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He was nineteen. He was standing with his parents, his brother, and his sister at the train station. As the train was pulling up, they hugged each other. He boarded the train. They waved as the train pulled out of the station.
What they did not know was that it was a one way ticket.
He died in battle.
For many soldiers in wartime, it is a one way ticket. They board the train to head for battle, and they do not come back.
On this Memorial Day, we remember the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, Navy Seals who boarded the train only to find that they had a one way ticket.
A special thanks to the Everett Railroad Company in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the Exchange Hotel and Civil War Medicine Museum in Gordonsville, Virginia, and the East Broad Top Railroad for supplying the models and for their service and honor of those who serve in the Armed Forces.
The U.S. state of Maryland is known for its abundant seafood with the Chesapeake Bay splitting the eastern half of the state in two, and some of the best seafood restaurants in the world can be found in this state. Among these great restaurants is Fisherman’s Inn. Located on the water, Fisherman’s Inn is a great place for seafood lovers, and it has been that place since 1930. For beach goers, it has been a big stop while going to and from the beaches of Ocean City, Maryland, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and Chincoteague, Virginia. The Fisherman’s Inn is a great place where you can get a great meal.
Some of you are saying, “This is great. I love seafood, and I love great restaurants. However, there is a big problem. This is a restaurant. It is not just a restaurant. It is a seafood restaurant. It is a great restaurant, but this place has nothing to do with the railroad. Therefore, I will not be having a meal at this place.”
So, what is special about the Fisherman’s Inn? It opened in 1930 in a small shack in the marsh of Kent Narrows by a man was named Captain Alex Thomas and his wife Mae. It started with a restaurant with thirty seats. There was also a small grocery store. They lived upstairs with their two children, and, on occasion, rented the bedrooms to visiting anglers. As the rooms were rented, they slept on the front porch swing. In 1939, they built a second floor with more guest rooms. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened in 1952. This brought more visitors to the Eastern Shore. The restaurant was expanded again when they added a screened porch with more seats for people to sit and eat. It was later taken over by his daughter, Betty, and his son-in-law Oscar ‘Sonny’ Schulz who, in 1971, built a larger restaurant, and, three years later, bought the adjourning property where they opened the Fisherman’s Seafood Market. After a fire that destroyed the restaurant just before Christmas in 1980, the restaurant was rebuilt and reopened months later in July of 1981. The Fisherman’s Crab Deck opened in 1991.
What is special about his son-in-law Oscar ‘Sonny’ Schulz? Yes, he made Fisherman’s Inn the great place it is today, but there is another special thing about him.
As you enter the restaurant, the hostess takes you to your table. You sit, and the waiter or waitress comes, introduces themself, and take your order. Your food comes, and you eat. You have conversation. You drink. You see the décor, but you see something rolling around the ceiling. What is it? It is a ‘G’ scale model train rolling around. What is special about this model train? It was originally installed by Sonny Schulz in December of 1994. It runs on 280 feet (85.34 meters) of track through two tunnels on a supported track that is bolted to the ceiling. If you are afraid it might collapse, the supports are strong enough to hold a full-sized automobile. It runs every day when the restaurant is open. To answer your question, it does have a bell and a whistle that make sounds as it goes by.
Today, the Fisherman’s Inn is a landmark on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It remains in family hands with Andy, Jody, and Tracy, the sons of Oscar and Betty Schulz, and they continue to serve great, delicious food with great, friendly service just as they always have done since the day the restaurant opened, and, today, you can wave at the train as it passes by your table. Along with the restaurant, the Fisherman’s Inn also has the Nauti Mermaid Bar, a small garden behind the restaurant that has a small pond with Koi, and a Fresh Seafood Market. The Crab Deck Restaurant, which is behind the Seafood Market, sits on the site of a former seafood processing plant that was family owned. It is open from during the warmer months, April to October, where hammering those crabs is what many enjoy.
Fisherman’s Inn is located at 3116 Main Street (Maryland Route 18) in Grasonville, Maryland. It is just off U.S. Routes 50 and 301. It is open from 11:00am to 9:00pm (9:30pm Friday and Saturday). There is parking on site, and the restaurant is wheelchair accessible.
The next time you are thinking about seafood while driving along the Eastern Shore Region of Maryland, make a stop at Fisherman’s Inn. It is a place where you will enjoy a great meal with great service while watching a train roll right over your table. Sadly, the train is not accepting passengers.
The small town of Gretna in the U.S. state of Virginia in the southern-southwestern region of the state is a town that is not popular with travelers. It is a suburb of Danville, and the town’s commercial district is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is home to historic structures like Yates Tavern (also on the National Register of Historic Places), the Gretna Theater, and Lavalette House which now houses a restaurant.
Some of you are saying, “This is nice, but does this town have anything to do with the railroad?”
The town of Gretna, Virginia is a town that benefitted from the railroad. In 1874, the Lynchburg and Danville Railroad came to Gretna. In 1879, the railroad line was taken over by the Franklin and Pittsylvania Railroad which built a passenger and freight depot and a post office. Many trains passed through here. A famous train passed through here. What was that train? It was the ‘Old 97’. What was the ‘Old 97’? It was a train that had a famous wreck in Danville.
The passenger and freight depot are gone, but the trains still pass through, and is now owned by Norfolk Southern Railway. The Franklin Junction Historic Railroad Park was erected to remember the railroad town it once was. The park is a small park that consists of a caboose from the Southern Railroad which passed through here before the Norfolk Southern Railroad came through, and it has two benches with Number 1102 steam locomotive welded into the benches itself. It is a small park that keeps the railroad a big part of Gretna’s Heritage.
The Franklin Junction Historic Railroad is located at 105 Main Street (U.S. Business Route 29). It north of Virginia Route 40 and is easily accessible from U.S. Route 29. Park is on the street, and admission is free. It is open twenty-four hours a day. Therefore, you can visit anytime. If you are fortunate enough, Norfolk Southern Railroad may reward your visit by rolling on by.
So, if you are taking a drive along U.S. Route 29 in southern Virginia, take a short detour through the town of Gretna. It is a little town with a big railroad past.
Some of you are saying, “Oh, that is simple. It is a rocket called Durbin that astronauts boarded and rode into outer space.”
Well, that is not the correct answer. It is not an actual rocket that is launched into outer space. It is a name of a train that departed from the small town of Durbin, West Virginia, and it ran along the Greenbrier River ended at a picnic area before returning to the town of Durbin. A ride on the Durbin Rocket departed from a vintage train depot that housed a small museum and gave you great views of the river.
In 2021, the town of Durbin, West Virginia lost the rocket. What happened?
The Durbin Rocket departs from the depot at Cass, West Virginia, the home of the Cass Scenic Railroad making its way along the Greenbrier River. It gives you another reason to visit the historic town of Cass. The same vintage train that pumped steam into the air in Durbin is now pumping steam next to a train that has pumped steam for a century, but the Durbin Rocket will not be climbing up to Bald Knob, but it will be taking riders along the Greenbrier River north of Cass. The truth is that only the location has changed, but the beauty of West Virginia and the Greenbrier River remains.
The Durbin Rocket is part of the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad. The Durbin Rocket also has ‘Castaway Caboose’ where you ride in a caboose and is taken to a remote location where you spend a night in the caboose itself. Reservations are required. Please note that the cars are not wheelchair accessible. You can get more information at https://mountainrailwv.com/#/.
Take a ride on the Durbin Rocket. It may not take you to outer space, but you will see amazing scenery. Astronaut training is not required to ride the train.
Have you ever heard of the small town of Walkersville, Maryland? You have never heard of the town of Walkersville, Maryland? If you have never heard of this town, you are in the majority. There are probably people who live nearby who have never heard of this town. It is a very remote town with the only major route is Maryland Route 194 which passes on the outside of the town and not through the center as many major routes tend to do in this present day.
So what is here in the town of Walkersville?
This small town was once a stop on the Pennsylvania Railroad that served Frederick which is just south of here. The line changed ownership to the Penn Central Railroad, and, years later, service to Frederick was discontinued. The line was abandoned. The bridge over the Monocacy River was destroyed by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, and a section of track is now buried under the reconstruction of Maryland Route 26 at its interchange with U.S. Route 15. These tracks never saw trains on them again.
But the train made a comeback.
In the 1990’s, the line north of Maryland Route 26 was cleared of the overgrowing brush. A new bridge was built over the Monocacy River. The Walkersville Southern Railroad was born. The railroad made its return to this railroad town.
Today, you can take a ride on this train. You just have to make your way to this little hidden town. You can get your tickets at the train depot, the same depot that was used by passengers when the railroad first came to Walkersville although the interior is much different today as it looked when passenger service began. Unlike the old days, you have a handicap accessible ramp to board the train. The Walkersville Southern Railroad may have begun in the late 1990’s, but the passenger cars are from the 1920’s. If passenger cars are not your thing, you can ride in the caboose, or you can ride in an open-air car.
Now comes the moment. The train pulls out of the station, and it heads south. You pass by a park, and you pass behind an old lime kiln. Then you look out over open farmland. At this point, you have no idea that you are in the metropolis of Washington D.C. Then you arrive at the most scenic part of the ride where you ride over the Monocacy River. You may be waving at the kayakers below. You cross what was once Maryland Route 355, and you reach the end of the line.
The Walkersville Southern Railroad is a real treasure of an attraction, and it is a great ride for the entire family or for the simple rail fan. They do regular train excursions, but they also have special trains like wild west robberies, and they have evening dinner trains. (Reservations are strongly recommended for dinner trains.) The great thing about the ride is that it will not drain your wallet dry. Although the train mostly goes south of Walkersville, there are occasional excursion that do go north of the town, and there are plans to expand the excursions. There is also a museum that you can walk through, and you can enjoy a model train. The museum is free to visit.
The Walkersville Southern Railroad is in the town of Walkersville, Maryland at 34 West Pennsylvania Avenue. It is easily accessible from U.S. Route 15 by way of Biggs Ford Road which becomes Pennsylvania Avenue. You will see the train station, and parking is on a grass lot close to the station. You can get more information at http://wsrr.org/.
Now you know about the town of Walkersville, Maryland. It is a little town in the suburbs of Washington D.C. that has a big railroad past.
In December of 1854, the Northern Central Railway was formed by a merger of numerous rail companies. The rail line connected the city of Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland with the city of Harrisburg, the capital of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, and it connected numerous small towns in between. The line was later taken over by the Pennsylvania Railroad. During its time, many towns were formed. There was a man named Abraham Lincoln who rode along this rail line numerous times. He first rode this line when he was on his way to Washington D.C. to take up residence in a house known as the White House to serve the nation as the President of the United States of America. While on his way to Washington D.C., the railroad thwarted the first assassination attempt which was supposed to take place at a station in Baltimore. He went along this line to connect to a train at a place called Hanover Junction while on his way to a Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg. Why was he going to Gettysburg? Months before, a battle of the American Civil War that was the turning point of the battle, known as the ‘Battle of Gettysburg’, took place. He went to the cemetery to honor those who lost their lives fighting for freedom with ‘The Gettysburg Address’. His final ride was when his casket was on its way to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois. Throughout the years, the line changed ownership, but the trains kept rolling on.
Hurricanes Agnes struck the United States of America in the early Summer of 1972 making landfall in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane made its way to the Mid-Atlantic region causing much damage. The tracks that were the Northern Central Railway in the U.S. state of Maryland were destroyed. Penn Central Railroad, the last owner of the rail line, decided to abandon the line between Baltimore, Maryland and York, Pennsylvania. The Northern Central Railway was gone forever.
In Maryland, the tracks were taken up, and it is now the Northern Central Rail Trail except for a stretch of track that is part of the Light Rail Transit System for Baltimore.
What happened in Pennsylvania?
The two-track line (became double-track during World War I) became a single track leaving the one track to remain with the York County Heritage Trail, the northern continuation of the Northern Central Rail Trail, running alongside the rail line. For many years, no trains ran along this line despite that it was still an active rail line.
That changed in 2011.
‘Steam Into History’ began train excursions with a newly built steam locomotive pulling newly built old time passenger cars giving passengers a one of a kind passenger experience. Many have come from across the United States of America and around the world to ride this train. The Number 17 William Simpson York locomotive pulled passengers from its south terminus in the town of New Freedom, Pennsylvania through the towns of Railroad, Glen Rock, and Hanover Junction, the same place where Abraham Lincoln changed trains while on his way to Gettysburg. (Sadly, only a short section of this track remains.)
Today, ‘Steam Into History’ has been rebranded at the Northern Central Railway, and it continues to take passengers along the same route pulled by Number 17 and by a diesel locomotive, and you can now ride to the town of Seven Valleys. The Northern Central Railway is making a comeback, and they are looking to make its way to York.
The region known as the Eastern Shore of the U.S. state of Maryland has many great small towns. (The region is called the Eastern Shore because it is on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay which divides the state.) Among these towns is the coastal town of Tolchester Beach. It is a peaceful quiet town with a few houses with the beach. The only sites in the town are the Kent County Agricultural Center and the Caulks Field Battlefield Memorial where a battle in the War of 1812 took place. Tolchester Beach is a quiet town where the only noise heard is the waters of the Chesapeake Bay splash on the beach.
Some of you are saying, “This is very lovely. I love quiet small towns especially beach towns. The problem is that the is no railroad here. Therefore, I will find no peace and quiet with this town.
The town of Tolchester Beach, Maryland, simply called Tolchester today, except for events at the Kent County Agricultural Center, has been a quiet and peaceful town… since 1962.
Some of you are saying, “What do you mean by ‘since 1962’?”
The peace town you see today was not peaceful and quiet from 1877 to 1962. The town known today as Tolchester was a bustling amusement park. What amusement park? The Tolchester Beach Amusement Park. Steamboats brought people from Baltimore and other towns to Tolchester Beach, and they played games, they watched shows, ate food, and rode the rides. I know. Most amusement parks have games, shows, food, and rides, but one of the main attractions of the park was the miniature steam train. They stood in line to ride the steam train around the loop. When the park was closed in 1962, everything, including the train, was no more. (The train was sold off. It is currently unknown where it is today.
Today, when you take a drive through Tolchester, Maryland, you see houses, a marina, the fairgrounds, and the small beach at the end of Maryland Route 21. There are no signs of an amusement park or of a miniature train. It is a peaceful and quiet little place on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay.
If you would like to see photos of the park, you can go to the ‘Tolchester Beach Amusement Park Tolchester Maryland’ Facebook page where you can also read more into the history of the park itself.
U.S. Route 30, nicknamed the ‘Lincoln Highway’ to honor Abraham Lincoln, is the third longest route in the United States of America (behind U.S. Route 20 and U.S. Route 6) and runs from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast. It passes through numerous states of which Pennsylvania is one of them. It mainly runs along the southern tier of the state passing through the major cities of Philadelphia, home of where the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed, and Pittsburgh, the home of steel manufacturing and other major companies, and through Lancaster, the most famous Amish community in the nation, York, home of the Weightlifting Hall of Fame and a Harley Davidson factory, and Gettysburg, the place where the turning point and one of the greatest battles of the American Civil War took place. It passes through many small towns. One of these small towns is New Oxford.
Some of you are saying, “Wow! This is amazing. U.S. Route 30 passes through the town of New Oxford, Pennsylvania. What is so special about New Oxford, Pennsylvania?”
It is a town that had no famous historical events. It is a town that has nice and fancy houses, and it is also a manufacturing town being home to companies like Pilgrim’s Pride and Aero Energy who works with containers for Blue Rhino. It, as mentioned, is a stop on U.S. Route 30, and it was once a place where the Western Maryland Railway stopped. Where? New Oxford, like many small towns in America, had a train station. Passenger trains no longer stop in New Oxford, but you can visit the train station where the trains once stopped.
Today, this old train station is a museum. On the outside, you see Caboose Number 476582 of the Pennsylvania Railroad, an old Railway Post Office Car, and a few luggage carts. On the inside, you have model train displays with model trains displayed on the walls and in cases. You have a corner of whistles and lanterns. You can step into the old ticket office and get the view that the ticket man once had. You can see the old switchers that once switched the tracks around the station. You can see an old semaphore that was used to signal trains. (A semaphore was a traffic light for trains. Regular light signals are used today.) If you are fortunate enough, you may even see a passing CSX train.
The New Oxford Train Station is run by volunteers. There is no paid staff. It is at 206 Lincoln Highway West (U.S. Route 30) about a quarter mile west of the town square and ten miles east of Gettysburg and U.S. Route 15. It is easy to find because it is on the north side of U.S. Route 30 at the railroad crossing. It is open every first and third Sunday of the month from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Parking is on site. Admission is free, but they do accept donations to help keep the museum running for many generations to come. Although the museum is wheelchair accessible, there may be a few tight spaces to maneuver through.
U.S. Route 30 passes by many great sites as it makes its way across the country. The old train station in New Oxford, Pennsylvania is one of them.
The Historic U.S. Route 1 is the first and oldest route in the United States of America. It runs north and south through the eastern section with the northern terminus is in Fort Know, Maine, and the southern terminus in Key West, Florida. (It is the most southern U.S. route in the 48 states and the third most southern route in the 48 states with only two state routes, 5A and the famous A1A, being father south. It is also the most northern route in the 48 states.) U.S. Route 1 passes through all the east coast states except for Delaware, plus it passes through Pennsylvania, the only non-coastal state the route passes through. It passes through the major cities of Boston, Massachusetts, New York City, New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland, Washington D.C., Richmond, Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Augusta, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida, and Miami, Florida. It passes through many small towns. One of those small towns is Savage, Maryland, a suburb in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore, Maryland metropolis. In this small town is an old mill.
The Savage Mill is named after a man named John Savage. Who is John Savage? He loaned four brothers $20,000 to build a cotton mill on the Little Patuxent River. The mill began operation in 1822. Because the mill was built on a high ridge over the river, a waterwheel 30 feet in diameter was built to harness the waterpower. What great things were produced here? In its heyday, sails for ships sailing out of Baltimore, tents and covered used by Union soldiers fighting in the American Civil War, backdrops for Hollywood movies in the early days of Hollywood films, and truck covers and bags for soldiers fighting in Europe during World War I and World War II. Sadly, the mill ceased operation in 1947. The mill was spared demolition, and it was eventually made into a place for shops and artists studios. When you visit Savage Mill today, you will see a place where great products were once made, and you will see a place where great products are made today.
Some of you are saying, “This is amazing. This mill made some great products, and it was spared demolition. There is a big problem. You see. This was a mill. There are no railroads here. Therefore, I will not be manufacturing my visit to this place.”
So, you have refused to visit Savage Mill because there are no railroads here. Today, there is no railroad at this old mill. In the mill’s heyday, the railroad was a big part of the mill’s operation.
When you approach the mill from U.S. Route 1 along Gorman Road, the very first thing you will notice is not the mill. The first thing you will see is an old truss bridge. What is special about this bridge? It was built by Wendell Bollman. He went on to build many truss bridges using one material: iron. His company built about one hundred iron truss bridges.
Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful. What makes this iron truss bridge special?”
That is a great question. The answer is that this bridge is a railroad bridge. It was built by Wendell Bowman and used by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad over the Little Patuxent River to connect the mill with the main line half a mile east of the mill. (The line is owned by CSX today.) It became a standard bridge used by railroads. When operations at the mill ceased, so did service on the spur line. The bridge is the oldest iron truss bridge in the United States of America, and it is the only surviving iron truss bridge built by Wendell Bowman in the world.
Today, the Bowman Iron Truss Bridge is a pedestrian bridge, but a set of tracks remain to remind you of the days the railroad came to the mill. It is registered as a National Historic Landmark.
Does the mill have any other railroad connection? It does. When the mill was closed, it was turned into a Christmas village for three years before it was bought by another owner. To enter the village, patrons had to park at a lot on U.S. Route 1. How did they get to the village? A miniature train took patrons from the parking lot to the village.
Now you have a reason to visit the old Savage Mill in Savage, Maryland. What was once a working mill now works to house shops, art, and dance studios. It you have the time you can walk along the truss bridge and look down into the Little Patuxent River.
The Savage Mill is located at 8600 Foundry Road in Savage, Maryland. It is half a mile east of U.S. Route 1 and a short drive from Interstate 95. Parking is on site. The truss bridge connects you to a hiking trail. You can get more information at https://www.savagemill.com/.
If you look at a map of the U.S. state of Maryland, you will see that the western border of the state has a point at the south end. This point points to the town of Thomas, West Virginia. When you visit the town today, you will see a town that rests on a hill with the Blackwater River flowing through the valley below with the mountains of West Virginia surrounding it. It is a small and quiet town, but it is a town that is truly a West Virginia town.
Some of you are saying, “I love small towns, and I love West Virginia. The problem is that there are no railroads in this town. Therefore, I will not be in this town.”
If you visit the town of Thomas, West Virginia today, you will see a quiet, peaceful town… with no railroads. It was much different many years ago.
Thomas, West Virginia was a bustling coal mining town. With much of the coal mining came railroads, and the railroad was a big part of Thomas. It is named for Thomas Beall Davis whose brother was a U.S. Senator. Thomas Beall Davis opened a mine in the area, and he used the railroad to ship the coal to factories in the region. Mining in the area ceased in 1921.
In 1901, a fire burned half of the town, but it was put out two hours later. New buildings were built to include an opera house with an elegant saloon. Also, the Western Maryland Railway built an elegant train depot which was declared the grandest train depot between Cumberland, Maryland and Elkins, West Virginia. Sadly, the depot was destroyed by a tornado in 1944, and it was never rebuilt.
As industry declined in the region, so did the railroad. The tracks were taken up in the early 1990’s.
Today, when you visit the town of Thomas, you can walk where a railroad yard once stood in the valley below. You can hike and bike the Allegheny Rail Trail which now runs along the original railroad bed of the Western Maryland Railway. You can drive along the old railroad bed and drive across an old railroad bridge to hike your way to Douglas Falls. While on the road, you will drive past the ruins of coke ovens. While there, visit the old general store which is now an art gallery. As you feel the quiet and tranquility, you will also feel the hustle and bustle of a town that once was.
The town of Thomas, West Virginia is located in the northeastern region of the U.S. state of West Virginia at the western point of the U.S. state of Maryland. The town center is on the National Register of Historic Places. U.S. Route 219 passes just north of the town with West Virginia Route 32 going south from U.S. Route 219 through the historic town.