Nottingham, PA to Octoraro, MD

The Octoraro Banch

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(Forwarded from the Philadelphia & Baltimore Central Railroad)

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The branch is seen crossing Sylmar Road (in PA), and is some of the last remaining rail north of Rising Sun, MD. This portion of the line was last operated in the 1960-70s. Photo by Christian B.

In 1865, the Philadelphia and Baltimore Central Railroad began building a line from Oxford, Pennsylvania to Rising Sun, Maryland in a attempt to take passengers from the Philadelphia area to smaller rural towns south of the city. The line reached Rising Sun, MD, in 1868 and with the demand for freight out of Baltimore, The P&BC continued the line to the Columbia and Port Deposit (C&PD) Railroad line (which ran from Perryville, Marland to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) at Octoraro. The connection of the two lines marked a turning point in the history of the towns that lined the right-of-way.

Between 1880 and 1881, The P&BC owned and operated the line but because of the recent merger of the Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad and the C&PD, new leasing was needed to get freight traffic to Baltimore, MD. This sparked a new alliance between the PB&W and the P&BC. The two railroads eventually merged into one until 1916, running under the PB&W name. On October 2nd, 1916, The line was bought by the succesor of the PB&W, the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad.

Everything from 1916 to 1920 was going good for the railroad until a new highway was built between Conowingo, MD and Kennett Square, PA. This new highway was built parallel to the railroad and saw heavy traffic compared to the failing Octoraro Branch. Given that the Great Depression would hit within the next decade, the line's future was not bright and in 1935, passenger service permanetly ended on the line. From 1916 to 1961, The Pennsylvania Railroad took over the PW&B and used this line for freight until 1961, at which time the line was shortened to Colora, Maryland.

Today, the active portion of the Octoraro Branch is operated to Nottingham, PA by the East Penn Railway, a shortline operating on the former line hauling grain, oil and potato chips. Before East Penn Railways took over, the line was operated under the Octoraro Railroad, between 1980 and 1994, then the Morristown and Erie Railroad up until 2004 when East Penn Railways assumed control.

See also the eastern end of this entire right-of-way, The Chester Creek Branch, which is also abandoned.

Thanks to Christian B. for contributing information about this route.

Christian,

I believe the Navy Training Center in Bainbridge still saw some traffic in the sixties and early seventies as a result of the Vietnam War. There was talk of using the line as rail service for a proposed industrial park after the Navy abandoned the base. My father (we lived in Elkton)was on the committee looking into the use of the base. But, the base was pretty badly guted; so the plan never materialized. I believe Huricanne Agnes did more damage to deep six the plan. I thought that the line from Rising Sun to Colora was rail banked?

John Manley
High Springs, FL
9/29/2012

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John,

Penn Central owned the line after most freight service ended out of Colora. As a result, 2 industries of an unknown name (Could've been the Navy center) needed a minimal use of freight service. Every now and then (1-2 months) a train would head down that way wait a boxcar or two. The line was in very bad shape though. As for Agnes, I believe if any hope of restoring the line was in place, it was destroyed by that. And the tracks from Rising Sun to Colora were originally tore up in sections. Much of the remaining track (like seen in picture 4) was just a piece that was never touched. But other than that, much of the rail was indeed rail banked. Thanks for the comment.

Christian B.
Kirkwood, DE
11/22/2012

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from what i saw by the pictures and the map,are the rail and bridges still there?any information would be greatly appreciated.thank you.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/27/2013

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The bridges are there but little to no rail is evident.

Christian B.
Kirkwood, DE
5/27/2013

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thank you for the information.i did not think there was any rail.of course,i could be wrong.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/27/2013

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The Octoraro branch from Chadd's Ford Jct. to Sylmar was opperated by the Octoraro RWY. from 1977 to June 1994. Delaware Valley RWY from July 1994 till Mar. 19 1999, Brandywine Valley RR from Mar. 22 1999 till ca. 2004. M&E operated on an interim basis until East Penn purchased the line from Septa.

Also, east of CHadd's Ford JCT was the Octoraro Br. also, not Chester Creek.

Shawn S.
Strasburg, PA
11/11/2013

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from the people i talked to,i think east penn is still hauling freight on part of that line.septa i am pretty sure runs no passenger service on that line either.the information you have is correct.i am wondering what will become of the abandoned part.let me know whatever you find out concerning this rail line in the future.keep in toucj.

george oakley
reading, PA
11/13/2013

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The bridge shown in Photos 2&3 are over Basin Run which feeds into the Octorara Creek at Rolandsville. The old railroad bed east of Liberty Grove Road is now a private drive named Martha's Drive.

Jay
Liberty Grove, MD
2/28/2014

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thanks jay for the info on the bridge and rail.i was just wondering what all is left because i do alot of traveling and would like to see what is there and possibly how the bridge was built.hey,i like abandoned rails and researching them.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
3/3/2014

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PRR Octoraro Branch

https://www.facebook.com/gregory.pawelski.9/media_set?set=a.717194401733517.1073741905.100003288929249&type=3

Gregory D. Pawelski
Wernersville, PA
4/13/2015

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I lived at Bainbridge 58-61, hearsay had it that there was a bridge out between Bainbridge and its destination, therefore the rail line was not active. Within the last five years I looked on google earth attempting to find its destination, a difficult task given that a lot is overgrown. It appeared to enter Nottingham from the south west. Hope this helps. G

George Schwartze
Saunderstown, RI
12/27/2015

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George,thanks for the information on this possible bridge.Is this bridge in PA.?See if you can possibly find out about this bridge and if it exists.I looked in my notes and didn't see this bridge basically because I didn't see nothing on satellite imagery of this line in PA.

george oakley
reading, PA
12/28/2015

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