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George W. Wireman's

The Emmitsburg Railroad

Part 4

In July 1909, the community of Emmitsburg, northern most town in Frederick County, Maryland, held a big homecoming celebration and the Emmitsburg Railroad played a major role in this event.

The railroad scheduled many extra excursions with special rates. Records show that during this week long celebration the railroad carried more passengers than at any time in its history. The Western Maryland ran special trains from Baltimore to Rocky Ridge, where they were taken over by the Emmitsburg Railroad’s locomotives for the trip to Emmitsburg.

The Washington, Frederick and Gettysburg road provided through service from Frederick to Thurmont. here passengers hoarded the Western Maryland for tire short run to Rocky Ridge. The fare was $1 per round trip and this was divided among the three lines as follows:

Washington, Frederick and Gettysburg, 50 cents; Western Maryland and Emmitsburg, 25 cents each. The celebration was a very big success and because or the many extra trains that were scheduled, the Emmitsburg Railroad was forced into renting additional cars from the Western Maryland Railroad.

By September 1913, at no extra cost to passengers, the Emmitsburg Railroad had become a railroad or distinction when it provided "Parlor car" service on its seven-mile inc. You really weren’t "somebody’ until you had ridden the "parlor car." ‘This car was purchased from the Western Maryland Railway that had seen service room Baltimore to Gettysburg. The purchase price of the car was reported to be around $400. It has been rumored that one or the chairs from this parlor car is now kept in a private home in Emmitsburg.

By 1920 the passenger business or the Emmitsburg Railroad had declined to a point where it was not economical to run a passenger train. Records indicate that a gasoline car was then purchased at a price of $950 to replace the passenger trains. It was a year later in 1921 when the Blue Ridge Bus Lines began operating, buses from Gettysburg to Frederick, with a stop in Emmitsburg. Railroad officials weren’t happy about this turn of events. The official bus stop was at the Square in Emmitsburg, but the railroad wanted the bus stop to be at the railway station. A protest was filed with the Public Service Commission in an effort to get the buses to stop at the station and to set up a schedule that would meet the trains. This effort failed and it wasn’t long before passengers riding the trains began to use the bus service.

In the Summer of 1925, rail passenger needs had declined to a point where railroad officials had no choice but to discontinue the passenger service. The Public Service Commission then granted Emmitsburg Railroad Commission to operate a truck line over the state highway from Emmitsburg to Rocky Ridge to carry the mail and express. Trains were being run only when needed.

Operating the railroad on a "when needed basis" just wasn’t considered good business economy. At a special meeting of the Board of Directors in February 1940, it was decided to abandon the line as soon as possible. Three months later, on May 15. 1940, operations of Emmitsburg Railroad ceased. It was the end of the line. In August that year the line was sold at a public sale. By May of the following year official authorization for abandonment was granted by the Interstate Commerce Commission, arid the rails were promptly torn rip arid sold as scrap.

When the Emmitsburg Railroad ceased operations in May of 1940, many stories of railroading in Emmitsburg surfaced. Strange at it may seem, during the entire time the Emmitsburg Railroad was in operation, "train orders" were used only once. This was on the occasion of a "near accident" which could have resulted in a real human tragedy. It was a regular practice for the passenger train to haul to Rocky ridge the "Market Car" whenever it was necessary. This was a very important revenue car and when put into service it was not to he delayed at anytime in making connections with the Western Maryland Railway at Rocky Ridge.

One day, as the story goes, the passenger train departed from Emmitsburg without this very important car. When the oversight was discovered, the general manager of the railroad issued written train orders for the passenger train to wait at Motter’s Station on the return trip to Emmitsburg. A passing siding was located at Motter’s Station. This written train order was telephoned to the agent at the Rocky Ridge station and the written orders were then given to the engineer and conductor of the passenger train before it left for Emmitsburg.

In the meantime, back in Emmitsburg, the general manager was busy rounding tip a crew of men at the engine house. On a nearby siding sat a spare engine. The crew was told to get up steam as soon as possible and when the locomotive was ready, to take the Market Car to Rocky Ridge where it was to be transferred to the Western Maryland for delivery to Baltimore. The spare engine, which was under low fire at the time, might take awhile to get ready. The general manager, Vincent Sebold, not realizing how quick the crew could get the engine ready, felt sure that the passenger train would have a considerable wait at the Motter’s Station siding.

Once the extra train left Emmitsburg, the crew discovered that the brakes on the locomotive were not working very well. When it became necessary to slow the engine down, a brakeman was needed on the Market Car. Once the brakeman took his position on the Market Car, the train proceeded on its way.

With poor brakes and the desire to make haste so as to make the connections with the Western Maryland at Rocky Ridge, this extra train made exceptionally good time. When they came to Motter’s Station siding, they found it empty. The passenger train had not arrived yet. In no way could the passenger train reach the siding before the extra train.

The passenger train was loaded with school children. As it neared the siding one of the trainmen saw the smoke of the extra train as it slowed down, lie jumped from the train, ran as fast as his legs would carry him to the switch at the siding and threw it, just in the nick of time as the extra train swayed on to the spur track. There was the feeling in the minds of beth the train crews that the extra train would crash into the passenger train. Lady Luck was riding the rails that day and a very serious accident was prevented, thanks to the quick thinking of a Mr. Fox, the trainman on the passenger train who managed to throw the switch just in time. The end result of this "near tragedy" was that no more train orders were written or used.

When the Emmitsburg Chronicle hit the streets on Friday, January 25, 1940, with a headline in bold type Will Railroad be abandoned? Everyone knew that the end of the Emmitsburg Railroad was near. It was one week later, February 2, 1940, that the Baltimore Sun did a story on the railroad together with pictures under the heading End of the Road.

These articles brought many visitors to Emmitsburg to see just what was really left of the railroad, or maybe get some pictures of their own. "What will happen to those dedicated employees of the Emmitsburg Railroad" they asked, "now that the end of the operations was near?"

Read Part -> 1, 2, 3, 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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