacts and rotating historical exhibits. Outside the building sits a 1918 Buffalo Creek & Gauley steam locomotive and a bay window caboose. (gaithersburgmd .gov/museum) While railroads reigned in the world of cross-country transportation, trolley cars became prominent features in big cities. The District of Columbia had relied heavily on trolleys to get around, but streetcar service ended in the late 1950s. The National Capital Trolley Museum was founded soon after in 1959 and opened its doors to the public in 1969 in Montgomery County, Maryland. The museum houses collections from all over the country and the world, bringing in cars from several European cities. Last year the museum presented its multimillion-dollar visitor 24 June 2010

center, car barn and demonstration railway, providing visitors with access to its impressive collection of 14 street cars. Now guests can take 20-minute rides aboard both American and European streetcars on the mile-long demonstration railway. The new expansion offers guests more hands-on exhibits, but it is also visually stimulating, with architecture inspired by electric railway buildings in Washington. (dctrolley.org) Clearly there is plenty of railroad history in Maryland for groups to see, but a true railroad experience involves more than just looking. Riding on a scenic rail-

A “train robber” holds up Maryland’s Walkersville Southern Railroad on its run through the Maryland countryside.

road gives passengers a chance to travel back in time to the glory days of railroading. Maryland offers a few scenic tours worthy of a ride. As part of the Pennsylvania Railroad Frederick Secondary, the railway between Walkersville and Frederick was constructed in 1869, a couple years after the end of the Civil War. For years, dairy farms thrived along the line, sending milk and eggs to the markets. But in the early 1970s the railroad fell on hard times, forcing it to close and be put up for sale. The State of Maryland purchased the stretch within its borders from WalkLeisureGroupTravel.com


Ride a vintage train at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore.

ersville to Frederick. Now it operates as Walkersville Southern Railroad, a scenic eight-mile trip through woods and farmland. The railroad offers regular excursions where passengers have the choice of riding in an open-air car, a refurbished coach car or the caboose. On top of these standard trips, Walkersville Southern includes mystery dinner trains, holiday trains and Jesse James robberies. In 2009, Maryland granted the railroad access to three more miles of track north of the current station, and Walkersville Southern has already started to build and upgrade the track so it can begin service on the new rails. (wsrr.org) Journeying through the mountains of Maryland is best done on railroad tracks. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad makes a 32-mile trip from Cumberland to Frostburg, taking passengers through an idyllic landscape in the Allegheny Mountains. The railroad operates two trains: a 1916 Baldwin steam locomotive or a vintage diesel engine. Either one will give groups an experience they won’t soon forget. Regular excursions offer passengers seats in restored coach cars or the option to LeisureGroupTravel.com

purchase first-class tickets, allowing them to enjoy lunch in the dining car. After the train cuts through the Narrows, bounds around Helmstetter’s

Curve and plows into Brush Tunnel, it arrives at Frostburg Depot. Here, passengers enjoy a 90-minute break where they can roam between shops and restaurants, and they can witness the train changing directions on the turntable. While the regular excursion is enjoyable, some visitors may opt for a murder mystery or specialty train instead. Trains run May to December, but the fall months, particularly October, are most popular due to the changing leaves. (wmsr.com) With all the history and railroad memorabilia, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic when visiting Maryland. A vacation to Maryland is certainly a trip through time, back to the days when passenger trains chugged along iron tracks, and the sounds of whistles filled the air. It will have any visitor yelling “all aboard!” LGT

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Maryland Historic Railroads