Faulkner to Popes Creek

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  • States: Maryland   
  • Railroads: PRR   

The Popes Creek Branch

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PRR Popes Creek branch right of way facing south, from the former site of the US 301 grade crossing. This went from Lothair (Faulkner) to Popes Creek. Photo by Mike Palmer, May 2003.

This abandoned railway line was originally built in the 1870s, under predecessor companies that became part of the Pennsylvania RR. The junction with the national rail network was at Bowie, MD, between Washington, DC and Baltimore.

This segment was abandoned in the 1960s after a new extension and end point was constructed south from Lothair (Faulkner) to serve a power plant near Morgantown, a few miles south of Popes Creek. Both Popes Creek and Morgantown are on the eastern bank of the Potomac River.

The Morgantown power plant is still served by CSX, and can be seen adjacent to US 301 near the Potomac River bridge.

I remember the first time I happened across this southernmost section of the Popes Creek Branch. It was back in September 1970 while I was taking a trip to Virginia to visit friends, shortly after getting my driver's license. The track and old, large, cast iron "Railroad Crossing, Look Out For The Locomotive" type crossbucks were still in place at the Faulkner crossing of US301 at Faulkner. However, the tree growth to the north and south of the crossing showed a train hadn't crossed there in several years. In another several months the rails were paved over and crossbucks removed (by a railfan?). Interestingly, at that time the rails in the median were covered with dirt and seeded over to make grass cutting easier for the highway crews, while the rails to the north and south stayed exposed in the weeds and trees. Eventually, the track was salvaged from Popes Creek to Faulkner, but I'm nearly certain the rails are still under pavement and dirt at US301. If you look closely at the median, you can see a rise of ground level where the track lies buried under the dirt.

David Earp
Baltimore
11/28/2009

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As of the last time I looked, the rails were still buried in the pavement and median of US 301. That was a few years ago and I am sure it hasn't changed. The line past Faulkner was officially placed out of service on August 21,1962 and how long before that it ceased being used is not yet uncovered to the historical community. I suspect that when the power plant was closed down at the waterfront may provide a clue. Do any readers have that date?

Bob Cohen
Gaithersburg, MD
6/12/2011

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The power plant at Popes creek was closed in 1953.

I am not sure when the scrap yard that was the last customer closed but surely before 1960.

William Miller
Chesapeake Beach, MD
8/10/2012

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The closing of the power plant had no effect on the railroad as it was never served by it.

There was a customer just south of the 301 grade crossing that had it's own siding. The building is still there as is the rails for the siding. There is some conjecture as to what the customer shipped, while some believe it to be an old ice plant.

Dale Latham
Waldorf, MD
1/9/2016

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I remember having a copy of either the PRR or PC rulebook for the area dating to around the time of the PRR/NYC merger. The Pope's Creek Branch from Faulkner to Pope's Creek was still listed as "temporarily out of service on account of track conditions" and not yet officially abandoned. Not sure when it was official...I'm guessing at least by the time of Conrail being formed, if not before.

David Earp
Mechanicsville, MD
1/9/2016

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The coumty is planning to make another hiker biker trail.

track finder
pomfret, MD
5/22/2016

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