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George W. Wireman's

The Emmitsburg Railroad

Part 2

By a special act of the Maryland Legislature on March 21, 1853, the Western Maryland Railroad was authorized to issue bonds and to extend its line west to Hagerstown. In August 1859 the road was opened to Owings Mills. By the summer of 1861 the Western Maryland had reached Westminster. By November 1862 it had reached Union Bridge. Union Bridge remained the terminus of the Western Maryland until Jan. 9, 1871, when the road was opened to Mechanicstown.

The Board of Directors of Emmitsburg Railroad, at a special meeting, decided to meet up with the Western Maryland Railroad at Rocky Ridge. Once this decision was made, the next stop was to obtain the necessary funds for building the line. The leading force or influence in raising the money for the building of the railroad were three individuals, the Rev. John McCloskey of Mount Saint Mary’s College, D.G. Adelsberger and Joshua Biggs of Rocky Ridge.

The determined route for the Emmitsburg Railroad called for the construction to begin at Emmitsburg, east of the foundry and at Frederick Turnpike, then heading south along the east side of the turnpike, crossing the avenue leading to Saint Joseph’s College with a bridge about 16 feet above the avenue. From the avenue the line would proceed south making a turn to the left and crossing Tom’s Creek with a Howe Truss bridge of a 100-foot span about 23 feet above the water.

Once the bridge over Tom’s Creek was completed, the line curved to the left where it crossed Telegraph Road. Curving then to the right, the line passed several residences and ran parallel with Rocky Ridge Road until it reached the tracks of the Western Maryland Railway on the west side of the community of Rocky Ridge. The only grade really worth mentioning was the ascent from Tom’s Creek to the table lands just south of it.

The actual project got under way in July 1871. The grading work was done under contract by a Mr. John Donoghue. In 1872 the grading work was completed, but it wasn’t until 1875 that the bridge over Tom’s Creek was finished. November 11, 1875. What a day that must have been! It was the day the citizens of Emmitsburg had looked forward to with great anticipation. It was a big day indeed, with free excursion over the line for everyone. The first excursion train from Emmitsburg to Baltimore was ran on November 27, 1875, when over 400 passengers purchased tickets to make the trip. The first mail was handled over the road December 6, of that same year.

It might be well to mention here that original operation of the Emmitsburg Railroad was conducted by the Western Maryland Railroad on a cost basis as they were content to get their profit from the freight that originated on the Emmitsburg Railroad but was run over the western Maryland Railroad. Things went very well for about four years, when it was determined that the road was now strong enough to assume the full responsibility of operating the line on its own. In 1879 the Company took over its own operation from the Western Maryland Railroad and Engine No. 1 was purchased from the Baldwin Locomotive Works.

In August 1890, Beaton Smith of York, Pennsylvania, completed a survey for the Emmitsburg Railroad from Emmitsburg to Gettysburg, a distance of about 11 miles. This survey was prompted when it was learned that a railroad was being considered from Round Top, Pa., (near Gettysburg) to the Maryland State Line, a distance of six miles.

Several years after the survey was made by Smith, it was learned that the new proposed railroad was unable to pay the interest on the first mortgage bonds that had been issued. The bonds were scaled down and a new mortgage given which, after some years, also was defaulted. Around 1896 the railroad found itself passing into the hands of Receivers J. Roger McSherry, Vincent Sebold and Isaac S. Annan. For seven years, it was learned, no interest had been paid on the bonded debt of $121,850. Then came the dreaded news on September 11, 1897, at a public auction to be held in Frederick. The railroad would be sold. The question on everyone’s mind was what did the future hold for the little Emmitsburg Railroad?

Read Part -> 1, 3, 4, 5

Read Phyllis Hawkins' Stations of the Emmitsburg Railroad

Read Other articles by George Wireman

Have your own memories of the Emmitsburg Railroad?  
If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net

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