Baltimore, MD to York, PA

The Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad

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Bridge abutments over Old Pylesville Road are still in place; the railroad right-of-way is otherwise not easy to locate. Photo by Mike Palmer, August 2004.

In 1867, the Maryland Central Railroad was chartered with building a railroad line connecting Baltimore, MD, with Philadelphia, PA; however, no tracks were laid. It was not until 1873 that the first narrow-gauge tracks were laid by the Peach Bottom Railway connecting York, PA with Peach Bottom, PA on the Susquehanna River. Three other railroad charters were established to connect this trackage to Baltimore, which was still without railroad service, but none came to pass.

The Baltimore and Delta Railway began building narrow-gauge trackage in 1878 at Baltimore; while modest at first, the line continued stretching northwards until it connected to the Peach Bottom Railway at Delta, PA. The Maryland Central, which still existed, purchased both lines in 1889; in 1891, both lines came under the ownership of a newly-formed company, the Baltimore and Lehigh Railroad, which began to operate the entire line between York and Baltimore as a singular route.

The B&L was ill-fated, however, and filed for bankruptcy as early as 1893. As a result, the line from Delta north to York, and the line south of Delta to Baltimore, were purchased and again operated by two separate entities: the York Southern Railroad purchased the northern part, while a former owner of the B&L purchased the southern part and continued to operate it as the B&L. The entirety of the route was operated in this manner for another 6 years; even the northern part of the line was converted to standard gauge, while the southern portion remained narrow gauge.

In 1899, both lines came under the same ownership again, this time as the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad. The M&P, or "Ma & Pa Railroad", saw long-time success, offering both passenger and freight traffic between York and Baltimore. As to be expected, passenger service declined in the 1940s due to ever-increasing automobile traffic; indeed, passenger service ceased on August 31, 1954. Soon after, the southern part of the line, between Baltimore and Delta, was abandoned in 1958.

The northern section continued to operate, however, for another 20 years. The last train ran in 1984, and the tracks were pulled up in 1986. A short segment was left in place for the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Preservation Society, with hope to once again run trains (albeit for passenger excursions) over the former Ma & Pa Railroad.

Another abandoned line in York runs from Wrightsville into York itself. Parts of the old line are easily visible, and if you golf at Cool Creek Golf Club (public course) you can clearly see several abandoned bridges crossing creeks in the woods off of several of the fairways. If you look at satellite images you can see several other abandoned bridges over creeks as the line continued into York. The abandoned line eventually turns into the end of the active line that still runs behind an industrial park off of Market St. in eastern York.

Stuboy
Lancaster, PA
1/20/2010

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To the above comment --

The line that ran from Wrightsville to York was part of the PRR York & Lancaster line. The line started at (40.019072,-76.523511) at the now Krectz Creek Road which was originally the rail line and continues south-west to and across Cool Creek Road. (40.014274,-76.540022) Here the right-of-way is still slightly visible in the woodlands and the line continues to the most well noticed bridge (40.013937,-76.543509)that still crosses the Krectz Creek twice (40.012302,-76.547726). From here it crosses a few roads and eventaully the creek again (40.010157,-76.555719) near Strickler's School Road.

The last known junction was at (40.009664,-76.557543) the edge of this road, from here the rail continues southwardly where it crosses several waterways [not all bridges intact] and roads, the most well known is at Hill View Road (39.998399,-76.59192). The line continued for a few miles until it met up with the main line (39.991369,-76.627377), from records the old line was torn up in 1986 or so by the Cumberland Valley RailRoad from Springetts Manor-Yorklyn to Wrightsville due to reduced workload on the rails during the late 80's and early 90's.

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Another interesting fact is the old Quarry Route (39.947362,-76.787274) which starts from the mainline and heads north under East Berlin and Highway 30 to the old York Limestone Quarry, which closed down sometime in the 1970's, here the tracks still run past the old gravel-loader (39.951039,-76.796324) and quarry lake and all the way to where it dead-ends (39.953863,-76.801843) at the edge of a field. Currently it is not know if this was connected to another right-of-way or if it simply stopped here.

Daniel Hopkins
York, PA
8/18/2010

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I believe that this line continues directly down into Baltimore following stoney run brook. There is a trail that I run along from Northern Parkway near Kenmore down to Wyman Park Drive and Sisson near the Jones Falls river. This home on Lake Ave looks like it could have been part of the railroad as well. http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll=39.368756,-76.632002&spn=0.000549,0.001206&sll=39.368756,-76.632002&sspn=0.000554,0.001206&vpsrc=0&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=39.368756,-76.632002&panoid=d0cpY-r_xjlQmclwUOszhA&cbp=12,172.36,,0,2.6

Richard Saunders
Baltimore, MD
10/6/2011

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Yes, the old Ma & Pa right of way follows Stoney Run from a point in Wyman Park to Northern Parkway, and the driveway from Northern Parkway to the Bryn Mawr School runs along the ROW. The house mentioned in the previous comment was the Ma & Pa's Homeland station.

Just west of Bryn Mawr School, a footbridge crosses a deep cutting where the Ma & Pa once ran. There are still sections of rail visible in the pavement at a former grade crossing on Charles Street just north of Stevenson Lane. The bridge abutments where the Ma & Pa crossed over York Road have been preserved (with a historical marker), right by the Towson Library.

Laurence Doering
Baltimore, MD
7/18/2012

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About 100 feet north of the Charles Street and Stevenson Lane intersection in Baltimore, you can still see tracks running across Charles Street next to a gas station.

Jake
Baltimore, MD
2/16/2013

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i noticed abandoned rail and a bridge on this line.please let me know if any abandoned rail is still there and possibly the bridge.thank you.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/25/2013

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i took another look on the map and saw abandoned rail and at least another 5 to 6 abandoned bridges on the rail line in pa.if anyone knows if the bridges and rail are still there in pa.please let me know.thank you.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/28/2013

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I'm the quintessential Ma & Pa fan! Got many photos from the mid-70s on up before the PA portion was pulled up, which I'm in the process of photoshopping for a YouTube slide show. Got some Ma & Pa-related vids up now. But got a correction: The B&L and York Southern actually unified on February 12 1901!

Gus Karas
Baltimore, MD
7/29/2013

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nice to kmnow you are such a fan of this rail line.i just wanted to know what may still be left of this rail line.any information will be very useful.thank you.

george oakley
reading, PA
7/30/2013

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I grew up in Towson on Willow Ave(left in 1945). When the York passenger train came through it was time to be on the way to the Immaculate Conception School. In the afternoons we'd stop at the Towson station for the afternoon passenger train. Also spent time watching the freights deliver coal and lumber to the sidings around the station.

Paul Bopp
Levittown, NY
8/23/2013

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nice to know you remember the good old days on the rail line.i was just wondering what will happen to the bridges and possible abandoned rail.any information please let me know.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
8/23/2013

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On a whim I picked up a photo book in a secondhand bookstore, _Trackside Maryland_ with photos by James P. Gallagher and commentary by Jacques Kelly ( Greenberg Publishing of Sykesville, MD, 1992) It's full of railroad photography from the mid-1950's when steam was on its way out and the Md & Pa was in its declining years.

While the B & O understandably ruled the book, and the Pennsylvania, Norfolk & Western, and the Western Maryland got their share of attention, the little "Ma & Pa" garnered a disproportionate amount of attention from Mr. Gallagher, who had cultivated relationships with officers of the Md

& Pa, as well as the B & O.

The 80 mile line included 69 bridges. The largest, the 450 foot wooden Gross trestle near Sharon, Md, featured a significant curve. Due to its history and the terrain it took a rather roundabout route through bucolic farm country.

There's a nice photo of the 1937 Buick Roadmaster track inspection car, which had been modified at the Falls Road shop in 1942 and equipped with air horn and air brakes and a Bendix radio. The book states it went to the B & O Museum in Baltimore.

The Ma & Pa's original Romanesque granite Baltimore station (no photo) was demolished in 1937 to make way for the Howard Street bridge. It was replaced by a spartan wooden building that ended up serving the Md & Pa to the end of its life, as the railroad apparently never reached the point it could justify an expensive new station again.

The little shortline's steam power was considered obsolete in the 1930's never mind the 1950's! Like many other small railroads it eventually acquired a motorcar for the passenger and mail duties, while diesel-electric switchers replaced the old steamers at last.

Its rolling stock roster still included old-style obsolete wooden-framed boxcars that by the '50's were never interchanged but ran only on the Ma & Pa because no other railroads would allow them on their lines. Its Edwardian-era mail/baggage cars were described as "rambling gypsy wagons."

Mr. Kelly described the Falls Road yard as "often an operating museum of antique steam," with the company's stable of early-20th century locomotives that seem diminutive compared with those run on the nearby B & O and Pennsylvania lines. The Md and Pa had an interchange track with the Pennsylvania at the Falls Road yard.

The Falls Road roundhouse and shop boasted a hand-operated turntable called an "Armstrong," signifying what was required to rotate it. The turntable at the York end was even more odd, as it used a reclaimed boxcar brake cylinder powered by compressed air from the locomotive or motorcar, which operated by pushing against cogs under the turntable one at a time.

The "Ma & Pa" was supported by mail and milk. A big part of its business had been, literally, "milk runs" picking up milk in cans from little dairies along its rambling route, and it continued doing so into the '50's. It continued to run passenger service out of Baltimore in the early 1950's mainly due to a Post Office contract that subsidized the otherwise money-losing passenger business.

In its latter days it carried few commuters to Baltimore. Its regular passengers were mostly domestics going between their Baltimore homes and jobs in the suburbs to the north. Single fares that only traveled a few miles, like on a country bus, made up much of the rest of its business, such as leisure seekers headed to Bel Air for a summer day of swimming at the water hole. The whistle of the returning train would signal them that swim time was over.

Trains (usually in the late period consisting of the motor car pulling a 1906-vintage baggage car that the B & O museum later acquired) often stopped at passengers' convenience. Though it lacked modern amenities the railroad "accomodated its riders in a most gracious manner," and once even obligingly let Mr. Gallagher off and backed up to allow him to shoot a "run-by" on a trestle.

When the postal contract expired and was not renewed, the Md & Pa discontinued passenger service. The final passenger trips on the railroad became popular farewell excursions requiring additional coaches, generously documented in the book. The last one ran on August 31, 1954.

Before the end of 1958, the Maryland portion of the line had been abandoned, the city of Baltimore acquired the Falls Road shop for its salt truck fleet, and the remaining steam locos had made their last trips to the scrappers.

Mitch Bailey
Lexington County, SC
5/11/2014

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thanks mitch for the historical information.please let me know if anybody hears anything concerning this abandoned rail line in the future.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/13/2014

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I found your website and love the information regarding the Ma&Pa. Being an enthusist of the line, I reviewed your map and kindly consider the accuracy of the location along several spots. Looking at vintage aerials and topo maps of the 1950s, specifically along the Rt 1 Bypass in Bel Air, your map doesn't correlate. The map posted here positions the line far south of Tollgate Road, where the vintage maps show that the line ran close to the Road, and had a sharp curve just as it approached the Rt 1 bypass.

Lisa
Foreest Hill, MD
5/18/2014

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I'm working with several organizations to try and connect the MA and PA Trail near Bel Air, MD to the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway trail and would like to find the "keeper of the data" for the map on this site. If some or all of the old ROW are still available this route could be a great solution. If I can find the GIS view of the map route (or google earth kml/kmz file) I can do an easy overview with Harford county parcel data to determine who owns what along the route.

Robert Gaston
North East, MD
6/18/2014

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We live near Towson, Md. Part of the Ma & Pa right of way runs through the northernmost part of our property (east to west which is clearly visible) bordering Towson University. I grew up in our home and have always been interested in Ma & Pa history and have honored by owning a part of it!

John Falconer
Baltimore, MD
11/26/2014

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An addendum to my previous post: Our stretch of the railroad falls between the Woodbrook Station (currently a residence on Lake Avenue near Roland Avenue) to the west and the Sheppherd Flag Station to the east.

John Falconer
Baltimore, MD
11/26/2014

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The station on Lake Avenue is actually the Lake Avenue station. The Woodbrook Station was located on the east side of Charles Street where a gas station and supermarket now stand.

Ray
Baltimore, MD
5/1/2015

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