Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail

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Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail
NCR Trailbed.jpg
TCB's crushed limestone surface
Established 1984
Length 20 mi (32 km)
Location Ashland, MD to MD/PA border (continuing to York, PA via Heritage Rail Trail County Park)
Trailheads Cockeysville
New Freedom
Use Hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, pet walking
Hiking details
Trail difficulty Easy, level, ADA accessible
Season Year-round
Months Year-round
Surface Crushed limestone
Right of way Northern Central Railway

The Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail (TCB), the official name of the Northern Central Railroad (NCR) Trail, is a rail trail that runs along an abandoned railroad corridor where the Northern Central Railway once operated. The trail extends 20 miles from Ashland Road in Cockeysville, Maryland to the boundary with Pennsylvania. At the Pennsylvania line, the Torrey C. Brown Trail becomes the York County Heritage Trail (part of BicyclePA Route J) and continues to the city of York.[1]

The trail is 10 feet (3.0 m) wide with a stone dust surface and the majority of the trail runs along the Gunpowder River and Beetree Run.[1] It has a beautiful rural scenery with trees along the trail that make it a pleasant outdoors experience. Popular activities on the trail include horseback riding, jogging, walking, hiking, fishing and biking. It is open to the public from dawn to dusk, seven days a week throughout the year. The trail is also pet-friendly as long as the pet is on a leash.

The TCB makes up a segment of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000 mile long system of trails connecting Maine to Florida.

Historical development[edit]

Zero mile of the trail
Monkton Station

Historical significance[edit]

The Northern Central Railway, built in 1832, ran between Baltimore, Maryland, and Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and was one of the oldest rail lines in the country. The railway serviced the growing Baltimore, York and Harrisburg industries, had 46 stops, 22 of which were in Maryland, and operated for 140 years. It carried passengers, people vacationing at Bentley Springs, and freight between Baltimore and York or Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. During the Civil War, the Pennsylvania Railroad-controlled Northern Central served as a major transportation route for supplies, food, clothing, and material, as well as troops heading to the South from Camp Curtin and other Northern military training stations.

Already in financial trouble, the NCR ceased operations between Cockeysville and York in 1972 after Hurricane Agnes battered its bridges. The old bed, which was converted to a rail-trail in 1984, can still be seen today. Historical markers can be found along the trail such as the Monkton Train Station that underwent renovations and is now serving as a museum, gift shop, and ranger station. The hours of operation for this station are Wednesday through Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Also, during the spring and fall the station is open to the public on weekends.

History and evolution[edit]

In the early 1980s when it was proposed to place the hike and bike trail in the place of the train tracks, a contentious battle raged between property owners and the state. The owners contended that the property was taken under eminent domain for the purpose of train tracks. The owners felt that once the property was no longer to be used for a train the property rights should revert to the previous land owners.

The state prevailed in its fight for the property and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources converted the corridor into a trail which opened to the public in 1984. Today, hundreds of people enjoy the trail daily by bicycle, foot and horse. The trail also provides boating and fishing access to the popular Gunpowder River and Loch Raven watershed. The trail is under the supervision of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. In honor of Dr. Torrey C. Brown's unconditional support for the trail, it was renamed the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail, after the third Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, in 2007.

Trail development[edit]

Design and construction[edit]

The majority of the trail’s 20 miles is 10 feet wide with a smooth surface of crushed limestone. The trail is wheel-chair accessible. Mile 0 of the Trail is located just off Maryland Route 145 (Ashland Road), where the road's name changes to Paper Mill Road, in a small subdivision, where there is a small parking lot. A larger parking lot is located less than a mile north of Mile 0 on Paper Mill Road, and additional parking lots exist along the length of the trail. Warning signals, mileage markers, signals, and railroad signs are placed throughout the trail to warn and ensure the safety of trail goers.

Trail amenities[edit]

Amenities include drinking fountains, picnic tables, benches, and portable restrooms. There are several places where the trail enthusiast can stop for food and water; however, because of the rural setting if a person or group will travel long distances, packing enough food and water for the trip is recommended. Within a mile of the trail, there are hotels and motels and there is easy access to a bike shop that rents and repairs bikes. In addition to the renovations to the Monkton Station, there is also the Sparks Bank Nature Center, in Sparks, Maryland that is open on summer weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is available for educational and recreational purposes to schools around the area.


Trail supporters[edit]

The Torrey C. Brown Trail is managed and maintained by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, a state government agency. The Maryland Park Service's volunteer program is in charge of recruiting volunteers to invest their time in the many trails throughout the state of Maryland. The trail receives state and federal funding as well as donations.

Special events[edit]

There are different events hosted every month put together by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, as well as from outside institutions. Some of the events held are:

  • Outdoor Explorers: An outdoors adventure of the surrounding area for the entire family at the Sparks Nature Center. Cost is free and preregistration is required.
  • October Archeology Hike: A park naturalist leads a hands-on outdoors experience at The Monkton Train Station, a historic site, where attendees will set up and explore an archeological dig site. Cost is free and preregistration is required.
  • Full Moon Bike Ride: A unique experience to check out the TCB (NCR) Trail under a full moon. The bike ride is about 6 miles from Paper Mill to Sparks and back. Cost is free and pre-registration is required.
  • Mother's Day Wildflower Search: During Mother's Day weekend, a park ranger, along with mothers and their children, goes out to seek wildflowers along the trail. Cost is free and pre-registration is required.
  • Tubing trips along the Gunpowder River: A relaxing tubing trip down the river. Must be 16 years or older. Cost is $5 per person and pre-registration is required.
  • The NCR Trail Marathon: The majority of the course is run on the scenic and flat Northern Central Railroad Trail and it is held the Saturday after Thanksgiving.


  1. ^ a b "The Northern Central Railroad Trail". Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved July 11, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°06′18″N 77°26′24″W / 40.10512°N 77.43988°W / 40.10512; -77.43988