Chesapeake Beach Railway
Map of the Chesapeake Beach Railway in 1913
|Locale||Washington, DC to Chesapeake Beach, Maryland|
|Dates of operation||December 5, 1898–April 15, 1935|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
The Chesapeake Beach Railway (CBR), now defunct, was an American railroad of southern Maryland and Washington, DC built in the 19th century. The CBR ran 27.629 miles from Washington, D.C. on tracks formerly owned by the Southern Maryland Railroad and then on its own single track through Maryland farm country to a resort at Chesapeake Beach. It was built by Otto Mears, a Colorado railroad builder, who planned a shoreline resort with railroad service from Washington and Baltimore. It served Washington and Chesapeake Beach for almost 35 years, but the Great Depression and the rise of the automobile marked the end of the CBR. The last train left the station on April 15, 1935. Parts of the right-of-way are now used for roads and a future rail trail.
In 1891, Baltimore lawyer (and later Maryland governor) Edwin Warfield and others organized the Washington & Chesapeake Beach Railway to connect Washington, DC with 3,000 acres (12 km²) of virgin bay front property at Fishing Creek where they would build a resort. Their Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, resort was to be a vacation spot for the rich and middle class alike, with two grand hotels, a boardwalk, racetrack, and amusements. A pier would accommodate Chesapeake Bay excursion steamers from Baltimore, Annapolis, and Eastern Shore points. In 1894 the W&CBR was granted a charter to incorporate the Town of Chesapeake Beach. The grand schemes of the W&CBR were never to be implemented, however and the railway was placed in receivership in 1895.
A new company, the Chesapeake Beach Railway Company, took up the idea in 1896. In 1897 Otto Mears was placed in control of the company. He started construction in October 1897 and on April 7, 1898 the Chesapeake Beach Railway was given the franchise of the W&CBR. Mears optimistically anticipated that the railroad would be completed by July 1898. Before it could open, a draw span bridge over the Patuxent River would have to be built below Bristol. The Patuxent River being navigable as far north as Bristol had to be left unencumbered to steamboat traffic. Plans had to be approved by the US Army Corps of Engineers. A contract to construct the bridge was awarded to the Youngstown Bridge Company and after numerous delays, the bridge was fully operational as of May 1899.
The CBR entered into successful agreements with the B&O Railroad to extend service from their Hyattsville station to Upper Marlboro and on December 5, 1898 the line from Hyattsville to Upper Marlboro was officially opened. By 1899 the line was completed all the way to Chesapeake Beach, but the hotel was not ready, so the eastern leg of the railroad did not open until June 9, 1900.
The line left the District of Columbia at Chesapeake Junction, where Minnesota Avenue NE and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE meet in the Deanwood neighborhood, where it met with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Then it traveled out of the District on the abandoned right-of-way of the Southern Maryland Railroad. It exited D.C. at Seat Pleasant, where it met with the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Electric Railway at a stop called District Line. From there, it went through Upper Marlboro, passing over the PRR (Pope creek branch), and then on to Chesapeake Beach.
In the early years, the fare for the round trip train ride from District Line station to Chesapeake Beach was 50 cents. Express trains took about 60 minutes to make the trip; “locals” took about 90 minutes.
Southern Maryland Railroad
The CBR had taken possession of the Southern Maryland Railroad's railbed in Washington, DC in 1898. The SMR emerged from bankruptcy in 1901 as the Washington, Potomac & Chesapeake Railway and sued the CBR in 1902, claiming they still owned the railbed. The WP&CR won the case serving as another setback for the CBR.
End of the line
The railroad was never financially successful and never paid off any interest on its original one million dollar mortgage. Starting in 1921, with the construction of highways throughout the territory, revenues began to decrease. The destruction of the luxurious Belvedere Hotel by a fire on March 30, 1923 further limited business. In 1929, under new management, an attempt to rehabilitate the line was made and operations continued with the hope that a new ferry across the Chesapeake Bay to a point on Trippe's Bay in Dorchester County would drive new business. The ferry was blocked by the Claiborne-Annapolis Ferry Company, a competing ferry out of Annapolis and in 1935, management decided to replace the railroad with a bus line. The last train left the station on April 15, 1935.
A small, 2-mile, portion of the track continued as the East Washington Railway.
Stations on the line
- The Chesapeake Beach Railway Station on Mears Avenue, now the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum.
- East Chesapeake Beach Road (Maryland Route 260) uses the right-of-way
- The base of the Lyons Creek trestle is still visible from the Rt 260 exit ramp off of MD Route 4
- The right-of-way follows the Railroad Bed and Upper Railroad Bed hiking trails and River Farm entrance road, all at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, with old culverts, "clinkers" (burned coal), and clear evidence of the old railroad ties.
- The base of the swing bridge over the Patuxent River at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary as well as the fill for the railroad bed on the both sides of the river
- The right-of-way can be hiked at Mt. Calvert to Charles Branch
- The right-of-way is used for a few sections of the Chesapeake Beach Rail Trail and other sections are still extant such as a large section in the Randolph Village area and the median of Hayes Street NE in Washington, DC.
- The western section of Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE in Washington, DC is on the right-of-way.
- A passenger car at the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum.
- In the 1990s, the Pindell station collapsed and only ruins remain; the old caretaker's house nearby remains standing and was acquired as part of Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in 2004.
- In the 1980s, the old Chesapeake Beach Railway roundhouse and turntable in Seat Pleasant were demolished to make room for the Addison Plaza Shopping Center on Central Avenue.
- "Old Railroad To Beach Due To Be Junked" (PDF). The Washington Post. 16 March 1935.
- Herbert H. Harwood, Jr. (2004–2005). "Chesapeake Beach Railway". Retrieved 2006-10-12.
- Tigner, Jr., James (1998). "History of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland - The Railroad and the Resort -". Archived from the original on 1999-10-11.
- "Chesapeake Beach".
- "Chesapeake Beach R Co v. Washington P & C R Co, 199 U.S. 247 (1905)".
- "Claiborne-Annapolis Ferry Co. v. United States, 285 U.S. 382 (1932)". April 11, 1932.
- Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum website
- "Seat Pleasant - A City of Excellence : Our History". Celebrating 75 Years of Municipal Excellence. City of Seal Pleasant. 2008-05-10.
- The Chesapeake Beach Railway: Otto Mears goes East by Ames William Williams, Calvert County Historical Society; 2d ed edition (1981)
- Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum
- Chesapeake Beach History
- Chesapeake Beach Rail Trail
- Google Maps overlay of the Chesapeake Beach Railway
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. MD-49, "Chesapeake Beach Railroad Engine House, 21 Yost Place, Seat Pleasant, Prince George's County, MD", 18 photos, 11 data pages, 2 photo caption pages