Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Begun - History

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Begun - History

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On December 22, 1829, the first passenger railroad in theUnited States opened. The first railroad line ran from the west side of Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills, a distance of 13 miles. In the beginning, the railroad used horse-drawn carriages, but it was not long before steam engines replaced horses.


As early as the mid-1820s, Ohio residents advocated the building of railroads to make traveling easier and to make it easier to ship products. Most Ohioans initially in favor of railroads lived in communities without access to canals. In 1826, a resident of Sandusky encouraged his neighbors to help finance a railroad that would connect their town with Dayton, thus providing Sandusky's residents access to the Miami and Erie Canal. Most early railroads served two purposes. First, most Ohioans wanted railroads to connect communities that did not have access to canals. Second, most Ohio canals connected Lake Erie with the Ohio River, providing Ohioans with a relatively cheap means of transporting people and products from the northern part to the southern part of the state and vice versa. Many Ohioans hoped that the railroads would provide a quicker means of travel from eastern to western Ohio.

While railroad supporters first appeared in Ohio during the mid-1820s, little construction occurred until the 1840s. As of 1840, railroad companies had constructed only forty miles of track in the state, although several companies were currently in existence. Two reasons existed for the slow growth of railroads in Ohio. First, canals provided a cheap means to transport products. Second, the Panic of 1837 had caused many Ohioans to avoid spending their money. Many people deemed railroads as risky, and some investors feared that they could lose their investment in railroad companies. As the United States and Ohio emerged from this economic downturn, investment in railroads quickly grew. By 1850, the Ohio legislature had chartered seventy-six railroad companies. Many of these companies never built any track, but others provided Ohio residents with an improved transportation infrastructure.

The first railroad completed in Ohio was the Erie & Kalamazoo Rail Road. The railroad eventually connected Toledo, Ohio, with Adrian, Michigan, a distance of thirty-three miles. Construction began in 1835 and was completed in 1836. The trip between the two communities took three hours.

The Little Miami Railroad was one of Ohio's most important early railroads. It was only the second railroad built in Ohio. The state legislature granted the Little Miami Railroad Company a charter in March 1836. The purpose was to connect the city of Cincinnati to Springfield. Construction on the line occurred between 1837 and 1848. The company financed the railroad's construction through money from both the state government and local governments. Linkages to other railroads in the years preceding the American Civil War established a network that linked most of Ohio.

Construction of the Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton Railroad (CH & D) began in 1851. The railroad attracted German and Irish immigrants who were looking for work. After the railroad was completed, these immigrants stayed in the region and found work in factories that began to emerge near the railroad and the Miami and Erie Canal. In its early years, the railroad line had the nickname "Charge High and Damn Rough Ride. "

Unlike the Little Miami Railroad, the CH & D's main purpose was transporting passengers. A number of new communities were built along the rail line, and wealthy people moved out of the city of Cincinnati to live in these communities. Railroads allowed people who could afford to pay the fare to live further away from where they worked.

The city of Cincinnati also provided financial support for the construction of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad in 1854. In Ohio, the railroad ran along the old canal path of the Cincinnati and Whitewater Canal. The Ohio and Mississippi eventually connected Ohio with St. Louis. This railroad provided Ohioans with a quicker means to transport goods and at cheaper rates to the West. The people of Cincinnati hoped that the new railroad would encourage economic growth in the region.

Practically all of Ohio's first railroads existed only within the confines of the state or only extended a short distance into neighboring states. The first railroad that truly began to connect Ohio with the rest of the nation was the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which reached Ohio in the mid-1850s. The Baltimore and Ohio was the first railroad to cross the Appalachian Mountains into Ohio, providing Ohioans with much quicker access to eastern states.

To help assist with railroad construction, the Ohio legislature passed the Ohio Loan Law of 1837. The Ohio Loan Law was designed to assist the building of additional canals within the state. It allowed the Ohio government to loan businesses one-third of the total costs to complete a project. The only requirement was that the business had to have raised two-thirds of the estimated cost before the state government would authorize a loan for the other one-third. Although the Loan Law was created to expand Ohio's canal system, in reality this legislation did more harm than good to the canals. Most of the loans granted by the Ohio legislature went to railroad companies, rather than to the canals. The Ohio Loan Law spurred railroad growth in the state. Canals now faced opposition from the railroads, and they quickly lost business to the faster railroad.

Following the American Civil War, Ohio experienced tremendous growth in railroad mileage. Larger railroad companies also began to purchase shorter lines in Ohio and connected them together, making a more integrated railroad system. For example, in 1870, the Little Miami Railroad leased most of its line to the Pennsylvania Railroad system as part of a ninety-nine year agreement. This lease was renewed once again in 1968. The CH & D Railroad and the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad eventually became part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. By 1900, most of Ohio's smaller railroads now belonged to one of four major railroad companies, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the Erie Railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad, or the New York Central Railroad. By 1910, more than 9,500 miles of track was used within Ohio, up from 8,900 miles just ten years earlier. Railroad companies built much of the new track in northeastern Ohio to help facilitate the major industries in cities like Akron, Canton, Cleveland, and Youngstown.

Railroads dominated Ohio's transportation infrastructure until after World War II, when the trucking industry experienced tremendous growth and took away much of the railroads' business. Automobiles also became more accessible for the American people, taking large numbers of railroad passengers off of the trains. Passenger airplanes, much faster than the railroads, also removed people from the trains. Since World War II, many railroad company's have cut back service in Ohio. Many railroad companies have sold their tracks to various municipalities. Cities such as Cincinnati and Newark have converted these former railroad tracks into bike paths and walking trails. This holds true for the Little Miami Railroad. The last trains stopped running in the 1970s on most of this line. There is a small portion of track still in use in Cincinnati, but the rest of the line was retired. The city incorporated the railroad into a recreational bike path known as the Little Miami Scenic Trail, which is more than seventy miles long.

Key Facts & Information


  • In the early years when railroads started operating, the carriages were pulled by horses but these were improved and turned into steam-powered railways.
  • As the people of Baltimore saw how their city was negatively affected by the opening of the Erie Canal, its elders thought of establishing a railroad. This was mainly to compete with New York that overtook being the gateway to the west, which was previously Baltimore.
  • Philip Thomas and George Brown, being the railroad project’s leading proponents, left the city of Baltimore and went to England to gather their needed information from those ongoing railway projects during that time.
  • One month after Thomas and Brown’s return from England, the states of Maryland and Virginia started the railroad project, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
  • The project was financed through a stock offering wherein almost all of the city’s people bought stock and they were able to raise a $3 million fund.
  • The construction of the railroad, running from the port of Baltimore to the Ohio River, started in 1828.
  • At first it was run by horses pulling carriages. But in 1829, they tried using steam engines and had them travel a 13 mile path for fifty seven minutes.
  • Having beaten the horse-driven carriages, the construction continued after many dry runs.
  • By 1834, the operation reached Virginia to Harper’s Ferry.


  • The B&O Railroad achieved their aim of bringing back the title of being the gateway to the cities in the west to Baltimore, which was stolen by New York after the opening of Erie Canal.
  • This encouraged technological advancements in architecture and engineering. Its first year of operation progressed together with the city’s immigration rate.
  • A telegraph line was put along the tracks of the railroad in 1844. These two lead to the implementation of the standard time zone throughout the country. The standard time zone helped the railroad in scheduling the operation of its trains while the telegraph allowed one time to be accessible for the whole country.
  • Wendel Bollman, one of the railroad project’s engineers, developed the first cast-iron bridge system in the country.
  • In 1850, B&O Railroad Shop, a company working with an iron fabricator, began the production of architectural components of cast-iron. This led to huge progress in Baltimore’s landscape.
  • The foreigner intake of the port of Baltimore doubled each year after B&O Railroad’s operation.


  • B&O suffered from financial crisis in 1950.
  • This issue reached New York Central and in 1959, they suggested a three-way merger with B&O, with Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railway as the other one.
  • C&O did not agree with the plan and competed with New York Central in buying stocks.
  • New York Central owned about 10 percent of B&O’s stock but C&O succeeded in overpowering it and had up to 70 percent of the stock.
  • C&O, being the major stockholder of B&O, requested legal control of it which was granted in 1962 and became official around a month later.
  • In the early 70’s, Chessie System was created and both C&O and B&O were owned by it in 1973, though the companies remained their different identities.
  • Chessie System merged with Seaboard Coast Line Industries in 1978, incorporating CSX.
  • Also in 1978, B&O merged with C&O a long time after the latter company gained control of B&O, which also merged with CSX a few months later putting B&O under CSX.


  • The name “Baltimore and Ohio Railroad” was gone in the railway business as it merged with Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company.
  • As B&O had contributed a lot to Baltimore and to the railroad industry, a B&O Railroad Museum was built showcasing the world’s oldest American railroad collection.

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Worksheets

This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Baltimore and Ohio Railroad worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) which is a railway operated by steam to engage in the transportation of goods and passengers and is connected to thirteen states. This has become one of America’s largest railroads under the CSX Corporation.

Complete List Of Included Worksheets

  • Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Facts
  • Fact or Bluff
  • Railway Tunnel
  • Bullet Train
  • Baltimore Wordscapes
  • Supply Line
  • Train Company Logo
  • Scrabble
  • Own Insights
  • Timeline
  • What If Not?

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Use With Any Curriculum

These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.

Ohio's Abandoned Railroads

As noted in the graph below, Ohio has lost roughly 4,000 miles of railroads since the 1920's most has been abandoned since only the 1960's.

Notable abandonments, or truncations, include segments of the Erie/Erie Lackawanna's Chicago main line, Pennsylvania's "Panhandle" main line, and Baltimore & Ohio's Ohio Division.  

The latter two corridors were components of both railroads' St. Louis routes.  Ironically, all three lines remained quite busy until their abandonments under Conrail and Chessie System in the 1980's.

In addition, north-south secondary routes reaching the important port cities of਌leveland, Lorain, Sandusky, Ashtabula, Conneaut, Huron, and Toledo in the handling of iron ore to steel mills (Youngstown, Pittsburgh, Weirton, etc.) have also been abandoned.

With most of these mills since shuttered, the ports became redundant. Other important lines since pulled up include B&O's Ohio & Little Kanawha Branch (Zanesville-Marietta), Pennsylvania'sਏormer Cleveland & Marietta Railway (largely removed), and segments of the B&O's route to Columbus.

All of the major eastern trunk lines served Ohio and components of each railroad's system has since been pulled up. 

You can also find sections of the Wabash and Nickel Plate removed in central and western Ohio.  Finally, the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton has been removed south of Washington Court House pulled up between 1981-1984.  

Today, Ohio continues to operate over 5,300 miles of the state's original infrastructure that at one time topped more than 9,000 miles in the 1920s during the industry's height.

Overall, Ohio has lost about 41% of its peak rail network, which isn't bad considering the average per state is between 45% and 50%. For more information about the state, in terms of route mileage over the years please refer to the chart below.

* Ohio's first railroad put into service was the  Mad River & Lake Erie (MR&LE) chartered in 1835.  By 1839, the system was open to  Republic (30 miles) and had reached Tiffin by 1842.  In 1890 it was acquired by the  Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, a future component of the modern New York Central System.

Ohio's unique history, location, and economy historically made the state a major railroad hub. 

There were numerous cities that manufactured important components like rubber, glass, and steel requiring products like sand, coal, and ore. 

In addition, these products were required to make items like home goods, automobiles, tires, and numerous other things. 

Finally, the state boasted numerous through routes headed to major cities throughout the Midwest. 

Despite the abandonment of thousands of miles the state still retains a great importance as a manufacturing center and location of through routes. 

While it equally seems unlikely any of these corridors will be rebuilt the state has floated the idea from time to time in restoring sections for commuter rail service in an effort to reduce highway congestion.

Famous passenger trains like the National Limited, Capitol Limited, 20th Century Limited, and Broadway Limited may no longer pass through Ohio.

However, Amtrak still operates a number of trains through the state including the tri-weekly Cardinal which serves Cincinnati and the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited, which serves state's northern areas like Cleveland and Toledo.  

Railroad Museums And Attractions

Passenger and freight trains aside, Ohio railroads also feature plenty of museums and excursion trains. For instance, there is the:

  • Age Of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek that contains numerous restored steam locomotives.
  • Warther Carving Museum that features the expertly, one-of-a-kind handcrafted locomotives by the late Ernest Warther.
Chessie System/B&O GP40-2 #4205 is ahead of an eastbound, hotshot "Philadelphia Trailer Jet" in a company photo taken along the Ohio Division near Athens, Ohio in February of 1979, a few years before the Baltimore & Ohio's main line was closed (1985). Today, part of this right-of-way has been taken over by an expanded Route 50.

These are just a few of the interesting attractions located in Ohio. Others include:

  • AC&J Scenic Line Railway
  • Buckeye Central Scenic Railroad
  • Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad
  • Cincinnati Railroad Club
  • Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
  • Dennison Railroad Depot Museum
  • Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
  • Jefferson Depot
  • Lorain & West Virginia Railway
  • Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum
  • Marion Union Station Association
  • Minerva Scenic Railway
  • Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation
  • Ohio Railway Museum
  • Orrville Railroad Heritage Society
  • Toledo, Lake Erie & Western Railway & Museum
  • Train-O-Rama
  • Turtle Creek Valley Railway

All in all Ohio offers the railfan just about anything he or she wants! Whether you are after main line railroading, steam action or simply strolling abandoned rights-of-way of once-important lines the Buckeye State offers it all.


The BALTIMORE & OHIO RAILROAD, which owned several railroads serving the Cleveland area, was acquired by the CHESAPEAKE & OHIO in 1962, and the merged railroad, renamed the Chessie System, became part of the CSX CORP. in 1980. The Baltimore & Ohio was chartered in Maryland on 28 Feb. 1827, and operations began in 1830 on a 14-mile section of track between Baltimore and Ellicott, MD. The railroad grew to become one of America's largest through numerous mergers, several of which concerned roads that operated through Cleveland. One such road was the Cleveland, Tuscarawas Valley & Wheeling Railroad, organized on 2 July 1870 as the Lake Shore & Tuscarawas Valley Railroad, primarily to ship coal. Access to markets for this coal was provided by connections with several larger railroads, including the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis railways.

The 101-mile line of the Lake Shore & Tuscarawas Valley Railway formally opened on 18 Aug. 1873, with the northern terminus at Black River Harbor (Lorain), OH, with tracks through Grafton to Uhrichsville, OH, the southern terminus. At Grafton, the Lake Shore & Tuscarawas Valley Railroad connected with the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railway. Clevelanders WILLIAM BINGHAM, Henry Chaflen, AMOS TOWNSEND, and 10 others were chosen by the Lake Shore & Tuscarawas in July 1871 to solicit subscriptions of stock in the city. In 1872 Worthy S. Streator was president, while William Grout and SYLVESTER T. EVERETT served as secretary and treasurer, respectively, and central offices were in the Case Bldg. In Feb. 1872, Cleveland received its first Lake Shore & Tuscarawas Valley coal train, and by 1873 there also were 3 daily passenger trains leaving the city. Although the road did not have any tracks in Cleveland, its trains reached the city by using Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, and Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis tracks.

Debts from new construction and equipment purchases combined with the Panic of 1873 to push the newly formed Lake Shore into receivership in 1874, and following the foreclosure it was reorganized on 1 Feb. 1875 as the Cleveland, Tuscarawas Valley & Wheeling Railway. In Feb. 1882 the railroad again went into receivership and emerged from reorganization as the Cleveland Lorain & Wheeling Railroad. The management and Board of Directors included Clevelanders SELAH CHAMBERLAIN and Worthy S. Streator who were president and vice-president, respectively. AMASA STONE, Edwin Perkins, and Oscar Townsend were directors, and the main offices were in the Merchants Bank Bldg. The reorganized Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling fared better than its predecessors. The railroad also expanded by completing the line to W. Wheeling in 1880 and consolidating with the Cleveland & Southwestern Railway (a 30-mile line from Cleveland to Medina) in Nov. 1893. This gave the CL&W a Cleveland terminal on Literary St. on the Cuyahoga River. The CL&W came under the operational control of the B&O Railroad in 1909 in 1915 the B&O purchased the entire system.

Another Cleveland-area railroad that became part of the B&O and eventually part of CSX was the Valley Railway Co., organized in August 1871 to run from Cleveland to Bowerstown in Monroe Twp., where it would connect with the Baltimore & Ohio. Work started in 1873, but the depression delayed the opening of the entire main line until 1 January 1883. The road entered Cleveland by way of the old Ohio & Erie canal bed on Merwin St. The freight station was on Columbus St., while the passenger station was on Canal Rd. in the FLATS. Following the construction of a branch from NEWBURGH to Willow in 1894, the Valley Railway fell into receivership unable to meet its debts, the property was sold under foreclosure. Its successor was the Cleveland, Terminal & Valley Railway Co., chartered on 3 October 1895. Soon thereafter the B&O acquired a controlling interest in the line, and in 1915, all of the CT&V's properties were bought by the B&O.

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had become one of America's largest railroad systems by 1915, with 4,535 miles of mainline track. Its tracks extended from New York City in the east to Chicago and St. Louis in the west. Baltimore, Cincinnati, Lexington, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia were among the other major cities served. The purchase of the Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling and the Cleveland, Terminal & Valley properties was beneficial to the B&O for 2 reasons. By 1915, Cleveland was an important iron-and-steel-producing center, and tracks into Cleveland gave the B&O ready access to a large market for the coal from the Virginia Tidewater areas which it also serviced. Also, Cleveland's port provided entry to other states bordering the Great Lakes. In the Cleveland area, the B&O had 2 main sets of tracks in 1915. The Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling Railway tracks approached Cleveland on the extreme southwest, running through BROOKSIDE PARK and underneath Pearl Rd. The tracks then curved northward in the vicinity of the Harvard-Denison Bridge and proceeded into the Flats, where they ended between W. 3rd and W. 4th sts. The total distance covered in the city limits was approx. 6.3 miles. The other set were those of the Cleveland, Terminal & Valley Railway they entered the city limits in the south between Bradley Rd. and the CUYAHOGA RIVER and ran northward along the river and through the Flats to WHISKEY ISLAND. Within the city, the tracks of the old Cleveland Terminal & Valley Railway covered a distance of 7 miles. There was also a Willow Branch beginning in Independence Twp. that entered the city limits around E. 73rd St. and ran for a mile along Mill Creek and Spring Brook to Broadway, where it ended.

The Baltimore & Ohio served numerous Cleveland businesses and industries during the early 1920s and 1930s. Among its largest customers were the CLEVELAND ELECTRIC ILLUMINATING CO., the Grasselli and Harshaw chemical companies, the Otis Steel Works, Sherwin-Williams Paints & Varnishes, Standard Oil, and the THEODORE KUNDTZ CO. In 1915 its general offices were in the ROCKEFELLER BUILDING, with the freight office at 1997 W. 3rd and the freight depot at 1681 Columbus Rd. Passengers purchased tickets at an office at 341 Euclid Ave. and boarded passenger trains at the old Valley Railway Station on Canal Rd. The passenger service of the B&O in 1915 consisted of 8 daily trains. Four of these ran along the old Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling tracks and stopped at Lester and Sterling, OH. From there, passengers could catch a mainline passenger train to Chicago. The other 4 used the old Cleveland, Terminal & Valley tracks, stopping at Akron and Youngstown before proceeding to Pittsburgh, Washington, and Baltimore. In 1950 the B&O freight trains still served chemical, petroleum, steel, and utility companies in the city, including Harshaw Chemical Co., the National Solvent Co., Cities Service Oil, Naphsol Refining, Jones & Laughlin Steel (formerly the Otis Steel Co.), and the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co.

By the 1950s, the B&O had freight stations at 8222 Broadway and 4002 W. 25th St., and a new freight depot, built in 1954, on Columbus Ave. The most dramatic changes, however, occurred in the railroad's passenger facilities and services. Since mid-June 1934, the road had been using the Terminal Tower as its passenger station the old Valley Railway passenger station on Canal Rd. had been changed into a freight office. The Cleveland Night Express, which provided overnight service between Baltimore and Cleveland was the last B&O passenger train to leave the Terminal, on 7 Dec. 1962. The Chesapeake & Ohio acquired the Baltimore and Ohio in 1963 (see the CHESAPEAKE & OHIO).

All Aboard! Ohio Railroad History

When Ohio first became a state in 1803, the primary methods of transportation to and through the state were by horse and wagon or by river. Within two decades, state officials had realized the economic benefit that canal access to Lake Erie and the Ohio River would bring by providing an inexpensive way for farmers and business owners to transport their goods to market. The Ohio and Erie Canal on the eastern side of the state was completed in 1833, and the Miami and Erie Canal on the western side was completed twelve years later. The cost to ship goods to and from the East Coast dropped from $125/ton by horse and wagon to $25/ton by canal, which spurred economic growth. However, canal boats had an average speed of just three miles per hour, and would soon give way to newer, faster railroads.

Illustration of the E&KRR, called “the pioneer railroad of the West,” from Henry Howe’s Historical Collection of Ohio. Via Ohio Memory.

As early as the 1820s, Ohio residents without access to canals began advocating for railroads. Because most canals ran north/south, railroads were also seen as way to improve east/west travel. In 1836, the Erie & Kalamazoo Rail Road became the first railroad completed west of the Allegheny Mountains, connecting Toledo with Adrian, Michigan. At first, horses pulled the rail cars, but after the introduction of the steam engine in 1837, the 33-mile journey between the two cities took just three hours. Despite the continued availability of canals and a nationwide financial crisis (the Panic of 1837), railroad construction began to grow significantly during the 1840s.

The Little Miami Railroad was one of the most important early railroads in Ohio. Built between 1837 and 1848, its connections to other railroads created a network that linked most of the state. The Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton Railroad began construction in 1851 unlike many earlier railroads built to move freight, its primary purpose was transporting passengers. New communities were built along the rail line, and wealthy Cincinnati residents (who could afford to pay train fare) moved out of the city to these new neighborhoods.

Ohio Railway Map, published in 1898 under the direction of the state’s commissioner of railroads and telegraphs. In addition to rail networks, such maps often showed drainage, cities and towns, and county and township boundaries. Via Ohio Memory.

Ohio’s location made it a natural transit point between the port cities of the Northeast and the Midwestern cities of Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. Although early railroads primarily facilitated travel within Ohio, railroad construction in the mid-1850s began to connect Ohio with the rest of the country. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad crossed the Appalachian Mountains, providing easier access to and from the East Coast. The Ohio and Mississippi Railroad connected Ohio with St. Louis, the “Gateway to the West.” Eventually every major Eastern trunk line ran through Ohio, and by 1860, Ohio had more track laid than any other state—nearly 3,000 miles.

The years after the Civil War saw a tremendous boom in railroad construction as well as consolidation of operations. By 1900, most of Ohio’s 8,900 miles of track were controlled by one of four companies: the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the Erie Railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the New York Central Railroad. Rail lines reached large and small communities throughout the state and the country.

Despite increasing federal regulation and the invention of automobiles and airplanes, rail travel remained the primary mode of transportation through World War II, when trains moved hundreds of tons of material and large numbers of troops nationally. In the 1950s, however, trucks and automobiles gained popularity for freight and passenger travel on the new interstate highway system, and the age of railroads came to an end.

The Lima Locomotive Works was the third largest locomotive manufacturer in the U.S. before production stopped in 1949. Via Ohio Memory.

Today more than 5,000 miles of track are still active in Ohio. Rail fans can see freight trains throughout the state and can explore Ohio’s rich rail history on Ohio Memory, as well as through a variety of museums and attractions.

Thank you to Stephanie Michaels, Research and Catalog Services Librarian at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

Recognized as the birthplace of American Railroading, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum is the largest collection of historic railroad artifacts in the western hemisphere. Located in the original Mount Clare Roundhouse, the museum is home to the largest collection of 19th century locomotives and rolling stock in the country. The mile of track outside the museum is considered to be the most significant and historic stretch of track in the country, as the very first revenue passenger train traversed its rails in the 1830s. The Mount Clare station area is also the location that the first telegraph message was sent and received by a neighboring building.

Included in the museum is a gift shop that sells various railroad memorabilia and resources such as books, apparel, media, holiday ornaments, as well as toys and stuffed animals for young rail enthusiasts. Additionally, there are various model railroad layouts throughout the museum, including an outdoor G scale layout, and an HO scale layout inside the museum.

Like many railroads of its time, the Baltimore & Ohio collected historic artifacts for public relations purposes. Originally, these artifacts were scattered around the system, and did not have a permanent home. The railroad began to seek out a facility where their artifacts could be stored and shown to the public. Because of the historical significance of the Mount Clare site, this was the chosen spot for the collection. After much preparation, the museum opened to the public in 1953.

After the Baltimore & Ohio came under the control of the Chessie System, and later CSX Transportation, the museum continued to flourish and attract thousands of visitors annually. In 1990, CSX passed the museum onto a non-profit organization, who currently runs the museum today, and as of 1999, the museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

The museum consists of three buildings, the Mount Clare Station, the Museum Annex building, and the Passenger Car Roundhouse. The Mount Clare Station is the oldest, with its Georgian style and striking exterior, it is one of the most attractive buildings at the museum. Also striking is the museum annex building that was built in 1891. This two-story building was planned and engineered by Ephraim Francis Baldwin. Perhaps the center stage of the entire museum is the roundhouse, which was also designed by Baldwin, where the historical 19th and early twentieth century locomotives are on display.

The museum continued to flourish, albeit, not without its hardships. On February 16, 2003, a record breaking snowfall pummeled the northeastern part of the country, causing the roof of the roundhouse to collapse, damaging many of the historic artifacts in the museum’s collection. The roof collapse caused the museum staff to question the integrity of the original structure built by Baldwin, and facilitated many structural improvements to the facility. Work on restoring the museum began soon after the collapse, as a successful fundraiser was conducted. In just 22 months, the museum re-opened with updated and expanded facilities, including a repair facility for the historic collection.

Due to the improvement to the facilities, the museum is more popular than ever before, and flourishes by teaching the public about the country’s rich railroad history.

Courtesy of Smithsonian

History of the Mt. Clare Facilities

Due to the Baltimore & Ohio’s rapid expansion in the early 1800’s, a repair and maintenance facility was needed, as well as a facility to store the horses before the advent of the steam locomotive. As a result, the railroad engineered the Mt. Clare Shops, which consisted of a machine shop and foundry, which employed over 1,700 workers. With the expanding railroad, more land was purchased, now stretching up to 40 acres. Many modern improvements were added to the shops in the coming years, including many safety upgrades such as fireproof buildings.

Many aspects of modern railroading were developed at these facilities, including locomotive design and operation. The likes of Phineas Davis and Ross Winans developed their designs at these facilities.

Phineas Davis is known for competing with Peter Cooper’s innovation, the “Tom Thumb” locomotive, which was the first American built steam locomotive. As a result, Davis developed his own locomotive called the “York”, which featured a vertical boiler design and was similar to Cooper’s design. Additionally, Davis built the “Grasshopper” locomotive for a price of $4,500, which was sold to the Baltimore & Ohio, and named the “Atlantic”. This design proved successful, as the railroad ordered 20 examples of the type.

Ross Winans, known for engineering a concept for the railway wheel, which was used for over one-hundred years, was one of the most prominent early locomotive builders. He became the assistant engineer of machinery on the Baltimore & Ohio, and continued innovating for the sprawling new rail industry. He patented an improved and re-engineered axle assembly for rolling stock, and put this new invention to work creating the first double axle railcar called the “Columbus”. In 1835, Winans leased the Mt. Clare shops from Phineas Davis, and used the advanced facility to build his locomotives. Winans was also a pioneer in replacing wood with more efficient coal, for fueling locomotives.

For many years, the Mount Clare Locomotive Shop built various locomotives both for the B & O and other railroads in the sprawling industrialized northeast. With the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives, steam locomotive production ceased in 1948. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the erecting shop in 1962, thus, the only active facility at Mt. Clare was the car shop. During 1962, the Chesapeake and Ohio purchased the Baltimore and Ohio, as a result, locomotive repairs were now transferred to the Cumberland, Maryland shops.


At the museum, there are many iconic locomotives in the collection that built the foundation of the American railroad. Artifacts featured at the museum range from the earliest steam locomotives to the beginnings of the diesel-electric locomotive. From the “Tom Thumb”, the first locomotive manufactured in America, to the Chesapeake and Ohio 2-6-6-6 “Mallet” type locomotive, that tackled the steep Allegheny Mountains, there is something for all enthusiasts and tourists to enjoy.

Baltimore and Ohio 0-4-0 “Tom Thumb” 1927 Replica

The “Tom Thumb” was developed by avid railroad mechanical engineer and inventor, Peter Cooper. This locomotive was the very first steam locomotive manufactured in the United States, and proved to be popular design, as examples of the type operated for over 60 years before retirement. This locomotive ultimately replaced horses, providing safer and quicker transportation.

The unique design of this locomotive included a vertical boiler and cylinders, powering the wheels. Testing of the locomotive commenced on the stretch of track between Baltimore and Ellicot Mills, Maryland. Unfortunetly, the locomotive was not preserved, as it was built as a test bed, and was never meant for revenue service. The replica at the museum was built by the B&O in 1927 for the “Fair of the Iron Horse”.

This image is part of the collection of historic photographs of Baltimore County, Maryland USA owned by the Baltimore County Public Library, Towson Maryland USA.

Baltimore & Ohio 0-4-0 #8 “John Hancock”

Built in 1836 by the locomotive manufacturing team of Ross Winans and George Gillingham, this locomotive was assembled at the Mount Clare Shops. Designed to be an enhanced version of sister unit the “Atlantic”, the “John Hancock was the first locomotive in the B&O fleet that was designed with a cab. Further enhancements included dual powered axles, increasing tractive effort significantly. Later in its service life, this locomotive was assigned to light duty yard switching, and was assigned #8, amidst the B&O ceasing to name their locomotives, it was no longer known as the John Hancock for the reamainder of its service life. The unit was retired in 1892.

Courtesy of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

Baltimore & Ohio 4-6-0 “Thatcher Perkins”

Built in 1853, the Baltimore & Ohio built its first 4-6-0 “10 wheeler”. Designed by Perkins himself, this locomotive was meant to tackle the steep mountain ranges of West Virginia. Demonstrating the versatility of the locomotive, it was later used during the Civil War transporting Union troops and other war time cargo. This locomotive was fitted with 60 inch drivers and had a tractive effort of 10,350 lbs.

In the roundhouse collapse in 2003, this unit was among the most severely damaged, and was restored to its former glory in 2010. Today, this unit wears a striking paint scheme including a dark blue boiler and red driving and pilot wheels.

Courtesy Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

Chesapeake & Ohio 4-6-4 Hudson # 490

Originally built as a 4-6-2 “Pacific” type locomotive by ALCO in 1926, C&O #490 is the sole surviving rebuilt streamlined C&O F-19 4-6-4 “Hudson” locomotive. No. 490 was one of five Pacifics rebuilt into L1 Hudsons in 1946. The original Pacifics were designed for passenger service around Charlottesville, on Chesapeake & Ohio trains such as the “Sportsman” and the “George Washington”.

Entering the post war era, the C&O planned to upgrade their passenger services with a luxury train called the “Chessie”, which was slated to run between Washington D.C. and Cincinnati. As a result, it was decided to upgrade 5 of their “Pacific”type locomotives, which were rebuilt at the C&0’s Huntington Shops in West Virginia, resulting in the L1 Hudsons. However, due to the expansion of road and air travel, this luxury train never came to fruition, and these rebuilt locomotives were assigned to various passenger trains around the system.

Courtesy of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

Baltimore & Ohio 0-4-0 “Grasshopper”

Built in 1832, and designed by Phineas Davis, this Grasshopper locomotive named “York” is among the oldest locomotives in North America. This locomotive was the result of a contest for locomotive designs held by the Baltimore & Ohio. The railroad saw the potential of the “Tom Thumb” and was increasingly confident in the success of steam motive power. This locomotive won the competition, as it was a reliable and versatile design.

The locomotive was groundbreaking during this time, as it was able to burn anthracite coal, and haul passenger services on the B&O between Baltimore and Ellicott City, Maryland. The locomotive was not preserved, however, the replica at the museum was built in 1927 by the B&O.

Courtesy of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

Baltimore & Ohio 4-6-2 #5300 “President Washington”

Built in 1927, this P-7 4-6-2 “Pacific” type locomotive was first presented to the public at the “Fair of the Iron Horse” in 1927. The Baltimore & Ohio designed these striking locomotives for their premier “Blue Line” route, which ran between New York and Washington, and were considered to be the pride of the fleet during this time. Advancements instilled in this locomotive included the ability to fill water without the need to stop, and being equipped with numerous safety devices, including an automatic stopping feature, in the event the engineer passed a red signal.

These locomotives called the “Presidents Class”, operated the Blue Line trains for well over 25 years, as they were retired in 1957. No. 5300 was saved from the scrappers torch, and was the only example of the class to be preserved.

Courtesy of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

American Freedom Train 4-8-4

Originally built in 1923 by Baldwin Locomotive Works as a class I-10a 2-8-0 “Consolidation” type locomotive no. 2101, it was rebuilt by the Reading in 1945 as a 4-8-4 “Northern”, and had the honor of being one of three locomotives to haul the “American Freedom Train”. The locomotive saw 10 years of faithful service after rebuild, and was retired in 1955, however, was put into storage until 1967, and later sold to a scrap yard.

However, Ross Rowland, who was a broker on Wall Street, saved the unit and chartered it for his American Freedom train, and was re-numbered AFT #1. Afterwards, the unit was used on the Chessie Steam Special, which celebrated 150 years since the B&O was chartered, where it made its runs for two years, before being donated the B&O museum in 1979.

Courtesy of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

Central Railroad of New Jersey 4-4-2 #592

Built in 1901 by ALCO, #592 is a 4-4-2 “Camelback” locomotive, named as such because of the cab being placed in the center of the locomotive, on the side of the boiler. This design was needed in order to fit the locomotive with a larger firebox that was designed to burn anthracite coal.

These locomotives were used on express trains, as they were capable of speeds of up to 90 mph. However, these units were not popular among train crews, as the cab was uncomfortable and not practical. Eventually, the Camelback design was outlawed due to safety concerns. After almost 50 years of service, 592 was retired in 1949, and brought to the museum in 1954. No. 592 is one of only five Camelbacks preserved.

Courtesy of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-6 #1604

Built in 1941 by the Lima Locomotive Works, the 2-6-6-6 “Allegheny” was one of the heaviest and most powerful locomotives ever built in the United States. This locomotive was assigned to haul heavy unit coal trains over the Allegheny Mountains, hence the locomotive’s namesake.

Articulated locomotives, referred to as “Mallets”, are steam locomotives with two sets of cylinders, driving wheels, and frames, which are connected using a pivot joint. The front wheel sets are intended to pivot so the locomotive can round curves more efficiently, especially through the rough terrain of the Allegheny Mountains. The Allegheny locomotives were beginning to be replaced by diesel power in the early fifties, with the 1604 being saved from the scrappers torch, it was donated to the museum in 1986. No. 1604 is one of two Alleghenies preserved, the other being 1601, which is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Baltimore & Ohio GP7 #6405

Built in 1953 by the Electro Motive Division (EMD), 6405 began its life as No. 915, and served the Baltimore & Ohio routes in the Midwest. The GP7 was a versatile and reliable locomotive, completing any task it was assigned with ease. The GP or General Purpose locomotives became popular with railroads for their efficiency and ease of maintenance.

A contributing factor to the GP7, and diesel-electric locomotives in general is the ability for multiple unit operation, in which a string of locomotives could be controlled by a single engineer. This was accomplished through a series of pneumatic and electrical hoses on each of the locomotives. The 6405 was donated to the museum after retirement in 1984.

Courtesy of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

Pennsylvania Railroad No. 4876 GG-1

Built by General Electric in 1940, the GG-1 was one of the most iconic locomotives on the Pennsylvania Railroad roster. This locomotive was designed for high speed operation on the congested Northeast Corridor, shuffling commuters from the heart of New York City, to Washington, D.C.

This particular GG-1 was involved in an accident at Washington Union Station due to an air brake failure, causing the locomotive to crash into the station sliding across the middle of the terminal. The weight of the locomotive caused the floor to collapse, and 4876 fell into the basement of the station. Luckily, there were no fatalities in this incident. Due to President Eisenhower’s inauguration, a temporary floor was built above the locomotive so the station could be utilized. After the inauguration, 4876 was removed from the station by being disassembled into three pieces, and was later sent to Altoona to be rebuilt. Afterwards, 4876 ran in revenue service for 30 more years until being retired by NJDOT in 1983.

Courtesy of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is one of the most significant railroad landmarks in the United States, and serves as tool to learn about the past and how it shaped the future of transportation. To keep up to date on the happenings at the museum, be sure to check out there website here. If you would like to visit the museum, address and phone number is listed below.


  • Southwark
  • 60th Street/Chester
  • South Chester
  • Edgemoor
  • Augustine Mill: Also called the Brandywine Branch, it was built in 1882 from Landlith north along the Brandywine Creek to reach the Augustine Mills of the Jessup & Moore Paper Company, and was later extended further north to serve the Kentmere and Rockford Mills of Joseph Bancroft & Sons.
  • Shellpot: Also called the Shellpot Cutoff, it was built in 1888 from Edgemoor (near the crossing of the Shellpot Creek) around the south side of Wilmington to a point on the main line between Wilmington and Newport. It served as a freight bypass, to avoid what was then street running on the main line through Wilmington.
  • Delaware Branch: Formed from the old New Castle & Frenchtown and New Castle & Wilmington trackage between Wilmington and Rodney, via New Castle. It was sold to the Delaware Railroad in 1891.
  • New Castle Cut-off: Built in 1888 from a point on the Shellpot Branch just across the Christina River from Cherry Island, south to New Castle and a connection with the Delaware Branch. It was sold with the Delaware Branch to the Delaware Railroad in 1891.
  • Delaware City: Sold by the Newark and Delaware City Railroad to the PW&B in 1881. It ran south and east from the main line at Newark to Delaware City.
  • Port Deposit: Built in 1866 up the Susquehanna River from Perryville to the river town of Port Deposit. In 1893, it was sold to the Columbia and Port Deposit Railway, also PRR-controlled, which connected with it at Port Deposit.
  • Baltimore Union

From Wikipedia, as part of a story on the Union Tunnels.

The Union Railroad was 9.62 miles (15.48 km) in length, extending from the northern terminus of the Baltimore and Potomac Rail Road to the southern terminus of the Northern Central Railway. The junction with the Baltimore and Potomac lies between Pennsylvania Station and the northern portal of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel. The Union Railroad joined the Northern Central at Bayview Junction, on the northeast side of Baltimore.

Although chartered as early as 1866, active steps to finance construction of the railroad and tunnel came only in the autumn of 1870, and actual construction begun May 1, 1871. On July 24, 1873, the first train passed through the tunnel. The original tunnel began at Bond Street, and passed under the bed of Hoffman Street to Greenmount Avenue, crossing under Dallas, Caroline, Spring and Eden Streets, Central and Harford Avenues, and Ensor, Valley and McKim Streets. Its length is 3,410 feet (1,040 m). The total cost of the road and tunnel was some $3,000,000.

As soon as the Union Railroad was completed, the Northern Central Railway obtained the right to use it, and in February, 1882, the Northern Central purchased the Union Railroad stock from the Canton Company, and assumed control March 1 of the same year.

In the map below, the railroad ran between the two yellow arrows.

On January 4, 1987, Amtrak Train 94 crashed into a Conrail freight locomotive in Chase. The Conrail engineer had been smoking marijuana, which caused him to miss numerous warning signals. Fourteen passengers were killed, making this Amtrak's deadliest crash ever at the time. The crash became national news and led to new safety regulations and drug testing in the railroad industry. The crash also caught the attention of President Ronald Reagan, who honored some of the local people of Chase for helping passengers who escaped shaken but unharmed from the trains. The community now known as Chase was originally founded as "Chase's Station" in 1850 as a stop for the Baltimore Railroad. From Wikipedia, notice they have the name of the railroad WRONG, this is why teachers don't like students to use Wikipedia as a reference source for research.

This map appears elsewhere on my websites. There are also a few family history charts I have put together, located here.


Early river projects Edit

After the American Revolutionary War, George Washington was the chief advocate of using waterways to connect the Eastern Seaboard to the Great Lakes and the Ohio River. [2] In 1785, Washington founded the Potowmack Company to improve the navigability of the Potomac River. His company built five skirting canals around the major falls: Little Falls (later incorporated in the C&O Canal), Great Falls in Virginia, Seneca Falls (opposite Violette's lock), Payne's Falls of the Shenandoah, and House's Falls near Harpers Ferry. [3] These canals allowed an easy downstream float upstream journeys, propelled by pole, were harder.

Several kinds of watercraft were used on the Patowmack Canal and in the Potomac River. Gondolas were 60 by 10 ft (18 by 3 m) log rafts usually sold at journey's end for their wood by their owners, who returned upstream on foot. Sharpers were flat-bottomed boats, 60 by 7 ft (18 by 2 m), usable only on high-water days, about 45 days per year. [4]

Construction Edit

Planning Edit

The Erie Canal, built between 1817 and 1825, threatened traders south of New York City, who began to seek their own transportation infrastructure to link the burgeoning areas west of the Appalachian Mountains to mid-Atlantic markets and ports. As early as 1820, plans were being laid for a canal to link the Ohio River and Chesapeake Bay.

In early March 1825, President James Monroe signed the bill chartering the construction of the C&O Canal as one of the last acts of his presidency. [5] The plan was to build it in two sections, the eastern section from the tidewater of Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland and the western section over the Allegheny Mountains to the Ohio River or one of its tributaries. Free from taxation, the canal company was required to have 100 miles (160 km) in use in five years, and to complete the canal in 12 years. [6] The canal was engineered to have a 2 miles per hour (3 km/h) water current, supplying the canal and assisting mules pulling boats downstream. [7]

The eastern section was the only part to be completed [8]

On October 23, 1826, the engineers submitted the study, presenting the proposed canal route in three sections. The eastern section comprised Georgetown to Cumberland the middle section, Cumberland (going up Wills Creek to Hyndman then across the Sand Patch Grade crossing the Eastern Continental Divide to Garrett [9] ) to the confluence of the Casselman River and the Youghiogheny River and the western section from there to Pittsburgh. [10]

Section Distance Ascent
& Descent
# of Locks Cost
Eastern 185 Mi 1078 Yds 578 Feet 74 $8,177,081.05
Middle 70 Mi 1010 Yds 1961 Feet 246 $10,028,122.86
Western 85 Mi 348 Yds 619 Feet 78 $4,170,223.78
Total: 341 Mi 676 Yds 3158 Feet 398 $22,375,427.69

The total estimated price tag, more than $22 million, dampened the enthusiasm of many supporters, who were expecting more like $4 million to $5 million. At a convention in December 1826, they attempted to discredit the engineers' report, and offered lower estimates: Georgetown to Cumberland, $5,273,283 Georgetown to Pittsburgh, $13,768,152. [10] Geddes and Roberts were hired to make another report, which they gave in 1828: $4,479,346.93 for Georgetown to Cumberland. [11] With those numbers to encourage them, the stockholders formally organized the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company in June 1828. [12] In the end, the final construction cost to Cumberland in 1850 was $11,071,075.21. Compared to the original cost given by the engineers in 1826 of about $8 million, removing things not in the estimate such as land purchases, engineering expenses, incidental damages, salaries, and fencing provision, the cost overrun was about 19%, which can be justified by the inflation rate of the period. The cost overrun of the other proposal (Geddes and Roberts) was about 51% [13] thus showing that the original engineer's estimate was good.

In 1824, the holdings of the "Patowmack Company" were ceded to the Chesapeake and Ohio Company. (Rejected names for the canal included the "Potomac Canal" and "Union Canal". [14] ) By 1825, the Canal Company was authorized by an act of the General Assembly of Maryland in the amount of subscriptions of $500,000 authorized by the act of incorporation paved the way for future investments and loans. According to historians, [15] those financial resources were expended until the State had prostrated itself on its own credit.

Groundbreaking Edit

The C&O's first chief engineer was Benjamin Wright, formerly chief engineer of the Erie Canal. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on July 4, 1828, attended by U.S. president John Quincy Adams. The ceremony was held near Georgetown, at the canal's eventual 5.64 miles (9.08 km) mark near Lock 6, the upstream end of the Little Falls skirting canal, and Dam No. 1. [16] [17]

At the groundbreaking, there was still argument over the eastern end of the canal. The directors thought that Little Falls (at the downstream end of the Patowmack Little Falls Skirting Canal) was sufficient since that literally fulfilled the charter's condition of reaching the tidewater, but people in Washington wanted it to end in Washington, connecting to the Tiber Creek and Anacostia river. [18] For that reason, the canal originally opened from Little Falls to Seneca, and the next year, was extended down to Georgetown.

The Little Falls skirting canal, which was part of the Patowmack Canal, was dredged to increase its depth from 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m), and became part of the C&O Canal.

The first president of the canal, Charles F. Mercer, insisted on perfection since this was a work of national importance. This would cost the company more money to build the canal. During his term, he forbade the use of slackwaters for navigation, the use of composite locks (see section below), or reduction of the cross section of the canal prism in difficult terrain. This reduced maintenance expenditures but increased construction costs. [19] In the end, two slackwaters (Big Slackwater above Dam No. 4, and Little Slackwater above Dam No. 5) and multiple composite locks (Locks 58–71) were built.

At first, the canal company thought to use steamboats in the slackwaters, since without mules, the canal boats had to use oars to move upstream, having no motive power. After many complaints of delays and dangers, the company provided a towpath so that the mules could pull the boats through the slackwaters. [20]

Section numbers and contracts Edit

From Lock 5 at Little Falls to Cumberland (as mentioned above, the canal started at Little Falls, and was later extended down to Georgetown), the canal was divided into three divisions (of about 60 miles (97 km) apiece), each of which was further divided into 120 sections of about 0.5 miles (800 m). A separate construction contract was issued for each section. [21] Locks, culverts, dams, etc. were listed on the contracts by section number, not by mileage as is done today. For instance, Locks 5 and 6 are on Section No. 1, [22] all the way to Guard Lock No. 8 on section 367. [23] Sections A–H were in the Georgetown level below lock 5 [22]

First part opened Edit

In November 1830, the canal opened from Little Falls to Seneca. [24] The Georgetown section opened the following year.

Dispute for Point of Rocks second part opened Edit

In 1828, the C&O Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) began fighting for sole use of the narrow strip of available land along the Potomac River from Point of Rocks to Harpers Ferry. [25] After a Maryland state court battle that involved Daniel Webster and Roger B. Taney, the companies agreed to share the right-of-way. [25]

In August 1829, the canal company began importing indentured laborers to Alexandria and Georgetown. These workers were promised meat three times a day, vegetables, and a "reasonable allowance of whiskey", $8 to $12 per day, $20 for masons. Still, many were dissatisfied with the slave-like conditions. Friction between the largest groups, from Ireland and Germany, meant they had to be kept in different crews. [26]

The width of the canal prism above Harpers Ferry was reduced to 50 feet (15 m), which saved money and was also appropriate from an engineering standpoint. [27]

In 1832, the canal company prohibited liquor in a bid to improve the speed of construction, but soon repealed its ban.

In August [28] or September 1832, an epidemic of cholera swept through the construction camps, killing many workers and leading others to throw down their tools and flee. [29]

By 1833, the canal's Georgetown end was extended 1.5 miles (2.4 km) eastward to Tiber Creek, near the western terminus of the Washington City Canal, which extended through the future National Mall to the foot of the United States Capitol. [30] [31] [32] A lock keeper's house at the eastern end of this Washington Branch of the C&O Canal remains at the southwest corner of Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, N.W., at the edge of the National Mall. [33] [34]

In 1834, the section to Harper's Ferry opened and the canal reached Williamsport. [35]

In 1836, the canal was used by canal packets as a Star Route to carry mail from Georgetown to Shepherdstown. The contract was held by Albert Humrickhouse at $1,000 per annum for a daily service of 72 book miles. The canal approached Hancock, Maryland, by 1839. [36]

In March 1837, three surveys were made for a possible link to the northeast to Baltimore: via Westminister, via Monocacy-Linganore, and via Seneca, but they were all were deemed impractical due to lack of water at the summit level. [37]

The Canal reached Dam No. 6 (west of Hancock) in 1839.

As the canal approached Hancock, more construction problems surfaced. Limestone sinkholes and caverns caused the canal bottom to cave in near Shepherdstown, near Two Locks above Dam No. 4, around Four Locks, Big pool, and Roundtop Hill near Dam No. 6. [38] On 6 December 1839, Chief Engineer Fisk wrote, "These breaks have all evidently been occasioned by limestone sinks which exhibit themselves by a falling down of the bottom of the Canal into limestone caverns that are lower than, and extend out under the bed of the river: — in consequence of which the water from the Canal is at first conducted down below the canal bottom perhaps twenty or thirty feet and thence out along under the bed of the river … It has been a matter of surprise to me that our Canal thus far has suffered so little from limesinks. We may yet however have much trouble from this source near and above the breach at Lock No. 37. For about a mile, there is scarcely a hundred feet in length of the canal in which there are not several small lime sink holes. ". He recommended costly but necessary repairs, which were done by 1840. [39] [40]

Since it was difficult to obtain stone for the locks, engineers built composite locks, sometimes of kyanized wood. [41]

In 1843, the Potomac Aqueduct Bridge was built near the present-day Francis Scott Key Bridge to connect the canal to the Alexandria Canal, which led to Alexandria, Virginia. [42]

In April 1843, floods damaged much of the finished portion of the canal between Georgetown and Harpers Ferry, including the Shenandoah river lock. One flood suspended navigation for 103 days. The company raised the embankments around Little Falls, and made a "tumbling waste" near the 4-mile marker. [43]

Last 50 miles Edit

Building the last 50-mile (80 km) segment proved difficult and expensive. Allen Bowie Davis took on the role of management. [44] In Cumberland, Dam No. 8 and Guard Lock No. 8 had begun construction in 1837 [45] and the final locks (70–75) to Cumberland were completed around 1840. [46] That left an 18.5-mile (29.8 km) segment in the middle, which would eventually require building the Paw Paw tunnel, digging the deep cut at Oldtown, and building 17 locks. [47]

Near Paw Paw, the engineers had no good solutions. If they followed the river, they would have to cross over to West Virginia to avoid the cliffs, and an agreement with the B&O Railroad specified that the canal would avoid the south side of the river, unless it was a place where the railroad would not need it. So they took the more expensive decision to build a tunnel through the mountain. [48] The initial cost estimate of $33,500 proved far too low. [49] The tunnel was completed for $616,478.65 [50] Among the components of the project, a kiln was built to provide bricks to line the tunnel. [51]

Originally, the company intended to go around Cumberland, behind the town of Wills Creek, but complaints from the citizens and the city caused the board to change their plans, routing the canal through the center of town. [52]

The canal was opened for trade to Cumberland on Thursday, October 10, 1850. [53] On the first day, five canal boats, Southampton, Elizabeth, Ohio, Delaware and Freeman Rawdon loaded with a total of 491 tons of coal, came down from Cumberland. In one day, the C&O carried more coal in the first day of business than the Lehigh Canal for their full year of business in 1820. [54]

Yet in 1850, the B&O Railroad had already been operating in Cumberland for eight years, and the Canal suffered financially. [47] [55] Debt-ridden, the company dropped its plan to continue construction of the next 180 miles (290 km) of the canal into the Ohio Valley. [56] The company long realized (especially with the experience at the Paw Paw tunnel) that construction over the mountains going to Pittsburgh was "wildly unrealistic". [57] Occasionally there was talk of continuing the canal, e.g. in 1874, an 8.4-mile (13.5 km) long tunnel was proposed to go through the Allegheny Mountains. [58] Nevertheless, there was a tunnel built to connect with the Pennsylvania canal. [59]

Even though the railroad beat the canal to Cumberland, the canal was not entirely obsolete. It wasn't until the mid-1870s that improved technology, specifically with larger locomotives and air brakes, allowed the railroad to set rates lower than the canal, and thus seal its fate. [60]

Sometime after the canal opened in 1850, a commemorative obelisk was erected near its Georgetown terminus.

Intervening years Edit

The canal deteriorated during the Civil War. In 1869, the company's annual report said, "During the last ten years little or nothing had been done toward repairing and improving lock-houses, culverts, aqueducts, locks, lock-gates and waste weirs of the Company many of them had become entirely unfit for use and were becoming worthless, rendering it absolutely essential to the requirements of the Company to have them repaired." [61] Still, some improvements were made in the late 1860s, such as replacing Dams No. 4 and 5. [62]

The early 1870s, which Unrau calls the "Golden Years", were particularly profitable. The company repaid some of its bonds. It made many improvements to the canal, including the installation of a telephone system. Yet there were still floods and other problems. By 1872, so many vessels were unfit for navigation that the company required boats to undergo annual inspections and registration. In July 1876, the crew of the Lezan Ragan stayed afloat while loading in Cumberland only by her crew's pumping. She hit some abutments of the locks near Great Falls, and finally sank at the opening Lock 15 (at the head of Widewater). [63]

For a brief period in the 1860s and 1870s, the company attempted to prevent boating on Sundays. But boatmen broke padlocks on the lock gates and turned to violence when confronted. The company gave up trying to enforce the rule. [63]

The trip from Cumberland to Georgetown generally took about seven days. [64] The fastest known time from Georgetown to Cumberland for a light boat was 62 hours, set by Raleigh Bender from Sharpsburg. Dent Shupp made it from Cumberland to Williamsport in 35 hours with 128 tons of coal. [65]

Receivership Edit

Following the disastrous flood of 1889, the canal company entered receivership, and was acquired by the B&O, primarily to keep the right of way from falling into the hands of the rival Western Maryland Railroad.

Over the next decade, and particularly after 1902, boats on the canal shifted from independent operators to company-owned craft. Boats with colorful names (Bertha M. Young or Lezen Ragan) gave way to numbered craft ("Canal Towage Company" with a number) run by a schedule. [66]

Tolls were charged for cargo on the canal. In 1851, for instance, the toll rates on the Canal were set as follows: [67]

Item Per ton per mile,
For first 20 miles
Per ton per mile
Coal ¼ cent ¼ cent
Slaughtered hogs, bacon & meat 2 cents 1 cent
Whiskey and spirits, fish fresh & salted 2 cents 1 cent
Salt 1 cent ¾ cent
Fire brick 1 cent ½ cent
Bricks, ice 1 cent ¼ cent
Sand, gravel, clay, earth, paving stones ¼ cent ¼ cent

Tolls varied greatly, and frequently the board adopted new toll rates.

Some boatmen would try to ship in the boats extra cargo not listed on the waybills to avoid tolls. In 1873, for instance, one boat got from Georgetown to Harpers Ferry with 225 hidden sacks of salt before the company found out. [68]

The items transported on the canal varied. In 1845, for instance, before the canal's completion, the shipments were as follows: [69]

Item sent downstream Quantity Items sent upstream Quantity
Flour 170,464 barrels Salted Fish 4,569 barrels
Wheat 299,607 bushels Salt 1,265 tons
Corn 126,799 bushels Plaster 4,721 tons
Oats 35,464 bushels Lumber 820,000 feet, board measure
Mill Offal 38,575 bushels Potatoes 2,511 bushels
Corn Meal 16,327 bushels Bricks 118,225 units
Pork 15,250 pounds Wheat 1,708 bushels
Lumber 508,083 feet, board measure Oysters 1,351 bushels
Stone 12,060 perches

Business after 1891 Edit

After 1891, the canal principally transported coal, and sometimes West Virginia limestone, wood, lumber, sand, and flour. (Statistics were only kept for coal.) [70] Coal was loaded in the Cumberland basin, which consisted of dumping four carloads of coal into the boat. Some of the coal had to be shoveled by hand into the spaces beneath the cabins. During the loading process, nobody would be on the boat due to the dust, and mules were kept off, in case the boat sank from being loaded. Despite closing windows, dust usually entered the cabins. After loading, the ridge poles would be put, then the hatches over the ridge poles and openings. The crew would scrub down the boat (using water from the canal) to remove the dust, and the boat would be poled to the other side of the basin, where it would be hitched to the mules. [71]

Boatmen came down to lock 5, called "Willard's lock" or "Waybill Lock", whereupon the locktender would sign the waybill, and report it to the office. If they did not get orders at that lock, they waited near the aqueduct bridge in Georgetown, until orders came through. A tugboat on the river would pull the boats to other points, e.g. Navy Yard, Indianhead, Alexandria. [72] Some coal loads were unloaded directly in the Georgetown coal yards, using buckets. Coal was also unloaded onto ocean sailing vessels bound for Massachusetts (which brought ice, and returned with coal), a 4 masted vessel holding about 20 boatloads of coal. [73]

In the last few years, the tonnage and tolls for coal were as follows [70]

Year Coal Tonnage (tons) Tolls collected (US$)
1914 171,062 42,236.97
1915 173,997 41,271.46
1916 158,036 38,956.77
1917 151,667 40,545.74
1918 138,087 71,404.43
1919 133,529 47,346.95
1920 127,871 62,102.38
1921 66,477 42,017.33
1922 Unavailable 3,435.18
1923 56,404 31,899.32
1924 Unavailable 1,215.60

One of the more unusual loads was a circus with about 9 people with their equipment, which included a black bear. They were transported from Oldtown, Maryland to Harpers Ferry. The black bear got loose on the journey, and the boatman told them, "You tie that thing good or you're never going to get to Harpers Ferry, for I'm going to leave the boat." [74]

Other loads included furniture (often second hand), pianos, a parlor suites, watermelons, fish (such as shad and herring), as well as transporting items such as flour or molasses to sell to lockkeepers, [74] as some of the lockkeepers in remote areas needed the boats to bring their supplies. [75] Cement from the Round Top Mill above Hancock was also shipped to Georgetown. Some would pole across the river at Dam No. 2 to get wood, cross-ties, bark (used in tanning), and sometimes grain. Other loads, often carried upstream, included 600 empty barrels in a boat, taken to Shepherdstown to load cement, lumber, fertilizer, and general merchandise for stores along the canal, as well as oysters in barrels, complete materials to build a house, ear corn, and even extra mules. [76]

Fines Edit

The company levied fines for infractions, such as traveling without a waybill or destruction of canal property such as lock gates or canal masonry. For instance: [77]

  • May 30, 1877, Capt. Thomas Fisher fined $10 (about US$423 in 2012) for passing through lock without waybill
  • Oct 22, 1877, R. Cropley's scow, fined $25 for knocking out gate in Lock No. 5 [Brookmont Lock]
  • Nov. 12, 1877, Capt. Joseph Little, fined $10 for running into crib at Lock No. 9 [Seven Locks]
  • July 4, 1878, Boat John Sherman, fined $62.70 for unloading and raising (note: this was on Independence Day)
  • Aug 30, 1878, Steamer Scrivenes, fined $50, Allowing the Bertha M. Young in tow to sink on Level 36 and abandoning her at night without giving notice, causing navigation to be suspended 36 hrs.
  • May 5, 1879, Capt. Jacob Hooker fined $40, Running into and breaking gate at Lock No. 40
  • Jan 14, 1880, Boat Harry & Ralph, fined $5, Running into gate at Darbey's Lock (Note: this was in winter, when the canal was usually drained for repairs.)
  • Jun 12, 1880, G.L. Booth, fined $4.40, for pumping.

Business after 1924 Edit

The last known boat to carry coal was Pat Boyer's Boat #5, which returned to Cumberland on November 27, 1923. The only boats recorded to operate in 1924 were five boats that carried sand from Georgetown to Williamsport to construct a power plant. [78]

Flood of 1924 Edit

The flood of 1924 caused major damage to the canal. Most of the railroad and canal bridges near Hancock were destroyed, a breach opened in Dam No. 1, and much damage to the banks and masonry of the canal occurred. Although the railroad did some maintenance, ostensibly so that the canal could quickly be restored to operation, mainly the Georgetown level (Dam No. 1 and below) was fixed to supply Georgetown's mills with water for operation. [79] The boating season lasted only three months in 1924, [78] and after the flood, navigation ceased. Unfortunately, some communities such as Glen Echo and Cumberland already used the canal to dump sewage, and G.L. Nicholson called the canal a "public nuisance" due to the sewage and being a breeding ground for mosquitoes [80]

After the flood damage of 1924, the railroad only fixed the part of the canal serving Georgetown, since they sold water to the mills therein, leaving the rest of the canal in disrepair. In 1928–1929, there was some talk of restoring and reopening the canal from Cumberland to Williamsport, but with the onset of the Great Depression, the plans were never realized [81] In April 1929 after some freshet damage, the railroad repaired a break in the towpath, so that they could continue to flush out mosquitoes as demanded by the Maryland board of health. [82]

The boatmen, now unemployed, went to work for railroads, quarries, farms, and some retired. At that date, the only other canal using mules, was the Lehigh Canal, which was soon to close in 1940. [83]

Some of the lockkeepers stayed on, and there were a few canal superintendents were listed for the now disused canal.

Flood of 1936 Edit

This winter flood in March 1936 caused even more damage to the abandoned canal, still recovering from the damage caused by the extreme floods just over a decade prior. This flood, caused by the thawing of earlier ice, combined with the flow of heavy rains, led to the highest water mark the Potomac River had ever had thus far, destroying lockhouses, levels, and other structures. There were some efforts at restoration, mainly to the Georgetown level so that the factories could have their water supply. [84] Due to inattention of the B&O Railroad, the canal became a "magnificent wreck" and would need intense repairs and reconstruction throughout many areas destroyed by the floods. [85] [86]

National Park Edit

In 1938, the abandoned canal was obtained from the B&O by the United States in exchange for a loan from the federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and is now the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal national historic park.

Canal prism Edit

The dimensions of the canal vary quite a bit. Below Lock 5, the width is 80 feet wide and 6 feet deep [87] Above Lock 5 to Harper's Ferry it is 60 feet wide and 6 feet deep, and above Harper's Ferry, 50 feet wide. [88]

Lift locks and guard locks Edit

To build the canal, the C&O Canal Company used a total of 74 lift locks that raised the canal from sea level at Georgetown to 610 feet (190 m) at Cumberland. [56] Locks 8–27 and their accompanying lock houses were made from Seneca red sandstone, quarried from the Seneca Quarry, as was Aqueduct No. 1, better known as Seneca Aqueduct. This unique structure is the only aqueduct made from Seneca red sandstone and is doubly unique for being the only aqueduct on the C&O that is also a lock (Lock 24, Riley's Lock). [89]

Seven guard locks, often called inlet locks (numbered 1 through 8) were built to allow water and sometimes boats (particularly at Big Slackwater and Little Slackwater) to enter. Dam #7 and Guard Lock #7 were proposed (near mile 164 at the South Branch of the Potomac) but never built. [90] In 1856, there was a steam pump put at that site. Later, in 1872, a new steam pump was put near mile 174.

Three additional river locks were built, to allow boats to enter the canal at the river, as demanded by the Virginia legislature for buying canal stock. They were at Goose Creek (below Edwards Ferry, Lock 25), near the Shenendoah River just below Lock 33, and at Shepherdstown.

The Goose Creek locks were to allow boats from the Goose Creek and Little River Navigation Company to enter. Only one Goose Creek boat was documented to enter the C&O canal, and there is no documentation of a C&O boat entering Goose Creek. The lock was eventually converted into a waste weir. [91]

The Shenandoah river (about 422 feet below Lock 33) lock let boats cross to Harpers Ferry with the mules walking on the railroad bridge, up the Shenandoah river, to the old Potomac Canal Bypass on the Shenandoah river by Virginius island. The railroad refused to let mules walk on the bridge, and from lack of business, the lock was abandoned. Stones from that lock were used for other purposes. [92]

After the 1889 flood destroyed the nearby dam in Shepherdstown, the raison d'être for the Shepherdstown lock was gone, and so it was filled in. [93]

At night, locktenders were required to remove the cranks and handles from all paddle valves to prevent unauthorized use. [94]

Composite locks Edit

Despite Mercer not wanting any composite locks, due to measures to economize on the last 50 miles of construction, and the scarcity of good building stone, Locks 58–71 were constructed as composite locks, whereby the lock masonry is built of rubble and inferior undressed stone. Since that makes a rough surface which damages the boats, the locks were originally lined with wood to protect the boats. This wood sheathing had to be replaced. [95] In time, some of the composite locks were lined with concrete, since the wood kept rotting.

Levels Edit

The stretch of canal between locks is called a level. Canalers called these levels by their lengths for instance, the longest level was the 14 mile level, which was about 14 miles long, and ran from Lock 50 (at 4 locks) to Lock 51 in Hancock. Some levels had additional nicknames (since some had similar lengths), e.g. "Four Mile Level below Dam 6", "Four Mile Level Big Slackwater", or "Four Mile Level of the Log Wall" (which is between locks 14 and 15, includes Widewater, Anglers, Carderock, Billy Goat Trails B, and C, and the downstream entrance to Trail A, all connect on that level). Levels less than a mile between locks were called short levels. [96] Waste weirs and bypass flumes at the locks helped control the height of water in the levels (see below about waste weirs).

Feeders Edit

There were three streams used as feeders: Rocky Run feeder (section #9, around 7 Locks), Great Falls feeder (section #18) and the Tuscarora feeder (section #78). There was a contemplated feeder at the Monocacy (not built). [97] Of course, the remains of the Potomac Company Little Falls skirting canal was used as a feeder also. Inlet Lock No. 2 is called the Seneca Feeder in historic documents. [98]

The remains of the Tuscarora feeder can still be seen, but it was made redundant by Dam No. 3 and was no longer used. [99]

Slackwater navigation Edit

Despite Charles F. Mercer, two slackwaters were used for navigation: Big Slackwater at Dam No. 4, and Little Slackwater at Dam No. 5. Big Slackwater is about 3 miles long, Little Slackwater is about ½ mile long. The boats had to navigate despite winds, currents, and debris in the channel. In February 1837, the board of directors discussed using steam power in the slackwater for the boats, but instead decided on a permanent towpath. [100] The towpath for Big Slackwater was completed in 1838 for $31,416.36, and the towpath for Little Slackwater was completed in 1839 for $8,204.40. [101]

Little Slackwater was a tricky place to navigate. Not only did it have a lot of hairpin turns, but also just before Guard Lock No. 5, there was a strip of land in the water called "the pier" (that exists even today): loaded boats going downstream would have to go outside the pier, and unloaded boats on the inside, thus making steering difficult for the loaded boats to get into the lock. If the current was fast in the river it could go as fast as the boat, rendering the tiller useless, and thus, a boat could be almost impossible to steer. [102] One man reported that at the slackwater, they had him sit at the front of the boat with a hatchet in case they had to cut the towline [since it would pull the mules into the river], and had a couple of [wooden] hatches turned upside down, so that they could escape to shore on the hatches. [103] On 1 May 1903, the towline to Boat No. 6 broke, with Captain Keim, Mrs. Keim, their two daughters, and Harry Newkirk aboard. One daughter drowned, another suffered a broken leg, and the captain died later of injuries. The rest (including the mules aboard) survived. [104]

Boatmen reported that it was easier to navigate in the slackwaters than the aqueducts, since there was room for the water to move around the boat. Places like aqueducts, where there was little room for the water to move, were difficult for the mules to pull the boat through. [105]

Waste weirs, spillways, and informal overflows (mule drinks) Edit

To regulate the level of water in the canal prism, waste weirs, informal overflows, and spillways were used.

Waste weirs removed the surges of water from storms or excess when a lock was emptied. [106] Boards could be removed or added to adjust the amount of water in the level. If one had to empty the whole level for winter, repairs, or emergencies, waste weirs often had paddle valves (similar to those found in locks) at the bottom which could be opened to let the water out.

Waste weirs come in several styles. Originally they were made of concrete masonry with boards on top making a bridge with mules to pass over. A possible example of an old-style waste weir (abandoned) is at 39.49 miles, above Lock 26 (Wood's Lock). Most of these old waste weirs were replaced with concrete structures in 1906. [107] Another used to be at Pennyfield lock in 1909–1911.

Spillways are made of concrete, and can be on either side, but if on the towpath side, have a bridge so people (and mules) can cross without getting the feet wet. High water simply flows over the spillway and out of the canal. The longest spillway, near Chain Bridge, is 354 feet long, was made in 1830 (but has been worked on since). [108] Another spillway near Foxhall road [109] at mile 1.51, was made in 1835. The spillway and waste weir at Big Pool was built in the 1840s [110]

An informal overflow or mule drink was a dip in the towpath allowing water to flow over, similar to a spillway, but without the bridge or the concrete construction (hence, were more informal). The canalers called these "mule drinks". [111] There are documented informal overflows at mileage 10.76, 49.70, and 58.08. [112] These usually had a drainage ditch which was riprapped with stone to prevent erosion. Historically the towpath dropped two feet to form this overflow. [113] Due to silting, construction, etc. many of these overflows are now difficult to find. Hahn states that clues to finding these overflows include: a gully without a culvert, a sudden lowering of the towpath, or the signs of riprap on the towpath or the gully itself. [114] Many of these (e.g. the one at Pennyfield lock) were replaced by a waste weir. [115]

Paw Paw tunnel Edit

One of the most impressive engineering features of the canal is the Paw Paw Tunnel, which runs for 3,118 feet (950 m) under a mountain. [56] Built to save six miles (9.7 km) of construction around the obstacle, the 3 ⁄ 4 -mile (1.2 km) tunnel used over six million bricks. The tunnel took almost twelve years to build in the end, the tunnel was only wide enough for single lane traffic. [116] One notorious incident included two captains who refused to budge for several days. The company official threw green cornstalks onto a roaring fire at the upwind portion of the tunnel, smoking the offenders out. [49]

Inclined plane Edit

Engineer William Rich Hutton was instrumental in getting the inclined plane built. [117] Starting in 1875, a canal inclined plane was built two miles (3.2 km) upriver from Georgetown, so that boats whose destination was downriver from Washington could bypass the congestion (and price gouging of independent wharf owners) in Georgetown. [118] Originally the company planned to build a river lock, but then discovered that such a lock occasionally would consume more water than the level could provide. They then planned to make an inclined plane, much like the Morris Canal. [119] The first boat went through in 1876 1,918 boats used the inclined plane that first year. [120] Usage reports conflict: Hahn reports that was only really used for two years, and sporadically in 1889, [120] yet Skramstad reports that due to flood damage in 1880 to the Rock Creek outlet, any boat until 1889 (when another flood wrecked the canal) going further down the Potomac than Georgetown, had to use the inclined plane. [121] Although Hahn says it was the largest inclined plane in the world at that time, it was 600 feet long, [122] which is short compared to Plane 9 West of the Morris Canal at 1,500 feet. It originally used a turbine to power it (like the Morris Canal) but was later switched to use steam power. [120]

The inclined plane was dismantled after a major flood in 1889 when ownership of the canal transferred to the B&O Railroad, which operated the canal to prevent its right of way (particularly at Point of Rocks) from falling into the hands of the Western Maryland Railway. [25]

Telephone system Edit

In the late 1870s, the Company installed a telephone system, rather than a telegraph as was the railroad practice, for $15,000. [123] Completed in October 1879, it had 43 stations along the canal. It was divided into sections with three switches, placed respectively at Dam No. 4, Dam No. 6, and Wood's Lock (head of 9 Mile level, i.e. Lock 26). [124] It is unknown if there are currently any remains of this system.

Culverts Edit

To carry small streams under the canal, 182 culverts, [125] usually of masonry, were built. For instance, culvert #30 was built in 1835 to carry Muddy Branch under the canal. [126] Unfortunately culverts are prone to collapse due to tree roots growing into the canal prism in addition, rubbish from floods plug culverts, causing floods and more damage. [127] Some culverts have disappeared or were abandoned, although they still appear in company records. [128]

Aqueducts Edit

Eleven aqueducts carried the canal over rivers and large streams that were too large to run through a culvert. [129]

Canal repairs Edit

The canal hired level walkers to walk the level with a shovel, looking for leaks, and repairing them. Large leaks were reported to the division superintendent, who would send out a crew with a repair scow.

Boatmen said that crabs caused leaks, as did muskrats. The company gave a 25 cent bounty on each muskrat. [106]

The following classifications of boats originally defined for the canal were as follows: [131]

    , for passengers
  • Freight boats , especially work scows for construction and maintenance, as well as ice breaking [132]

Rafts [94] were, from time to time, on the canal, as well as launches and canoes. By 1835 (no doubt due to complaints about drifting rafts) the company put rates unfavorably against rafts. [133] Farmers would build watercraft which were to last only one trip (to transport their wares) and then be sold in Georgetown for firewood. [133]

Classifications were to change. In 1851, after the opening of the canal to Cumberland, the company adopted new classes of boats: A, B, C, D, E, and F, depending on dimensions and tonnage as follows: [134]

Class Description # of boats
in 1851
A Decked boats of substantial build, carrying one hundred tons and upwards 9
B Boats of similar construction, carrying less than one hundred tons 49
C Boats not decked, of substantial build, carrying one hundred tons and up-wards 108
D Boats of similar construction, carrying less than one hundred tons 41
E Long boats and scows, decked or not decked, of substantial build 10
F Gondolas and other floats designed for temporary use 6
Packets Boats used chiefly for the transportation of passengers 1

Later years of Canal trade showed a predominance of coal carrying boats. In 1875, the register lists 283 boats owned by coal companies, and of the 108 other boats, 8 were listed as grain carrying, 1 brick, and 1 limestone carrying boat, with the other 91 being general.

During the declining years, freight boats were generally made in Cumberland. [135] Freight boats in those years had two hulls, with 4 inches between them. There were holes (covered, when not in use) that one could put a pump in to pump out the bilge. [136]

Double boats Edit

In 1875, the Canal Company announced its intention to double the lengths of the locks to allow double boats to pass through the canal, i.e. two boats, one behind the other, which could be towed, reducing freight costs by 50%. The Maryland Coal Company experimented with such boats, but the floods in the late 1870s destroyed these dreams. [137] The first lock to be extended to allow double boats was Edwards Ferry (Lock 25). Locks 25–32 were extended as such, as well as others, for a total of 14 extended locks on the canal. [138]

Traffic regulations Edit

Boats were to keep to the right. Certain craft had preference over others: "boats had the right of way over rafts, descending boats over ascending craft, packets over freight boats at all times, and packets carrying the mail over all others", [139] and later, repair boats actively involved in repair had preference over everybody else. [140] The boat which did not have preference would slow down the mule team, the rope would sink to the bottom of the canal, and the other boat would float over it, and the mules would walk over also. The towline of the one boat would be unhitched so the lines would not tangle, but sometimes they did. There is one report of a towline snagging on the other boat, and the boatman running the boat into the towpath so as not to drag the other mules into the canal. [141]

It was forbidden to moor boats, rafts, or anything on the towpath side of the canal (which would, of course, impede any traffic at night). [142] For that reason, boats would tie up on the berm side for the night.

Due to problems, on April 1, 1851, the company printed a 47-page booklet with new traffic regulations on the canal, detailing every aspect of operation, as well as fines for violations, and were printed in great numbers and distributed to boatmen and company officials. [143]

The typical boating season ran from April until late November or December when the canal froze over. [144] There were some occasions, for instance, during the Civil War, where the company tried to keep the canal open all year round. [145]

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