Tapeworm Railroad

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1839 map of planned route (Big Spring, Maryland to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) by Henry Campbell, civil engineer
The surveyed route from Maria Furnace westward along the Nichol's Gap Road (top image) was to loop west of the location where the highway crossed Toms Creek in a topographic gap (Fairfield Gap) between ~900 ft (270 m) levels (bottom). The 1839 commonwealth survey map shows that the 3 crossing points between the route, the highway, and the creek (white pixels at top, with misaligned hachures to the northeast) were at 3 different points:
39°46′08″N 77°25′27″W / 39.768849°N 77.424281°W / 39.768849; -77.424281, 39°46′09″N 77°25′27″W / 39.769261°N 77.424088°W / 39.769261; -77.424088, 39°46′10″N 77°25′26″W / 39.769426°N 77.423766°W / 39.769426; -77.423766
At the easternmost of the 3 points, the railroad company built a single-arch stone bridge for the highway over the creek. (The highway bridge is often misidentified as being for the railway and, with the misnomer "viaduct" inaccurately indicating multiple arches.) In addition to the never-built Tapeworm Railroad trestle to cross the gap west of the roadway bridge, a Tapeworm Railroad tunnel was planned nearby (top, outlined) through a spur of Jacks Mountain.[1] In 1888-1889, the "Western Extension" was built by the Baltimore and Harrisburg Railway (bottom) east of the gap, crossing Toms Creek at a lower elevation than the original Tapeworm Railroad route.

The Tapeworm Railroad (Gettysburg Rail Road) was a railway line planned by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and nicknamed by opponents ridiculing a lengthy serpentine section around the Green Ridge[2] of South Mountain[3] after an orator compared the path to a tapeworm depiction on a product's packaging.[4] Switchbacks were planned on the west slope at Hughs Forge[5] along the E Br Antietam Creek ("Cold Spring Cr" in 1839) and on the east slope at Stevens'[6] 1822[7] Maria Furnace along Toms Creek (Monocacy River), with 3 east slope tunnels through spurs of Jacks Mountain.[1]

In 1836, Herman Haupt had surveyed the "road from Gettysburg across South Mountain to the Potomac"[8] and in 1838,[9] the rail "bed"[10] was "graded for a number of miles, never got further than Monterey",[11] and included the following (west-to-east):[12]

After Thaddeus Stevens lost[when?] his position on the Canal Commission, the commonwealth ended the railroad's financing and work was suspended[3] in 1838,[17] and an 1839 survey was ordered of the planned line.[18]

The Tapeworm Railroad right-of-way was later used by the Susquehanna, Gettysburg and Potomac Railway and its successor, the Baltimore and Harrisburg Railway to build a line from Gettysburg west to Highfield, Maryland.[19][20][21] These companies were acquired by the Western Maryland Railway in 1917.

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX


  • Wilson, William Bender (1895). History of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, Volume 1. Philadelphia: Henry T. Coates & Co. pp. 385–89.
  1. ^ a b c d Map and Profile of the Gettysburg Rail Road (Map). Cartography by Harry R. Campbell, engineer. 1839. LCCN 98688668. Retrieved 2011-07-24. Gettysburg Rail Road as surveyed by order of the legislature of Pennsylvania Library of Congress narrative: part of Pennsylvania and Maryland from Gettysburg to the Potomac River. Shows relief by hachures along the line, creeks, roads, cities and towns. Chartered on January 9, 1838
  2. ^ "Feature Detail Report for: Green Ridge". USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  3. ^ a b "Tapeworm Railroad Historical Marker". ExplorePAhistory.com. Retrieved 2011-06-29. His opponents dubbed it the "Tapeworm Railroad" after they learned that long its winding route took 35 miles to cover the 18 miles from Stevens' Maria Furnace iron works. (cites Mayo 1962)
  4. ^ "That Stevens Railroad". Baltimore-American. 28 June 1885. Retrieved 2012-06-17. on one occasion, while the Judge was delivering a powerful speech against ... Mr. Stevens' pet project ... he became possessed of an electrotype such as represents tapeworms on packages of nostrums sold by some venders, and, holding it up before his audience, asked them to look at Stevens' railroad. The result ... Stevens' railroad was christened the "Tapeworm"
  5. ^ Dalton, Rodney Garth. "IV Our Dalton Family in Carmarthenshire, Wales". From Knights to Dreamers. Retrieved 2012-06-17.[not in citation given]
  6. ^ Congressional edition. 1577. US Government Printing Office. 1873. p. 677. Retrieved 2012-06-17. Mr. Stevens [owned] the Caledonia Furnace property, and the Maria Furnace property, most of which he acquired prior to 1830 in partnership. He subsequently bought out his partners.
  7. ^ "XXXV Hamiltonban Township". History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania. III, History of Adams County. Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co. 1886. pp. 276–283. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  8. ^ Haupt, Herman; Flower, Frank Abial (1901). Reminiscences of General Herman Haupt. Retrieved 2011-12-05. located road from Gettysburg across South Mountain to the Potomac…now a part of the Western Maryland system.
  9. ^ a b "Society Meeting on March 28 In Fairfield". ThaddeusStevensSociety.com. Retrieved 2011-07-24. two viaducts [sic] of the Tapeworm Railroad and the remnants of the stone furnace of the Maria Iron works.
  10. ^ "Early History of Hamiltonban Township (1730 - 1860)". Archived from the original on 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  11. ^ "Upon the Warm Belt". Baltimore American. August 28, 1887. p. 7. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  12. ^ Mayo, Robert S (Autumn 1962). "The Tapeworm Railroad". Lancaster County Historical Society Journal. 66:4: 187–195.)
  13. ^ Baughn, James; et al. "Adams County, Pennsylvania". BridgeHunter.com. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  14. ^ "Virginia Mills". The Gettysburg Times. 18 April 1925. Retrieved 2012-06-17.[not in citation given]
  15. ^ "Town and Country – Railroad Notes". Gettysburg Compiler. 22 July 1884. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  16. ^ Inners, Jon D.; et al. "Rifts, Diabase, and the Topographic "Fishhook": Terrain and Military Geology of the Battle of Gettysburg—July 1-3, 1863" (pdf). p. 51. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  17. ^ "Thad Stevens's Railroad.; The Old "Tapeworm" Line At Last Completed" (PDF). The New York Times. 1889-06-17. Retrieved 2012-06-17.
  18. ^ PA legislation ordering RR survey, 1839[clarification needed] (cited by 1839 map)
  19. ^ "Town and Country". Gettysburg Compiler. July 29, 1884. Retrieved 2010-06-29. Engineer Gitt has located the connection between the "Tapeworm" track and the Round-Top branch, and grading will be commenced at once. It is to have new steel rails. … Orr Station.
  20. ^ "Town and Country". Gettysburg Compiler. 30 June 1885. The track on the "Tapeworm" Railroad has been laid as far as Orr Station, about eight miles, and the company expect to run regular trains to it in a few weeks.
  21. ^ "Another Railroad Survey". Gettysburg Compiler. October 4, 1887. Retrieved 2011-06-29. Major Boyne and his corps of engineers … commenced surveying a line from Blue Ridge Summit … to Orrtanna … the present terminus of the Tape Worm railroad, a branch of the Western Maryland

External links[edit]

External image
modern map of the Tapeworm route