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George W. Wireman's

The Emmitsburg Railroad

Part 5

James M. Alvey, once a member of the Board of Directors of Emmitsburg Railroad, had been busy drafting a letter which he sent to each stockholder advising them that at a February 9, 1940, meeting action would be taken on the resolution adopted at the January 15 meeting to abandon the line as soon as possible. Alvey’s wife, also a former member of the Board, feeling the end was near for the railroad, had resigned prior to the January meeting.

As time neared for the February 9 meeting of the stockholders, the railroad’s one and only locomotive remaining looked sad as it sat in the engine shed. Engine No. 8 had been idle for quite some time. Former employees of the railroad were in the process of adjusting themselves to other jobs as best they could. Guy Baker, once station agent, had a mail contract and was making three daily trips to Thurmont to connect with the Western Maryland Railway.

Leslie Fox, another faithful employee of the Emmitsburg Railroad, was operating a filling station on railroad property directly in front of tile station. Murry Wantz, an engineer on the line, had established an automobile repair shop, also located on railroad property. Engine No. 8 was owned by Miss Louise Sebold. It was Miss Louise and her brother-in-law, James Alvey, who in recent years had been active in the management of the railroad. When a reporter from the

Baltimore Sun appeared in Emmitsburg and approached Miss Louise for an interview, she declined. It was a sad moment in Miss Lonise’s life for once railroading gets into your blood, it becomes hard to remove.

For years tile Emmitsburg Railroad had played a vital part in the lives of the citizens who living along the right-of-way. Trains passing through Motter’s Station area were so prompt and uniformly on time that tile citizens could set their watches by the blast of the whistle at any given point.

Operations of the Emmitsburg Railroad came to a final halt on May 15, 1940. In August of that same year the seven-mile line was sold at a public sale. However, it wasn’t until May 8, 1941, when the Interstate Commerce Commission approved and authorized official abandonment of the line. It wasn’t long after the ICC abandonment authorization was given that the rails were tom up and sold for scrap. The historic Emmitsburg Railroad was entered upon tile pages of history.

Today, tile few citizens still living who were once an important part of the railroad swell with pride when they read the railroad mentioned and they recall many fond memories of railroading in Emmitsburg.

There were on occasions, a derailment, but no wrecks and not even a casualty. Many marveled at how quick a matter was corrected with only primitive tools and gadgets to work with. Every employee of the railroad was a dedicated individual. It was railroading at its best and no one will ever dispute this fact. From the very beginning, Emmitsburg Railroad provided transportation services for the area citizens and the Western Maryland Railway was never considered to be superior to the Emmitsburg Line.

If anyone were to miss this little railroad, it would have to be the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s College. They benefited greatly because the railroad brought them fuel and supplies. It was the Sisters of Charity who came forward with a substantial subscription to the bond issue when the railroad was first established. It was also die Sisters of Charity subscription that ensured completion of the line to Rocky Ridge. It was die students of St. Joseph’s College and those of Mount St. Mary’s College who used the railroad as a means of transportation.

Today there is little or no visible evidence of the once famed Emmitsburg Railroad, a seven-mile stretch ye of rails between Emmitsburg and Rocky Ridge, where it made connections with Western Maryland Railway. There are still a few residents living today who or recall attending Emmitsburg Elementary School when the railroad was their main means of transportation to and from the school. Although the railroad has vanished from the local scene, there are many fond memories of railroading in at Emmitsburg and the major role this little line played in the economy of the community.

When the official announcement was made that the Emmitsburg Railroad was closing for good on May 15, 1940, rail buffs from across the eastern portion of the United States converged upon Emmitsburg, hoping to get an opportunity to ride the last passenger train. Others came just to take a few pictures of what was left of the seven-mile line and its equipment.

Area citizens told stories of the road’s dedicated the employees who operated the line. Never let it he said that the community didn’t support this little railroad. Citizens of the area were always ready and willing to help when there was a problem. Speaking of problems, snow was one. Recalling her memories of the railroad, resident Mary Scott once wrote: "Snow was always a problem. It seems as if it snowed more in those days and the winters were longer and colder. It was not unusual to have a seven to nine inch snow with a repeat performance several times within a week. "When this happened," Mary Scott continued, "the snow would pack, freeze, and form a hard crust. Strong winds would most always accompany the snow storms. As a result of the wind big drifts were formed and traveling became very difficult. "At times such as this, every man arid boy able to wield a shovel was actively engaged in shoveling snow. After several such snow storms there was no way the locomotive’s ‘cow catcher’ could remove the snow from the tracks.

"There was only one way to do the job and that was to enlist manpower. You couldn’t push the snow off the track to the side of the right-of-way. The side of the track was already a wall of snow."

Mary Scott remembers well the winter of 1916 for it was especially a snowy one, "The train," she recalls, "had been snowed in for several days and anytime tracks were cleared and the trains were ready to run, gales winds caused heavy drifting and the line was closed again. "I remember Mr. Neil Gelwicks, the engineer, and Mr. Charles Bowers, the fireman. They had worked until they were nearly overcome With the cold. They were brought to our house where my mother helped to thaw them out by the kitchen stove. She fed them a lot of hot broth and coffee, and at the same time prepared meals for the other workmen who were clearing the tracks on an almost ‘round-the-clock basis."

By the time the Emmitsburg Railroad ceased operations, the American railroading system had reached its maturity. The days of rapid change and pioneer development were constantly increasing competitive pressure from such freight-moving facilities as pipelines, trucks and barges, cargo-carrying aircraft, and such passenger carriers as the airplane, bus and private motor car.

The railroads found themselves engaged in an all-out effort to cut costs while at the same time improving the efficiency and attractiveness of their operations. In March 1957 — 17 years after time Emmitsburg Railroad ceased operations, Western Maryland Railway ran its last regularly scheduled passenger train. Several years later freight service on the Western Maryland was also abandoned, and it, too, became a page of history.

Although it has been 52 years since the Emmitsburg Railroad left the local scene, it is still remembered as an important part of Emmitsburg’s history, and how it served as a major link between the community and the outside world. I can think of no better way to close this series of articles on the Emmitsburg Railroad than to quote Mary Scott who summed it up well when she said: "For those of us who grew up with the Emmitsburg Railroad, it was hard for one to realize that its time was over. But time marches on. Our little old No. 6 was replaced by other means of transportation. An old era had passed from the scene. From its embers a new one was born."

Read Part -> 1, 2, 3, 4

Read Phyllis Hawkins' Stations of the Emmitsburg Railroad

Read Other articles by George Wireman

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

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