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Our Railroad: History of Local Institution

[Originally published in January 17, 1908 in the Emmitsburg Chronicle]

The local institution most important to the secular interests of this place is the Emmitsburg Railroad. Practically every pound of commodities coming into Emmitsburg and every person coming in or going out is transported over its line. If not a big thing in itself it is a vital necessity to Emmitsburg; and if not deeply rooted in the affections of the people (no corporation ever is) they would not like to try to get along without it. The Company has been always a local affair. Local people incorporated it; the great majority of the stock has been always held here and it depends for its existence on local business. Therefore, the obligations and benefits arising between the people and the Railroad are strictly mutual.

The Emmitsburg Railroad Company was incorporators’ by act of Assembly approved March 28th, 1868. The incorporators were: D. G. Adelsberger, Joseph Brawner, Josuha Walter, E. S. Taney, Joseph Byers, Dr. Andrew Annan, Isaac Hyder, George W. Rowe, Dr. James W. Eichelberger, Sr., Christian Zacharias, Michael G. Adelsberger, Lewis W. Walter and John K. Taylor. Of these, all are dead except Mr. D. G. Adelsberger and Mr. E. S. Taney.

Under this charter the Company was authorized to build from Emmitsburg to a point on the Western Maryland Railroad, West of the Monocacy, to be determined by the board of directors. Rev. John McCloskey, of Mount Saint Mary’s College, Mr. D. G. Adelsberger and Mr. Joshua Biggs, of Rocky Ridge, were the most active spirits in securing subscriptions to the stock.

Joseph S. Gitt who was also the engineer for the Western Maryland Railroad surveyed the line. John Donoghue built a portion of the road under contract but before it was finished the funds gave out. It was at this point that the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph came forward with a large subscription to the bonds, which insured the completion of the road. T

he first train was run on November 22, 1875, and the road has been in continuous operation ever since. After several years of vain effort to make both ends meet, the bonded debt was scaled down and a new ‘mortgage made. It was found impossible to pay interest even on the re-adjusted bonded indebtedness and in 1896, Messrs. J.Roger McSherry, Isaac S. Annan and Vincent Sebold were appointed receivers. In 1897 the receivers sold the road to a syndicate of the bondholders and the Company was reorganized under the general incorporation laws of the State.

The first board of directors under the reorganization consisted of: James A. Elder, W. A. Himes, of New Oxford, Pa., Vincent Sebold, W. G. Blair, Dr. John B. Brawner and Jesse H. Nussear. When the new management assumed control of the property in 1897.  In 1906 the Legislature amended the charter of the Company so that it now has power t extend its road in any direction in Frederick County; to consolidate with, lease or buy any other railroad and to operate by steam or electricity.

It is essential to any town’s industrial development, that transportation rates should be sufficiently low not to hamper the growth of manufactures. The management of the Emmitsburg Railroad states that when factories are ready to come to Emmitsburg, rates on their road will be made satisfactory. They claim that charges for carrying freight in bulk on their road are less than on the Western Maryland for the same distance, and no higher for broken lots. It is also stated that Big Vein soft coal, an excellent quality of steam coal, can be laid down in Emmitsburg, in large quantities, at $3 a ton. At this figure, it is claimed, Emmitsburg is more advantageously situated than any local point on the Frederick Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Frederick or Carroll counties. The same is true of fertilizers. Wheat can be shipped on a through traffic basis as cheap from Emmitsburg as from Rocky Ridge.

In order to obtain the best rates, freight should be billed through. If, for example, it is billed to Rocky Ridge and re-billed to Emmitsburg it takes the local rate between those points, which, of course, is higher than the through rate. It appears that in respect of three staple commodities, soft coal, fertilizers and wheat, Emmitsburg is as well, if not better located, than many towns on much larger roads. It is also claimed that the Emmitsburg Railroad operates more passenger trains daily than any steam road of its size in the country, there being four trains daily except Sunday.

It should he remembered that the Emmitsburg road must make its earnings on seven miles of track, and its freight charges of necessity will always be higher proportionately than the charges for a long haul. After a freight train is made up it does not cost much more to haul it one hundred miles than ten miles. And the rate per ton per mile will always be less for the long haul than for the short.

When the Western Maryland Railroad is connected with the Wabash system Emmitsburg will be, practically, situated on a great transcontinental railroad with branches throughout the entire West. Shipments can then be made on a through traffic basis to or from almost any point in the country.

The officers of the Emmitsburg Railroad are: President, Hon. J. C. Motter; vice-president Rev. J. 0. Hayden; secretary, B. S. Jenkins; comptroller, Rev. B. J. Bradley; general manager and treasurer, Vincent Sebold.

The practical work of the road which is under the supervision of Mr. Vincent Sebold is carried on by John H. Rosensteel, agent at Emmitsburg; M. F. Saylor, agent at Motter’s Station; P. J. Felix, conductor; Cornelius Gelwicks, engineer; Charles Bowers, fireman; and Lewis Mentzer, track foreman.

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