This short abandoned line branches from an active CSX (ex-Baltimore & Ohio) line in Havre de Grace, MD, and heads north to the Conowingo Dam and power plant, located on the Susquehanna River. The line runs adjacent and parallel to the river for most of its length. Its sole purpose was to allow the Susquehanna Power Company to transport heavy equipment to the dam from its connection with the B&O. Dam construction was completed in 1928, ostensibly placing the date of abandonment of this line soon after.
Havre De Grace to Conowingo Dam
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The track is washed out in several areas, but the track is mostly in place from the quarry to the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Trail at which the rails have been pushed off the side and it has been turned into a rail trail.
Tacks run parallel to the shore for a distance and provide a great view of the Susquehanna. The bridges have been converted to foot bridges for the walking path that runs from the mill to the Greenway Trail.
Actually, I thought that line branched off what is now Norfolk Southern. It runs down from the quarry on the river and underneath the Rt.40 bridge, then along (on)the street in Harve De Grace (used to), and up to what is still in use as a service track from the Norfolk Southern that makes deliveries to some industries there. Where the CSX crosses the trestle over the river is too high to have a branch off track that would have a passable downgrade to the river level....No??
This line connects to Aiken siding on the NS Port Road Branch. There has been some debate amongst NS officials whether to re-vamp this line, circumventing the need to run NS freight from Baltimore Bayview up Amtrak's NEC to the Port Road.
Many moons ago I worked at the power plant and I knew the man that used to inspect the tracks. Once a month he would run the train up and down the tracks for his inspection. He did this up until Agnes took out part of the line. Therefore, abandonment didn't come in 1928, but closer to 1972.
When I young, my parents used to take us to picnic at the dam. Probably 1975 or 1976, and there were still flat cars on the railroad siding near the plant. I suspect that they were abandoned after the tracks washed out. Yes, the cars were very rusty! The cars were gone once I started working at the plant in 1989.
This line does *not* connect to Aiken siding and the Port Road Branch- this thread is confusing two separate lines on *opposite sides* of the River. John Bozatti is correct about the line described here- it branches off from the NE Corridor, serves several industries along a still-active portion in Havre De Grace ending roughly on the line of Congress Avenue (check out Google maps for a view). The line formerly ran into S. Juniata Street and continued up the street (in other words, street running) under the Rt. 40 bridge and then north along the River to the dam. The rails in Juniata St. were in place into the early '80's but that portion had long since been abandoned. It was never CSX or B&O. Across the River, in Perryville, their is a connecting track from the B&O line down to the Port Road. CSX spots bad order cars and MOW at their end, NS often stores cars and equipment at their end. The mid portion is technically OOS (I think) and slowely returning to a state of nature. Again, two seperate lines, on opposite sides of the River.
Just a note....I used to know the name of the shortline railroad on the WEST side of the river that connected to the B&O. Anyone remember it?
Did part of this line run down Juniata Street in Havre de Grace? I remember them and it seems like they were taken up a while back
Yes, the line did run down Juniata St. I used to be a field inspector for BG&E back in the 1970s with the Northeast part of their service territory being the area I covered. The line at that time ran from a former connection with the existing PRR industrial spur, onto and down Juniata St., and then curved off to the left onto private right-of-way at the end of the street to follow the Susquehanna River to Conowingo.
Yes I would like to know if there was an official name for this short line? Also I think it would be awesome to start raising money to restore the line and run tourist trips. Though I know that would be a long complicated process.
While I can't disagree with it being an interesting idea, there are a few things that must be considered.
1.)What is significant? What makes this specific line worthy of restoration?
2.)How do you plan on paying for restoration? It looks to me like this line is R-E-A-L-L-Y rough, not allowing for operation until much trackwork is done.
3.) Equipment. Unless you have sufficient motive power and rolling stock, there's no point in investing heavily in track restoration.
4.)Why should people ride your railroad? What is there to see that can't be easily found elsewhere? What sets it apart from the other lines?
5.)What are the draws to the area? What else is there to see/do?
6.)Boarding location(s). It seems to me that this line runs from the middle of nowhere, conveniently to the middle of nowhere. There must be an established place for people to get onto your train. I'm not saying it is or is not possible, but don't start raising funds before legit solutions to all issues have been found.
Oh I am not saying it is even feasible, just a fun idea to think about, Around here (well with in an hour-hour and a half) all current tourist railroads go out one direction then just return back down same line with only one boarding station, and none follow the water and with the history of both the Conowingo dam construction and the canal, whose towpath was used to lay the line, could make for something interesting. But again just a fun idea and fantasy conversation starter.
I Think what separates this line from most others in the area (and infact around the US) is the fact that it does have water views and interesting infrastructure. I have walked this line three different times in my lifetime, twice on the trail and once where there is no trail. I do believe this will be costly, but it may be worth it. Its in a populated area (Havre de Grace, Aberdeen, Perryville, etc.) and could get some ridership. Definitely a lot of geological and track studies will be needed to be done, but that shouldn't stand in ones way. As far as equipment goes, you could borrow some equipment from the B&O Museum (lots of cars aren't being used/are unrestored) or borrow some stuff from the old Chesapeake Railroad which I believe still has some stuff sitting on the track in Clayton, DE. There's even two old Whitcomb switchers there. Plenty of power.
It looks like this thread is gaining momentum! I've often thought about this rail line over the years - it's origin & history to support the dam construction and it's current disposition - but never bothered to put any cohesive thoughts together in writing on the subject. I would like to add/build on what Dan P and others have already contributed. Any restoration of the line would certainly be for tourist excursions. The location is actually quite ideal to attract rail fans and others who would want see and ride a restored line - not just locally within Harford/Cecil counties, but very accessible to major cities along the eastern seaboard from Washington up to Philly & NY. Depending on where the line access/boarding station would be, the I-95 exit to Havre De Grace could provide a convenient access point. In addition to the attraction of riding the restored rail line, there could be added attraction of the facilities at either end of the line. The Conowingo Dam at the north end offers tours of their facilities via Exelon (now just once a year - maybe they expand?) which is always a major draw, and there are also recreational & nature facilities at Shuresville Landing immediately adjacent to the dam. Fishermans Park is also nearby which presently serves as a trailhead to the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Trail. Of course at the southern end of the rail line is Havre De Grace, which is steeped in maritime history but also offers an eclectic array of restaurants, shopping & recreational amenities. Overnight stays are a possibility for folks who may have traveled a long distance with the many local hotels and B&B's in and around Town.
Attraction to me is somewhat of a no-brainer, but getting the line back active and in operation is another story. As far as routing, line and grade is not necessarily the issue since the line already occupied this corridor - a good portion of it on the old original canal tow path that paralleled the Susquehanna River. Land accessibility and access would be a huge challenge - whether it by via easement or land purchase. A good portion of the land is now owned by the State of Maryland (Susquehanna State Park), and obviously the northern section is now the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Trail from the past rails-to-trails conversion. In some areas the trail is physically separate from the old rails that are still in place, and in others they are coincidental - so one or the other would require relocation for some stretches. The mining operations at Vulcan Materials would also present a challenge in terms of adequate ROW for a restored rail line. If in fact the line could be restored all the way down to Havre De Grace area, a logical southern terminus would be the north end of Juniata Street, which is the street along which the old rail line once ran before connecting into the original PRR mainline. A nice station could be built here and this boarding point would provide connectivity into the adjacent McLinney Park as well as and the Susquehanna Museum.
Acquisition of one or two locomotives, some rolling stock (4 or 5 open-air/closed cars) and incidental equipment is another topic of conversation. It could be possible to run both diesel & steam on the line which would have a broader tourist appeal. Both leasing and purchase options could be explored - obviously any required equipment restoration efforts could be quite expensive. And then there is the infrastructure itself. It is unknown how much if any of the rails still in existence could be reused, and also whether the ties and trackbed are still usable/stable. It is almost certain that all waterway crossing structures would have to be rebuilt. Depending on the design criteria adopted, the existing maintenance of way may not be adequate and additional clearing/grading may be necessary - needless to say, any environmental permitting needed in this area would be quite complex due to wetlands, waterways, etc.
So how do you fund such a start-up? Probably a topic well beyond this post, but beyond establishing actual feasibility this would be the most significant hurdle. Identifying the right stakeholders, partners and investors would be key, and there could also be State grant monies available in some fashion. I'm pretty sure the Havre De Grave Chamber of Commerce would be a huge proponent of such a project. Jumping way ahead, once a restored line is up and running proper operations, training and staffing must be put into place so everything runs like a fine oiled machine. And don't forget about a marketing department to get the word out (website, social media, press releases, etc) - if the line doesn't attract the right audience then why do it at all!
Next step: full Feasibility Study!
Those are some great ideas, Mark. I was not aware of any other tourist attractions besides the dam tours. I am very interested in reopening this line now. I was going to go out last weekend to take a huge load of photos and explore the roughly 10 miles of the line. You commented on steam locomotive operation, which i think is a step to far from a railroad that just opens. Steam is very expensive to operate and maintain so I think we should just stick with a small GE tonner locomotive or a whitcomb switcher. Those are even expensive. Somewhere from $10,000-50,000. it depends on the seller. I cant find much on the history, so i might have to check a local library. We also need investors, and land inspectors. I'm not sure how stable the land is around the ROW (after all the river is eroding away the riverbank.)
Unless I missed it, another huge attraction is the Rock Run Mill, which still operates on the weekends, and the Manor House, which is in walking distance of the mill.
I was reading a 1901 Cecil Whig. It has an obituary for Stephen John Woodrow. It said that he ran the Railroad Hotel in Conowingo. I wonder where that was?
Pat, the original Town of Conowingo was located just north of the dam right on the river. It is likely that the hotel met an untimely death in 1928 when the reservoir was created by construction of the dam, and the Town was subsequently flooded. Read here: http://www.cecildaily.com/our_cecil/article_f28d5b47-4bcd-5d2b-af24-3a185b4e427d.html
Mark,Thank you for the link to the article. It has a lot of information. I did know about the "Old Conowingo" being flooded. I am so glad you mentioned this in connection with the Railroad Hotel. I had not put 2+2 together. Great thinking.
Mark, Do you have any information about St. Patrick Chapel/Church or Cemetery in Pilottown?
The RR on the Harford County side was constructed and operated by the Stone &Webster company that built the dam for the Arundel Corporation. Much of the rolling stock that travelled the harford county side was Pennsylvania RR. In the newsreel "Conowingo Lost and Found" there is great footage of the rail operation from both sides of the river.
The Arundel Corp also constructed the relocation of the Pennsylvania RR line on higher ground along the Cecil County side of the river.
There are also many great aerial photographs of the construction of the dam on the Hagley online archives. There are great pictures of the rail yard on the Harford county side, as well the big yard on the cecil co. side, the viaduct over the Octaroro Creek and over the old town of Conowingo north of the dam.
It really is quite a shame Hurricane Agnes basically totally destroyed the Havre de Grace to Conowingo rail bed. It would be an absolutely beautiful tourist line along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Eagle watching is amazing all along what remains of the row.
It's always noce to dream!
Something is being done soon to the dam to remove sediment that has built up and just maybe they could use the railroad to haul it away......
The line started as the tow path of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal, which went north on the river to Wrightsville, Pa, where boats were shifted across the river pulled by mules on a double decker bridge!
The canal was "leased" to the Reading Railroad after the Civil War, and auctioned off in 1894 when the Reading collapsed in the financial panic of the previous year.
Local investors apparantly bought large parts of it with the vague hope of developing another Niagra type power plant on the lower Susquehanna. Holtwood would be the first step in the realization of that dream, sending power across the county to power the streetcar lines in Baltimore.
Conowingo was next, the project of an alliance between Maryland governor Albert Ritchie, and Ed Stotesbury, the President of the Philadelphia Electric Power Company (and the Reading,and the banking house of Drexel, Morgan, and Co, and speaking of Morgan, a patner there too). Arundel was brought into the deal because the Republicans made a big deal about the power from Conowingo going to Philadelphia and out of town contractors doing the work. Stone and Webster was the go to company for large electric power projects, a business which exploded in the 1920's.
Arundel was a large design build contractor that took on large infrastructure projects around the Mid Atlantic. They built the Orleans Street Viaduct and City College.
They took over the stone quarry just above Havre de Grace, and sent crushed stone up the rail line built on the canal tow path to the construction site for the power house for the dam. I am assuming that most of the structural steel and rebar for the dam was made at Sparrow's Point and shipped up the Pennsylvania RR to Havre de Grace where it went onto the siding that used to serve the race track and which follows the Philadelphia Post Road (Revolution Street) and curves into the middle of Juniata Street, splitting off and going down the middle of what is now Pennington Ave to the water where the ferry landing once was. The rest of he line went down the middle of Juniata Street (where it crossed a box culvert over Lilly Run) and curved along the shore of the old filled in canal boat basin and on to the reconstructed tow path of the canal. The weir dam at Deer Creek and the locks above them were removed and replaced by a railroad bridge. The line supplied, steel, crushed stone from the quarry along the line to the railroad yard that was built on fill in front of the Power House for the rail mounted steam shovels, and the massive concrete plant that stood on the hill on the Darlington side (I believe there was a corresponsding one on the Port side, too.) I don't know the history of the line from then on, but there are some interesting comments elsewhere on this thread.