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A One Way Ride

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They were at the train station.  The father, mother, brother and sister were hugging Jimmy as he was boarding the train.  He was headed off to fight the war.  After a long farewell, Jimmy had to get aboard the train.  They watched as the train pulled away, and it was finally out of sight.  It was a sad day to see this train on this day.

Sadly, it was the last time they saw Jimmy as he lost his life in battle.

Throughout the years many families have watched their children, their brothers and their sisters of the military board that train, and they watch them for the very last time.  They watch the trains leaving not knowing if they will ever return home again.  On this Memorial Day, let us remember those men and women who boarded the train to go to war only to not return.  Let us remember those who died in service.  Most important of all, they died defending the people so that we can watch trains and enjoy those train rides.

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Perryville Railroad Museum, Perryville, Maryland

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Where is Perryville, Maryland?  If you were asked that question, most of you would have no idea where the town is, and you would say that you have never been anywhere near this town.  The truth is that if you have driven along Interstate 95 or U.S. Route 40 or have taken an Amtrak train between Baltimore and Wilmington, Delaware, you have passed through Perryville.  Some of you may have stopped at the truck stop.  It is on the eastern shore of the Susquehanna River where it empties out into the Chesapeake Bay.  Perryville has been a town that millions of people have passed.  Before Interstate 95, U.S. 40 and Amtrak, Perryville was a ferry port where people crossed the river from Havre de Grace to continue on their journeys.  Among those travelers was George Washington, the first President of the United States and Commander of the Continental Army who made notes in his diary about the stops he made at what is now Rodgers Tavern which is still in its original location and was where many travelers would eat and spend the night.   (You can visit Rodgers Tavern for tours on the weekends.)  It is a little known town whose history predates the United States with the discovery of the land by Captain John Smith, and it has been a factor in the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War and to railroads.  It is here where you will find the Perryville Railroad Museum.

Opened in December of 1996 in what was originally the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot of Perryville but is now the Marc Train Station, the Perryville Railroad Museum does have its normal artifacts, but it honors the railroad workers of Perryville and displays the railroad heritage of the Perryville region.  It has photos from the town from years past as well as a model train display depicting the railroad junction where the museum is situated today.  They have a large collection of old railroad magazines.  The best part of visiting this museum is to stand outside and watch the trains roll on by.  It is a small place, but it has much to offer.

The Perryville Railroad Museum, as mentioned, is located inside the Marc Train Station in Perryville, Maryland located at 650 Broad Street (Maryland Route 7) in between the two railroad bridges.  Admission is free, but they will gladly accept your donations to help keep this gem of a museum operational.  It is run by volunteers of the Perryville Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society.  It is open every Saturday and Sunday from 12:00noon to 4:00pm.  It is just a short ten minute drive from Interstate 95 and five minutes from U.S. 40.  You can go to http://www.perryvillemd.org/transportation/pages/perryville-railroad-museum to find more information about the museum.

A Day Watching Trains

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It was a bright and sunny day.  Johnny and his mother were sitting in the living room watching the television.

“Can we go watch trains?” Johnny shouted.

They got into the car, and they went down to the rail park.  They sat on the bench waiting for a train.

“Where’s the train?” Johnny asked.

“It will be here.”

An hour went by.  No trains had come.  Johnny became very worried.  Another hour went by, and there were still no trains.

“What happened to the trains?” Johnny asked.

“I don’t know,” said his mother.  “They must not be running today.”

“But they have to run,” said Johnny.

Another hour went by.  No trains had come.  Johnny was very dejected.  The mother grabbed his arm, and they were about to leave… but there was the sound of a horn.  They looked down the tracks, and they saw lights.  Johnny’s face lit up as the train approached, and he began to count each car as it went by.  Finally, the last car went by, and they waved bye to the train.

“Almost dinner time,” the mother said.  “Time to go home.”

They went back into the car and went home.

To all of the mothers and grandmothers who took their children to see the trains and to future mothers who will be taking their children to watch the trains have a Happy Mother’s Day.

The Story of Bowie, Maryland

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When people think about the town of Bowie, Maryland, they think of it as that town that they breeze through between Annapolis and Washington D.C. along U.S. Route 50.  Most people will say that there is really nothing in Bowie but houses and a few shopping centers, and that there is really nothing particular to the town.  Well, if you knew that it is the largest town in Prince George’s County, Maryland, that it is the fifth most populated town in the U.S. state of Maryland, the third largest town in land area in the state of Maryland, one of the largest suburban cities of Washington D.C., the home of a race track, the Belair Mansion and Belair Stable Museums which was once a colonial plantation house plus a few other historic homes, and that it is the home of the National Radio and Television Museum which is housed in an old home, you cannot say that there is not much to the town of Bowie.  It is a town that has much more that you can imagine.

Now some of you are saying, “Wow! I never knew that about Bowie, and all I ever thought about was that town we breeze through on U.S. 50 on the way to the beach.  Then again, there are no railroads in this town.  Therefore, you will not see me stopping over here.”

As mentioned, Bowie is fifth in population and third in land area in the U.S. state of Maryland.  It all began in a section of town that was first known as Huntington City but is now known as ‘Old Bowie’, the oldest part of the town.  Today, Maryland Route 564 passes through this section.  (Maryland Route 197 originally passed through here but has been rerouted.)  When you visit this part of town, you will notice something.  You will notice the electrified railroad line with the wires overhead.  It is this spot on the electrified railroad where Bowie began as a small railroad stop to the town you see, enjoy and breeze through today.

Who is the town named after?  The name of the town is also a bit of railroad history.  A man by the name of Walter Bowie, a newspaper writer who wrote under the name ‘Patuxent Planter’ was the leading advocate to bring a railroad into Southern Maryland.  He, along with Thomas Fielder Bowie, William Duckett Bowie and Oden Bowie (who later became the governor of Maryland and for whom the town is named after) approached the Maryland General Assembly in hopes of getting their idea approved.  On May 6, 1853, the Maryland General Assembly chartered ‘The Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Company’.  In 1861, construction began, but it was stalled by the Civil War.  The railroad was eventually built from Baltimore into Southern Maryland with different branch lines to serve the town of Upper Marlboro and continued south into Port Tobacco and to the Potomac River and into Saint Mary’s County.  Service began in 1872.  Oden Bowie was the first president of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad, and, in 1873, was the president of the Baltimore City Passenger Railway.  A railroad line was later built to Washington D.C. and was operated by the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad.  ‘Old Bowie’ continued to grow around this junction.  In 1902, the Pennsylvania Railroad took over full control of the railroad and eventually electrified the tracks.

The Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad built an electric trolley line south of the old town.  This line enabled the erection of the Bowie Race Track and a school for African-Americans that later became Bowie State University.

Today, the line into Southern Maryland is still in service but only as a freight line for coal trains.  The electrified line is now owned by Amtrak and runs high speed trains between Washington D.C. and Boston, Massachusetts, and it also has Marc commuter trains running along the line with a stop at Bowie State University.  Next to the junction is the Bowie Railroad Museum where you can see and read about the railroad history, and you can see a model of the original town and what it looked like back in the day.  The museum also has an old caboose from the Baltimore and Ohio Chessie System and an old yard tower that was relocated to where it is today from its original location to be a part of the museum.  (The original passenger station no longer exists.)  It is located at 8614 Chestnut Avenue and is open Tuesday to Sunday 10:00am to 4:00pm.  Admission is free, but they appreciate any donation you give.  You can read more at http://www.cityofbowie.org/293/Bowie-Railroad-Museum.  The Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis trolley line is now a rail trail.  It is accessible from Hill Meade Road and other location through Bowie.

So, the next time you are roaring through Bowie on the way to Annapolis or the beach, remember that you are passing through history… railroad history.

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The Railroad: In the Beginning

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So you love railroads.  You love the toot of the horn, the sound of the roaring engine, the sounds of the wheels, and you count the cars as they go by.  Whether you are at the junction at Wellington Road in Manassas or at one of the VRE stations in Woodbridge, you are always drawn to the train.  Did you know that being in Prince William County that you are a little over an hour’s drive from where it all started?  It all began in the city of Baltimore.

Your journey begins at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum.  It is at this very place where the railroad began in America.  Housed in the Mount Clare Roundhouse where locomotives and train cars were serviced and repaired, you will see a collection of some of the oldest locomotives in the world to include the Thacker Perkins which pulled the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln and the Number 1 shay locomotive used on the logging trains of Cass, West Virginia.  In case you are wondering, they cannot find everything in the roundhouse.  You must exit the roundhouse to find more of the rolling stock to include locomotives, box cars, passenger cars, hospital cars, cabooses and so much more, but wait, there is an old shop building across the way.  In here is where you will find the 5300 George Washington and the Alleghany locomotives.  Now you only think that you have seen everything, but there is more.  You are at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum, the museum of America’s first railroad.  Why not ride the first mile and a half of track.  Yes, you can ride a train the very first section of track in America.

So now you think you have seen it all.  Well, you have not.  While on the train, you were shown a mansion.  It is not just a mansion.  It is Mount Clare.  Yes, the roundhouse is named after this house.  Why?  Mount Clare is the home of John Carroll, Barrister.  The house predates the city of Baltimore which was built around the home that was once a plantation.  The home was handed down to James Carroll, and it was James who donated some of the land for the railroad, and the roundhouse was named in his honor.  You can access the house from the train, or you can take a five minute drive from the B&O Museum.

Be advised that you are not finished yet.  Just one block away on Lemmon Street is the Irish Railroad Workers Museum.  Housed in old row houses, the museum depicts the life of an Irish family who came to America, and the father worked at the Mount Clare Shops.  The curator of the museum cannot wait to show off their Irish heritage and how they shaped the community around the Mount Clare Shops.

There is more.  From the Baltimore and Ohio Museum, you can take the National Road, yes, the National Road west, and you make your way into the town of Ellicott City, a town built on the milling industry.  It is also the home to the oldest railroad station in America.  It is no longer a train station but a museum where you can see how the ticket agent lived and where the passengers waited.  You can also enter the old freight house and see a model train display laid out in the way Ellicott City was in the days of passenger service.  There is also an old caboose that you can climb into.  If you are fortunate enough, you may see a freight train go by on the same track that brought passengers to the station.

After all of this, there is still more.  You can make your way to Elkridge, Maryland, and you can see the Thomas Viaduct, the oldest viaduct in America, and trains still cross this viaduct today.

Now you have just spent the day seeing the places where the railroad began in America.  The next time you go train watching, you can tell your rail watching buddies that you have seen the very beginning.

You can get information about the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum, the Mount Clare House and the Baltimore and Ohio Museum: Ellicott City Station at www.borail.org.  You can get information about the Irish Workers Railroad Museum at www.irishshrine.org.

Sykesville and Patapsco Railroad, Sykesville, Maryland

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About twenty miles west of Baltimore and forty miles north of Washington D.C. off of Maryland Route 32 is the town of Sykesville, Maryland.  Once a mill and farming town, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was extended there from Ellicott City to better connect the town with the ports in Baltimore.  Today, it is a charming small town on the Patapsco River with little shops and an old train depot that is now a restaurant.  Across the parking lot from the depot are an old train car from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and a caboose from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  It is here where you will find the Sykesville and Patapsco Railroad, a model railroad club.

You enter into the Chesapeake and Ohio car, and you see a large O-scale display before you.  You watch the trains go around and around and around.  You glance at the screen above the display and watch live video of the train rolling around making you a park of the model train journey.  You have a conversation with one of the volunteers who talks to you of the display and of the organization.  From there, you walk to a smaller HO-scale display with one train running around a mountain scene.  From there, you make your way to the caboose, and you see the N-scale display.  The volunteer explains to you about the display and the people who put it together.  After a little while, you leave the caboose.  You look at the old tower which now serves as the town post office and visitor center.  You see the old rails running through the parking lot and across the street.  You acquire the sense of this being a railroad town that once was.  After peaking at the old blue rusted caboose next to the tracks, you grab a bite to eat at the old train station to complete your experience.

Made up of rail enthusiasts and volunteers, the Sykesville and Patapsco Railway, named after the town and the nearby Patapsco River, builds and operates model train displays from N-scale, O-scale and S-scale to HO-scale.  They operate open houses on select Sunday throughout the year.  They are located at 731 Oklahoma Avenue in Sykesville, Maryland.  Admission is free, but they accept donations to help pay for the expenses to keep the trains running.  They are a non-profit organization.  You can read more into their history and see when you can attend their next open house at http://www.sprailway.org.

When you visit the town of Sykesville, you will not see it as a typical little town.  You will see it as a town with a hidden railroad past.

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Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach, Virginia

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You think of Virginia Beach, Virginia, you think of, of course, the beach.  As a suburb of Norfolk, you also have a few military bases.  It would be the perfect place to have the Military Aviation Museum, home of the largest collection of World War I and World War II era aircraft in the world.  You come here and see all kinds of military aircraft from the United States, Great Britain and Germany, and much of the aircraft can still be flown today.  Being that this is also an active airport, military planes are occasionally flown in during air shows that are hosted throughout the year.  You can also get a ride in the planes as well.  If you love military aircraft, the Military Aviation Museum is definitely a must see.

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Now some of you are saying, “It is so cool to see all of these planes.  However, I am a fan of trains.  Therefore, I have no reason to visit this museum.”

The Military Aviation Museum is about planes, but for the railroad fan, there is something special for you to see.

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You arrive at the museum.  You tour the visitor center on your own.  You see different aircraft plus some of the arsenal used in combat.  You are then taken on a guided tour of two hangars.  The first is the British hangar where you can see all of the British aircraft.  You are taken past the restoration hangar when some of the aircraft is being restored.  You then make your way to the German hangar.  The tour guide tells you about each of the planes in detail.  He then takes you outside and points out… a train.  Here, you will see a narrow gauge railroad used by the Germans to transport weaponry and other supplies to and from regions of their battles.  Unfortunately, it is only a little longer than the hangar, and it is currently just for display and does not run.  What you will see is a little German military railroad history.

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The Military Aviation Museum is located at 1341 Princess Anne Road in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Please note that it is ten miles south of the Boardwalk and is not accessible by public transportation.  The hours are 9:00am to 5:00pm every day.  (It is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.)  Admission is $15.00 for adults with discounts for children, seniors and military veterans.  You can get more information at http://militaryaviationmuseum.org.