This short line was chartered in 1828 and opened in 1831, making it one of the earliest railroads in the US. It was built as the New Castle-Frenchtown Railroad, and was a non-successful effort to compete with a nearby canal that was being built between the Delaware River and the Chesapeake Bay, both popular with commercial marine traffic. Ultimately, this line and the canal were defeated by other railroad lines in the area.
Originally, the right-of-way was built upon an existing turnpike, opened in 1815 by the New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike Company, that connected the Delaware River (near Elkton, MD) and Chesapeake Bay (at New Castle, DE). The building of the nearby Chesapeake and Delaware Canal prompted the state government, no doubt lobbied by towns and merchants along the way could not access the canal, to change the turnpike over to a railroad. Thus the railroad was born under the auspices of New Castle and Frenchtown Turnpike and Railroad Company. The railroad was powered by horses for the first year of its existence before ultimately switching over to steam locomotives. In 1839, the railroad line was purchased by the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad.
The western half of the line was abandoned in 1859; the eastern part of the line was absorbed into the Pennsylvania Railroad and is in use today by the Norfolk Southern. The map above shows the line in its entirety.