Hoffman to Rockdale

The Gunpowder Valley Railroad

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This was a short line, created in 1890, that branched off of the Western Md RR about 1/2 mile north of Alesia in Carroll County. It went East following the Gunpowder River, through Roller (now River Valley Ranch) to Hoffmanville paper mill. It may have also been called Rockdale Railroad.

David Hoatson
Maryland
3/10/2012

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The location shown for the end point of this line is not correct. The railroad extends past gunpowder road several hundred yards further. However, the rail line does not go all the way to the old hoffmanville paper mill. It's stops significantly short maybe a mile or so. I believe there may have been a small damn and they floated the logs the rest of the way

Josh wollein
Millers , MD
8/23/2012

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Too cool!

Is any of the rail bed or paper mill still there?

Is it accessible to Joe Average?

Scott Macdonald
Harford County orginally, MD
6/24/2014

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Hoffman had 3 paper mills at Hoffmanville and the Rockdale RR only reached the northwestern mill, Gunpowder Paper Mill. I have pictures of their only engine sitting in front of the mill house. The Gunpowder Mill was west of the bridge where Gunpowder Road crosses the Gunpowder Falls. The map is exactly correct on the Hoffmanville end - still checking on the Alesia end. I have walked the route and some trestle/bridge abutments can be seen along the river. There is no trace of the Gunpowder Mill but the dam and foundation of Clipper Mill remain as well as the dam and foundation of Rockdale Mill (only visible during extreme drought). Clipper is accessible to Joe Average, go to the old Hoffmanville one-room schoolhouse, across the road is a fire road (east of the cemetery), follow it down to the river, it ends at Clipper Mill, the breast of the dam is across the river to the west. I am still looking for a picture of the Clipper Mill.

Tobin Porterfield
Hampstead, MD
12/17/2014

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Tobin is correct. The rail bed and some bridge abutments where the tracks crossed the river can be easily seen in the section between Schalk Rd #1 and River Valley Ranch. You might be able to park at RVR and walk up the south bank of the river towards Lineboro. There used to be a gate in the fence. There is a road bed (appears on the old 1877 (?) atlas, now abandoned, and a rail bed. I used to park where Shalk Rd #1 crosses the river and walk on the tracks toward Alesia. You will see where the old road crossed the tracks. Follow the road to the left (towards RVR). When the road ends, bash through the woods to follow the south bank of the river. All signs of the RR switch and road are gone in this area likely due to flooding. After 100 yds or so, you will pick up the trail of the road and RR again.

David Hoatson
Lineboro, MD
2/19/2015

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The Cockeysville Ba Co Historical Society at the old Alms House should have a file that I gave them years ago that had a picture of one of the steam engines. When the train full of gunpowder passed, they would evacuate a school (I think), just in case it blew. There are some ruins on the trail down the hill from the Gunpowder Rd, to the right of the cemetary. Going down the hill, there are some pits on the right that could have held raw materials. at the bottom, next to the river, there are some concrete platforms and a foundation/pit. I think there are platforms with steel threaded rods coming out of the top on both sides of the river. The RR was on the other side (North East) of the river, so I suspect the platforms supported a cable across the river so the supplies could be winched across the river.

David Hoatson
Lineboro, MD
2/19/2015

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Thanks for the updates. As a kid, I remember walking from the Gunpowder Mill up to RVR and seeing the trestle crossings. Keep in mind there were 3 mills and 2 cemeteries. The dirt road to the right of the in-town cemetery (across from the one-room schoolhouse) leads down to Clipper Mill - there are still ruins and across the river you can see the berm of the dam. I am looking for pictures of that mill. The RR did not extend down to Clipper. Further downstream is Rockdale Mill which is underwater - that is where they later made gunpowder but the RR did not extend to that point either. The earlier school comment was interesting but that would likely have been the school in Roller not Hoffmanville School. This spring I will walk the line from Gunpowder Mill to Alesia - sounds great. The picture mentioned of RR at Gunpowder House is at the Alms House - thanks for that.

Tobin
Towson, MD
2/20/2015

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There is a book titled "From Marble Hill to Maryland Line-an informal history of Northern Baltimore County", in it, it mentions that the Rockdale Railroad terminated at the Rockdale Paper Mill later the Rockdale Gunpowder factory. Which is considerably further south than the map end point and also further south than Mr. Wollein says. Years ago they (Balto City) drained the reservoir down to the original river bed. The box culvert bridge from Rockdale road is still there, the mill (which at one point had a water wheel) foundation and embankment for the wheel are still there and a house and barn foundation are still there. Also visible when the water is down is the slight rise of the old railbed...but between just south of Hoffmanville road to Rockdale the railbed has been obliterated, probably when the city put the reservoir in.

Bryan Parkhurst
7 Valleys , PA
11/16/2016

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