Western Maryland Railway

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Western Maryland Railway
Western Maryland Logo.jpg
Western Maryland Railway 1950s.svg
Western Maryland Railway in the 1950s
Reporting mark WM
Locale Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia
Dates of operation 1852–1983
Successor Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 835 miles (1,344 km)[1]
Headquarters Baltimore, Maryland

The Western Maryland Railway (reporting mark WM) was an American Class I railroad which operated in Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. It was primarily a coal hauling and freight railroad, with a small passenger train operation. The WM became part of the Chessie System in 1973, although it continued independent operations until May 1975 after which time many of its lines were abandoned in favor of parallel Baltimore and Ohio Railroad lines. In 1983 it was fully merged into the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which later was also merged into the Chessie System with the former Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, which is now CSX Transportation.[2]


On May 27, 1852, the Maryland General Assembly granted a charter to the "Baltimore, Carroll & Frederick Rail Road" to build a line from Baltimore northwest through Westminister, the county seat of Carroll County, Maryland, northwest of Baltimore. Then turning west toward Hagerstown, Maryland. The name of the enterprise was soon changed to "Western Maryland Rail Road" (WM). The line was opened as far as Union Bridge in November 1862, and it was seized briefly by the Union Army during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Construction resumed in 1868. The line reached Hagerstown in 1872 and was extended a few miles to a connection with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal at Williamsport in 1873.[1][3][4]

In 1881, WM leased a line north to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and in 1886 established a connection there with a predecessor of The Reading Company (RDG) railroad line. Also in 1886, WM gained a branch north from Hanover west to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; that line was soon extended southwest from Gettysburg to meet WM's main line at Highfield, Maryland. The main line was extended from Williamsport and Big Pool, Maryland, and across the Potomac River to Cherry Run, West Virginia, where it connected with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O). B&O, WM, and RDG joined forces to operate a through freight route between Cumberland, Maryland and Allentown, Pennsylvania, via Harrisburg.[3]

WM East Subdivision
to Jamison Yard & West Subdivision
YD Tower to South Yard and N&W
Academy Jct to WM Frt Sta, B&O Sta)
86.6 Hagerstown
86.1 NC Tower Interlocking PRR
Lurgan Subdivision
85.7 Potomac Ave
B&O Security Br
84.2 Security
81.3 Chewsville
77.9 Smithsburg
75.3 Edgemont
71.7 Pen Mar
70.4 Camp Ritchie
70.0 Highfield Jct Hanover Subdivision
69.8 Highfield
69.1 Blue Ridge
68.5 Sanatorium
66.0 Sabillasville
63.9 Deerfield
59.1 Thurmont
57.6 Graceham
55.8 Loy's
54.2 Rocky Ridge
51.1 Detour
49.3 Keymar
48.3 Middleburg
45.4 Union Bridge
43.5 Linwood
41.2 New Windsor
37.8 Medford
36.6 Avondale
33.7 Westminster
30.7 Tannery
28.7 Carrollton
26.8 Patapsco
25.1 Lawndale
23.4 Cedarhurst
20.2 Glen Morris
Emory Grove Tower Hanover Subdivision
19.4 Glyndon
18.5 St. George's
16.4 Gwynnbrook
14.7 Owings Mills
12.4 McDonogh
11.8 Mount Wilson
10.7 Pikesville
9.8 Sudbrook
9.4 Howardville
6.8 Arlington
3.9 Walbrook
3.5 Walbrook Jct Tide Subdivision
3.0 Fulton Jct PRR to Washington, D.C.
B&P Tunnel
1.4 B&P Jct PRR to Harrisburg
1.3 B&O
1.0 Baltimore (Penn Sta) PRR
0.7 Union Jct PRR to Philadelphia
0.0 Baltimore (Hillen)

WM's stock was largely owned by the City of Baltimore; (the city also held its mortgage bonds) which had also owned a large segment of stock in the country's first rail line, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad along with the State of Maryland beginning in 1827. During the later part of the 19th century, strong leadership for the railroad was provided by its long-time president John Mifflin Hood, (1843-1906), who later had a statue erected to his memory located in downtown's Hopkins Place by West Fayette Street and later moved to "Preston Gardens" along St. Paul Street/Place. Later Hood headed the local recently merged streetcar system of the United Railways and Electric Company from 1899, when it built its massive Power Plant along East Pratt Street at "The Basin" (now Inner Harbor). By the turn of the century, WM's debt to Baltimore was substantial, and the city was seeking a buyer for the railroad. Bids were submitted in 1902. The Fuller Syndicate, the company representing railway tycoon George Gould, was the lowest bidder but guaranteed full payment of WM's debt, extension west to Cumberland, and creation of a major tidewater terminal at Baltimore.[1]:42–43 [3] On May 7, 1902, the City accepted the Fuller Syndicate's offer. WM immediately built the massive marine terminal, Port Covington. Built on the site of the old War of 1812 fortification, Fort Covington (along with neighboring Battery Babcock and Fort Look-Out - now the site of Riverside Park) which played a role during the British attack and bombardment on Fort McHenry further east at Whetstone Point of the South Baltimore peninsula in September 1814. The railroad and port terminal endured until the 1980s when most of it and its rail yards were razed and replaced by commercial development of "big box" stores and the printing plant of the "Baltimore Sun") at the southern portion of the City along the Middle Branch (formerly known as Ferry Branch) of the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor, and began construction westward with a low trestle bridge across the upper Middle Branch and its Smith's and Ridgley's Coves. Eventually it headed along the Potomac River (where all the good locations had been taken decades before by the B. & O., the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the National Road - which had extended west from Baltimore to reach Cumberland where it joined the Federally-constructed portions over the mountains to the Ohio River and beyond to the Illinois Country. The line reached Cumberland in 1906. There it met the Cumberland & Piedmont Railway, which with the West Virginia Central & Pittsburg Railway (WVC&P), another Gould railroad, formed a route southwest from Cumberland through Elkins to Durbin and Belington, West Virginia. In 1907, Gould acquired control of the George's Creek & Cumberland Railroad (GC&C), which had a line from Cumberland north through the Cumberland Narrows.[1]:47–48[3]

B&O and RDG had broken their traffic agreement with WM in 1902, with the result that coal from Gould's WVC&P bypassed the WM and went instead over trackage owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), which at the time controlled the B.& O. The rest of Gould's empire was in trouble as well, and in 1908 the WM entered receivership, as did the Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railway and the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway. The Western Maryland Railway took over the WM at the beginning of 1910 and immediately began construction of an 86-mile (138 km) extension northwest from Cumberland to a connection with the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad at Connellsville, Pennsylvania.[3]

Pen Mar station c. 1878. The WM built Pen-Mar Park as a mountain resort in 1877 and operated excursion trains from Baltimore; the park closed in 1943.[5]

When the Gould empire collapsed, John D. Rockefeller acquired control of the WM. Because the United States Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) merger plan on 1921 grouped WM with B. & O., the B. & O. then bought Rockefeller's WM interest in 1927 and soon increased its WM holdings to 43 percent. Frank Taplin, who controlled the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railway (P&WV), protested B. & O.'s action. The ICC charged B&O with violating antitrust laws — in its effort to carry out the ICC merger plan. Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) interests acquired the P&WV in 1929 and offered to purchase WM, but the B. & O. refused to sell, eventually placing its WM holdings in a nonvoting trust.[3]

In 1944, WM acquired the Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad, a short coal railroad out of Cumberland. WM began dieselization of its locomotives in 1949, starting with the eastern end of the system, farthest from the western mountain coalfields it served. Passenger service — which consisted of coach-only local trains — lasted barely long enough to be dieselized.[3]

As merger plans formulated, WM could see its traffic disappear. The planned merger of the New York Central Railroad (NYC) and the PRR (the ill-fated Penn Central) in the 1960s could throw traffic from the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad (part of the NYC system) onto the PRR. Rumors circulated that the Norfolk & Western Railway wanted the WM as part of its system, which would have been ideal due to existing coordinated WM-N&W run-through agreements and WM-N&W connections in Connellsville, PA and Hagerstown, MD. However, this was not to be as the B&O owned 42.88% of the WM (purchased in the 1920s), and following the C. & O. acquisition of the B&O in the early 1960s, plans were drawn up to combine C. & O., B. & O., and W.M. into the Chessie System. C. & O. bought the remaining WM stock which B&O did not already own and B&O and C&O applied to control WM, which the ICC subsequently approved in 1967.[3][6]:364

There was little evidence of the C&O-B&O control until 1973, when the Chessie System was incorporated to own C&O, B&O, and WM. In 1973, WM applied to abandon 125 miles of main line from Hancock, Maryland to Connellsville, Pennsylvania. WM's single track paralleled B. & O.'s double-track line and had easier grades and better clearances, but the expense of maintaning the line and building connecting lines outweighed any savings that might result in lower operating costs. That same year, WM's Port Covington coal terminal was abandoned in favor of B&O's newer pier in Baltimore. Gradually, B. & O. absorbed WM's operations, and in late 1983, B&O officially merged the WM.[3] The B&O itself merged with the C. & O. in 1987, which itself became part of rail conglomerate CSX Transportation, later moving its headquarters to Jacksonville, Florida.


Much of the original WM west of Big Pool has been abandoned including the 2,375-foot (724 m) summit of the Allegheny Mountains and the Eastern Continental Divide near Deal, Pennsylvania. In addition to CSX, portions of the former WM are now operated by Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad, the Maryland Midland Railway (MMID), Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and York Railway. Other portions are now rail trails. A portion of the former WM roadbed in Baltimore is now used by the Baltimore Metro Subway going northwest from downtown to Owings Mills, Maryland in Baltimore County.

In Allegany County, Maryland, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park includes the Western Maryland Railroad Right-of-Way, Milepost 126 to Milepost 160, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, and the Western Maryland Railway Station in Cumberland which provides tourist orientation and historical exhibits.[7][8]

Williamsport on the C&O Canal was the WM's western terminus from 1873, and its principal source of coal traffic until the main line was extended to Cumberland in 1906
Eckhart Junction in the Cumberland Narrows, 1970. The masonry arch bridge over Wills Creek was built by the Maryland Mining Company in 1860 as part of the Eckhart Branch Railroad. Beyond the masonry bridge is a viaduct for the State Line Branch


At the peak in the early 20th century, WM operated the following lines:[4]

Subdivision Name Start End Notes Status
Belington Elkins, West Virginia Belington, West Virginia Now operated by Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad (D&GV)
Connellsville Cumberland, Maryland Connellsville, Pennsylvania Includes State Line Branch (Georges Creek Jct. to State Line, Pennsylvania, connecting to PRR until 1972).[4]:71 Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) at Cumberland. Portions now Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and Great Allegheny Passage rail trail
Durbin Elkins, West Virginia Durbin, West Virginia Portions now D&GV and Monongahela National Forest rail-trail
East Walbrook Junction, Maryland Hagerstown, Maryland Section between Emory Grove and Highfield now operated by Maryland Midland Railway; remaining sections operated by CSX.
Greenbrier, Cheat & Elk (GC&E) Cheat Junction, West Virginia Webster Springs, West Virginia Portions now D&GV
Hanover Emory Grove, Maryland Highfield-Cascade, Maryland CTC at Emory Grove Tower Now operated by CSX Transportation
Huttonsville Elkins Dailey, West Virginia Now operated by D&GV
Lurgan Hagerstown Shippensburg, Pennsylvania Portions now operated by CSX
Thomas Cumberland Elkins Includes C&P Branch (Westernport to Carlos Junction, Maryland);[9] and Stony River Branch, opened & leased by WM in 1963 (Bayard, West Virginia to Mount Storm Power Station)[1]:189 Portions of original GC&C line abandoned 1927; other portions now operated by CSX, Georges Creek Railway; portions also a rail-trail and abandoned/ submerged under Jennings Randolph Lake.
Tide Walbrook Junction Port Covington (Baltimore) Portions now CSX; Port Covington abandoned 1988.[1]:312
West Cumberland Hagerstown CTC at Maryland Jct. Portion east of Cumberland abandoned by CSX except for small section at North Branch; Western Maryland Rail Trail from Peare to Big Pool; portion east of Big Pool operated by CSX under reorganized Lurgan Sub[10]
York Porters Sideling, Pennsylvania York, Pennsylvania Now operated by York Railway

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Cook, Roger; Zimmermann, Karl (1992). The Western Maryland Railway: Fireballs and Black Diamonds (2nd ed.). Laurys Station, PA: Garrigues House. ISBN 0-9620844-4-1. OCLC 26302871. 
  2. ^ Moody's Transportation Manual (1986), p. 668
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Drury, George H. (1994). The Historical Guide to North American Railroads: Histories, Figures, and Features of more than 160 Railroads Abandoned or Merged since 1930. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 349–351. ISBN 0-89024-072-8. 
  4. ^ a b c Salamon, Stephen J.; Hopkins, William E. (1991). The Western Maryland Railway in the Diesel Era. Silver Spring, Maryland: Old Line Graphics. ISBN 1-879314-07-X. 
  5. ^ Woodring, Franklin P.; Woodring, Suanne K. (2005). Pen Mar. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia. ISBN 978-0-7385-1760-5.  Images of America series.
  6. ^ Stover, John F. (1987). History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. ISBN 0-911198-81-4. 
  7. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  8. ^ "Maryland Historical Trust". National Register of Historic Places: Western Maryland Railroad Right-of-Way, Milepost 126 to Milepost 160. Maryland Historical Trust. 2008-10-05. Archived from the original on 2008-12-31. 
  9. ^ Western Maryland Railway Co. (1967). "Track Chart: C&P Branch."
  10. ^ "Western Maryland Railway: West Subdivision/Cumberland Extension." Accessed 2010-03-28.

External links[edit]