Those Old Train Stations: Scottsburg, Indiana

Old Train Station, Scottsburg, Indiana

The town of Scottsburg is a town in the southern region of the U.S. state of Indiana.  It is not a town that is a tourist hotspot, and you are not going to read about the town in travel magazines.  What is special about this town, located 30 miles (48 Kilometers) north of Louisville, Kentucky, it was a town that not only grew around the railroad, but it is also named after a railroad official named Horace Scott.  The Jeffersonville Railroad came to Scottsburg in 1852, the town grew.  A train station was built.

The train station was built in 1872 as a passenger and freight station which was common in smaller towns.  There were separate waiting rooms: one waiting room for the men and a different waiting room for the women.  It was an active train station until the early 1950’s.  The depot was restored in 1991 and was moved one block north, and it was dedicated as the Scottsburg Heritage Station in 1996.

Today, although the railroad still passes through Scottsburg, it no longer stops here, but you can still visit the station although the interior is not open to the public.  It is located on NW Railroad Street one block west of Main Street and one block north of Indiana Route 56 east of U.S. Route 31 and Interstate 65.  The Scottsburg Train Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of three town sites on the register.  (The other two are the Scott County Home and the Courthouse Square.)

Scottsburg, Indiana, a town built by the railroad, and a town with a little bit of history.

The Sully Historic Site, Chantilly, Virginia

The Sully Plantation Home

What is the Sully Historic Site?  When it was built by Richard Bland Lee in 1794, it was known as Sully Plantation.  Who is Richard Bland Lee?  He was the first congressman to ever represent the U.S. state of Virginia in the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.  At the time, Sully Plantation was a respite from the hustle and bustle of Washington.  It was a working plantation with a house, smokehouse, and kitchen that was accessible to the Little River Turnpike.  Richard Bland Lee sold the plantation in 1811, and it went through numerous owners before it was sold to the Fairfax County Park Authority in 1959.  What was once a huge plantation has been reduced with the building of Dulles International Airport on the northwest side of the property and with no access to the Little River Turnpike (U.S. Route 50 today and has been renamed the Lee Jackson Memorial Highway).  Today, you can visit what remains of Sully Plantation.  The house is open for tours, and you can visit the kitchen, the smokehouse, one of the slave cabins, and an old schoolhouse that was brought to the property for preservation.  There are also hiking trails where you can see Cain’s Branch which was the plantation’s water supply.  When you visit the Sully Historic Site, you will not notice that you are in suburban Washington D.C., but you will make an assumption that you are in the 1790’s.

Some of you are saying, “I think this is amazing.  The home of the very first congressman to represent Virginia was spared from being demolished by developers to build houses there.  There is one very big and enormous problem.  What is the very big and enormous problem?  This place has no railroads here.  This place has nothing to do with the railroad.  This place is no where near a railroad.  This place has no railroad history.  Therefore, there will be no history of me visiting the Sully Historic Site.”

Well, you have a good point.  There is no railroad here nor was there ever a railroad here, and none of the owners had anything to do with the railroad.  The nearest railroad access was in Herndon, Virginia which was a good ways north of here and is now a rail trail.  Today, the nearest active railroad is in Manassas, Virginia which is a good ways south of here.  (There was also a rail line for military use during the American Civil War in nearby Centreville that was short lived.)  So, you are absolutely right.  The Sully Historic Site has no railroad history.

That almost was not the case.

As mentioned, the nearest active rail line is in Manassas, Virginia.  It is owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway today, but the line was originally built by the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.  Manassas was originally called Manassas Junction because it was established at a junction with the Manassas Gap Railroad.  While the Manassas Gap Railroad ran train between Manassas Junction and to towns like Marshall and Front Royal, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad ran between the town of Orange, Virginia and the city Alexandria, Virginia.  What is so significant about this?  Back in the day, Alexandria, Virginia was a major port city.  At once time, it was the fifth busiest port in the United States of America.  Goods and products from Europe and other points from around the world was brought to the port of Alexandria.  Goods were placed on the trains, and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad took them west to towns that did not have access to the ports.  One of their stops was Manassas where goods where transferred to the Manassas Gap Railroad.  Well, the Manassas Gap Railroad wanted some of the profits that the Orange and Alexandria Railroad was getting with the access to the ports of Alexandria.  They came with the idea of building their own railroad line to Alexandria.  The line would branch off in the town of Gainesville, a town west of Manassas, and it was to parallel along the Little River Turnpike all the way to the port in Alexandria.  The railroad bed was built, but the Manassas Gap Railroad ran out of money.  The tracks were never laid, and it became known as ‘The Unfinished Railroad’.  Today, although some of the railroad bed was preserved, some of the railroad bed is now houses, townhouses, and apartments.

Trees Covering the Railroad Cut of the Manassas Gap Railroad

What does this have to do with the Sully Historic Site?  As you enter the property less than a quarter mile (300 meters) from the entry gate, you will see what looks like a creek bed on your left, but this creek bed is straight.  What you are seeing is what could have been the Manassas Gap Railroad running across Sully Plantation.  Because the railroad ran out of money, it never happened.

Looking into What Was to Be the Bed of the Manassas Gap Railroad

Now you see how the Sully Historic Site has a history with the railroad.  If you are ever in the Washington D.C. area, it is a great place to visit.

The Sully Historic Site is located at 3650 Historic Sully Way in Chantilly, Virginia.  It is just of Virginia Route 28, it is one mile north of U.S. Route 50, six miles north of Interstate 66 and U.S. Route 29, and five miles south of the terminal of Dulles International Airport.  The grounds are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm every day.  There is no admission to walk the grounds and to see the old railroad bed of ‘The Unfinished Railroad’.  The trails are mainly level but may be difficult for wheelchairs.  House tours are available Thursday to Sunday.  You can get more information at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/sully-historic-site/tours.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Washington D.C. / Maryland

The Ruins of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Georgetown in Washington D.C.

In the early days of the continent of North America, settlers came to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and they began to migrate west.  Towns were established across the land.  The only access to these towns were by horse or by horse and buggy.  The further they went inland, the less access they had to a navigable waterway.  Many canals were built to give boat access to these towns to navigable waterways and to the ocean.  One of these canals was the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  With the Potomac River unnavigable north of Washington D.C., the canal was built along the north side (Maryland side) of the Potomac River.  It was going to allow boats to go from the Chesapeake Bay to the Ohio River in what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Ruins of a Canal Lock in Georgetown

In the early years of the canal, business was booming.  Towns like Brunswick, Maryland and Williamsport, Maryland benefitted from the canal.  Barged were pulled by mules along what was called a tow path through various locks, a place where boats entered to adjust to the different water levels, along the canal.  Each canal lock was operated by a family who was given a house and lived at the canal lock (some families were responsible for numerous locks if they were close together) year round.  Boats were pulled from the entry of the canal in Georgetown in Washington D.C. all the way to… Cumberland, Maryland.  Through the years, there were floods, and many of these floods did damage to the canal.

A Replica Canal Boat

Although it is called the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the canal never made it to the Ohio River.  The canal was to follow the Potomac River to the town of Grantsville, Maryland where it was to go north into Pennsylvania and cross the Eastern Continental Divide.  The section between Cumberland, Maryland and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was never built.  Why?

The company that built the canal ran out of money.  There was also another thing.  What was that?

A Lock House Where the Working Family Lived

When they railroad began in Baltimore, Maryland, the railroad was able to get to towns much faster than boats.  The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built rail lines to the Maryland towns of Point of Rocks and Brunswick and the West Virginia town of Harper’s Ferry, all three of which were served by the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  The Western Maryland Railway built lines to the Maryland towns of Williamsport and Hancock which are two other towns served by the canal.  The railroad had stations near the town center making the railroad much easier to access, and a waterway is not required to build the railroad.  You can say that the railroad was partly to blame for the demise of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

Today, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is in ruins with a few sections preserved in the way it looks when it was a navigable canal.  It is now owned by the National Park Service.  The tow path remains and is used as a hiking trail from Georgetown to Cumberland.  Some access points to the park require a fee.

As you walk along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, you see what was once a thriving waterway that was never completed.  Much of the canal basins are filled with trees.  You see the ruins of the locks.  You see what remains and is now being reclaimed by nature.  You see a canal that was ruined by the railroad.

Fort Smith, Fort Smith, Arkansas

Fort Smith in the U.S. state of Arkansas is a town that was built around, well, a fort.  It was actually the site of two forts at the same location.  The forts were situated on the Arkansas River across from the U.S. state of Oklahoma.  The fort was a built on what was the frontier at the time.  Today, it is owned by the National Park Service. Much of the walls are gone, but you can visit what was once the barracks, jail, and courthouse, all in one building.  You can see a replica of a gallows as numerous hangings took place here.  If you are ever in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Fort Smith is a must see.

Some of you are saying, “This is nice that they were able to preserve the site, but since the site has nothing to do with the railroad, you will not see me here.”

It was the site of two forts.  It is also the site of an old train station.

Although the old Frisco Depot at Fort Smith has no history with the fort itself, it is a part of the national park.  It was built by the Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco for short) in the early 1900’s.  It saw passenger service until the 1960’s.  Today, the trains only pass by with the exception of the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad that has excursions here.  The depot is currently not open to the public, but you can get a glimpse of what it was like when it was a passenger station.

The Old Frisco Train Depot is located at the Fort Smith National Historic Site at 301 Parker Avenue in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  It is just off U.S. Route 64 and Arkansas Route 255.  The park grounds are open from Sunrise to sunset and are wheelchair accessible.

The Der Hochbeinige

Hans was in the dining room eating with his sister, Katarina.  Their father and mother walk in.

FATHER: Sie da. Erraten Sie, was?  [Translation: Hey there.  Guess what?]

HANS: Was?  [Translation: What?]

FATHER: Ich habe Fahrkarten für die Der Hochbeinige.  [Translation: I have tickets to ride the Der Hochbeinige.]

HANS: Yay! Wir fahren mit der Der Hochbeinige. Was ist die Der Hochbeinige?  [Translation: Yay!  We are riding the Der Hochbeinige.  What is the Der Hochbeinige?]

FATHER: Es ist ein Zug.  [Translation: It is a train.]

HANS: Yay! Ich möchte mit dem Zug fahren.  [Translation: Yay! Ich möchte mit dem Zug fahren.]

KATARINA: Aber Papa, der Zug ist in Deutschland, und den Flug können wir uns nicht leisten.  [Translation: But papa, the train is in Germany, and we cannot afford the airfare.]

FATHER: Wir müssen nicht nach Deutschland. Wir müssen nur nach Williamsburg, Virginia.  [Translation: We do not have to go to Germany.  We just have to go to Williamsburg, Virginia.]

Hans and Katarina looked at each other.

HANS: Warum sprechen wir Deutsch, wenn wir hier in Amerika sind?  [Translation: Why are we speaking German when we are here in America?]

Everyone looked at each other.

Yes, you can ride the Der Hochbeinige.  No, you do not need to fly to Germany.  You only need to head to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.  No passport is needed, and you do not need to learn how to speak German.  The people at Busch Gardens prefer that you speak English.  The Der Hochbeinige is a miniature replica of a steam train that would have operated in Europe that pulls the Preussische Staatbahn tender (the car behind the steam locomotive).  As the Der Hochbeinige is German themed, they also operate the Balmoral Castle, a train with a Scottish theme, and you can ride the Alpen Express, a mountain themed train that was originally run at a theme park in the southwest region of the U.S. state of Virginia.  (The park is no longer open.)  Each train makes stops along the way.  Go to https://buschgardens.com/williamsburg/ to get more information.

“The Luck of the Irish Railroad Worker”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Through the centuries, people came to the land known as America, and they continued to come when the Declaration of Independence was signed establishing the United States of America.  Among those people were the Irish who escaped the famine in Ireland, and many passed by the American flag that rises over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, and they settled a community in the southern part of the city.  When a railroad was being established in their community, the Irish applied and were hired as workers.  In the early years of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Irish workers built the tracks from the Mount Clare Station to what would become the town of Ellicott Mills.  (It is now Ellicott City, Maryland.)  They serviced the trains in the Mount Clare Shops.  They repaired the tracks.  At the end of the day, they went home to their rowhouses that were within blocks of the roundhouse and shops.

Rowhouses on Lemmon Street in Baltimore, Maryland, Home of the Irish Railroad Workers Museum

Today, the community remains.  What were once the shops is now the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum (https://www.borail.org/), and you can see where the Irish worked, and you can ride the first mile and a half of track laid in North America, track that was laid by the Irish.  While there, you can take a look around at the oldest collection of railroad rolling stock in the world. Once you are finished, you can walk one block north and visit the Irish Railroad Workers Museum (https://www.irishshrine.org/) and tour a home of James Feely who worked at the Mount Clare Shops and built the railroad.  You can see how he and his family lived, and tours are available of the surrounding community where the Irish lived.

The Mount Clare Shops and Roundhouse in Baltimore, Maryland, Home of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum

On this Saint Patrick’s Day, a day we remember an Irish saint, take the time to remember those who help build North America’s first railroad.

Train Station Museum, Mount Airy, Maryland

Old Train Station, Mount Airy, Maryland

The town of Mount Airy in the U.S. state of Maryland is a town in the northern region of the state.  It is a town that was an industrial town that was aided by the ‘National Road’ and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  The railroad no longer passes through the town, but the train station remains.  It is now the home of a pharmacy and the Train Station Museum.

The Train Station Museum tells the story of the railroad in the town.  You see display boards showing photos of the days of Mount Airy being a railroad town.  You see how the railroad served the mills, and there is a model train display that shows what the town originally looked like when the railroad came through.

The Mount Airy Train Station Museum is owned and operated by the Historical Society of Mount Airy, Maryland.  It is located at 1 Main Street (Maryland Route 808).  It is minutes from Interstate 70, U.S. Route 40, and Maryland Route 27.  It is open each Saturday and Sunday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm.  Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted.  Parking is free and on site next to the old train station, and the museum is wheelchair accessible.  You can read more about the museum at https://www.historicalsocietyofmountairymd.org.

The town of Mount Airy, Maryland is a much different town than it was when it was a railroad town, but the town has not forgotten its railroad heritage.  An old caboose from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad sits across Main Street next to what was once the old rail line which is now a walking trail that runs from the old train station to a nearby park.  It may be a different town, but much of the town is still the same.

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Caboose Number C-2095 in Mount Airy, Maryland

The Asa Packer Mansion, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

The Home of Asa Packer in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

The town of Jim Thorpe in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania is a town named after a famous U.S. Olympian.  Originally founded as Mauch Chunk, it was named after the athlete in 1954.  The town sits in a valley of the Lehigh River with the mountains rising above it.  It is in the center of the coal mining region, and it was where a revolt against the mine owners lead by a group known as the ‘Molly Maguires’ took place and where their execution also happened.  (The site of their execution, the Mauch Chunk Jail, is now a museum.)  The town also became the home of Asa Packer.  Who is Asa Packer?  He was a politician, and he was also the founder of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Saint Luke’s Hospital.  He also owned a boat company where he used boats to transport coal to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by way of the Lehigh Canal.  Today, you can visit the home of Asa Packer in Jim Thorpe.

Some of you are saying, “This is amazing.  They name a town after an athlete.  As for Asa Packer, he appears to be a great man.  However, he is not a railroad man.  Therefore, I do not think I will visit his home.”

As mentioned, Asa Packer was the owner of a boat company that shipped coal by way of a canal.  He approached the company about using a railroad to transport the coal.  The company did not like his idea.  Did that stop Asa Packer?  No.  He became a stockholder in a railroad and was the founder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad where he became the president.  He built railroads to connecting town in the region.

Today, when you visit the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, one of the first sites you will see is the Central Railroad of New Jersey Station that once was a train station for passenger train service, but it is now a station for the Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern excursion train and the Lehigh Valley Scenic Railroad, and it is also the town visitor center and houses a small museum telling the history of the town.  The Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad also has a freight yard here, and freight trains still pass through here.  The Norfolk Southern Railway also comes close to the town.  You can see much of the original railroad bed of the Lehigh Valley Railroad which is across the river from the town center, and you can visit the Jim Thorpe Market which was built on the site of the old Lehigh Valley Railroad station.  You can also hike and bike the Delaware and Lehigh Rail Trail.  All of this was made possible by a man whose home sits on a hill overlooking the train station.

The Asa Packer Mansion is a National Historic Landmark.  It is open from April to October and a few weekends in December.  You can more information at http://www.asapackermansion.com/.  Please note that you must climb stairs and a steep hill to get to the mansion and that the mansion is not wheelchair accessible.  There is no parking at the mansion.  The nearest parking is at the town lot next to the train station and is accessible from U.S. Route 209.

Next time you are thinking about Jim Thorpe, you can think about a great athlete, and you can think about the man, Asa Packer who made Jim Thorpe a railroad town.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton

A Bust of Charles Carroll of Carrollton at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Who was Charles Carroll of Carrollton?  He was born on September 19, 1737, in Annapolis, Maryland, and he died on November 14, 1832, in Baltimore.  He was a politician serving as the first United States Senator for the U.S. state of Maryland.  He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and the Confederation Congress.  He was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

His list of accomplishments is very long.  However, there is one thing that many fans of the railroad are very proud of.

A Painting at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

He was living at a home known as Mount Clare in Baltimore, Maryland.  What was special about Mount Clare?  It was Charles Carroll who donated his land to allow the first railroad in North America to be built.

The Mount Clare House in Baltimore, Maryland, the home of Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Today, you can visit the home that donated the land for the railroad although much of the original land has been built upon.  You can also ride the first mile and a half of railroad in North America.  You can get more information at www.borail.org and www.mountclare.org.

The First Stone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

The next time you see a train, remember the name Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a man who helped start it all.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Number 51 at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

Veterans Memorial, Welch, West Virginia

Veterans Memorial, Welch, West Virginia

There is something special about the small towns in the United States of America.  Sadly, small towns are not visited as often as the big cities and beach towns, but many of the small towns have something special.  Many small towns have memorials to those who have served in the military.  One of them is the town of Welch in the southern region of the U.S. state of West Virginia.  Although many veterans memorials are in the town center, the memorial in Welch is outside the town where all of the main routes meet.  Just like many other memorials dedicated to the military, it makes you reflect and think of those who gave their lives so that we could live ours.  If you are in the area of Welch, West Virginia, take the time to stop at the veterans memorial.

Some of you are saying, “I love to see the memorials that honor the veterans of the military.  They made great sacrifices for us, but what does this have to do with the railroad?”

Well, it is a good question.  The railroad played a role in many wars to include the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II.  As for the town of Welch, although the railroad does pass on the west side with a small spur to a warehouse, the town is not a railroad town and does not have much in the history of the railroad.

To answer the question, let us go back in time.

World War II featured many battles that involved the United States of America.  One of the most significant to place on June 6, 1944.  The United States, Great Britain, and other nations landed on a beach in the French province of Normandy.  The German armies had taken over much of France, and the United States, Great Britain, and other nations joined forces came to force them out.  It is to date the largest invasion in the history of the world.  Although the Germans had the height advantage and were able to kill many men on the beach, they were eventually defeated, and the German army lost control of France surrendering a year later.  As a thank you, a train, known as ‘The Merci Train’ or ‘The French Gratitude Train’ that consisted of forty-nine ‘Merci Cars’, boxcars made of wood that was built for each U.S. state (except Alaska) that was filled what was known as ‘gifts of gratitude’, was brought to New York City, and each car was taken to each state.  Most of the Merci Cars (‘merci’ is thanks in French) still remain on display to this day.

What is special about the Veterans Memorial in Welch, West Virginia?  Not only does it honor the war veterans, but it is also where you will find the Merci Car for the state of West Virginia.  Now you see what makes this memorial special.

The Veterans Memorial in Welch, West Virginia is located at the intersection of U.S. Route 52, West Virginia Route 16, and West Virginia Route 103.  There is a small parking area on Route 16.