The year was 1828. The month was February. The railroad had begun in the United States of America. The city was a port city of Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland. Tracks were laid. People were excited to ride the first train to ever run in the Western Hemisphere. The train was pulled by a special locomotive. What was this locomotive made with?
Some of you are saying, “Well, duh, Steel.”
If that is your answer, you are wrong. The first locomotive to ever pull a train in the Western Hemisphere was made of fur and had four legs. In case you are wondering, the first locomotive in the Western Hemisphere was a horse. Later, the ‘York’ locomotive began pulling trains from a station a few blocks from the port of Baltimore. (It is the Inner Harbor today.) The tracks were built southwest out of the city, and, in 1831, it arrived at a small mill town known as Ellicott Mills.
Some of you are saying, “Yeah. I have heard of these towns. They call it Ellicott Mills because they thought it was a cool name, but there are no mills here.”
The town is named after the Ellicott family with three brothers establishing mills in the area. Hence the name ‘Ellicott Mills’, and it was the largest mill and manufacturing town in the eastern United States at the time. With the arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the town of Ellicott Mills became the first terminus of the railroad. A station was built. Products from the mills were able to be put on a train and taken to the ports of Baltimore where they could be shipped around the world. The town was later called Ellicott City. The train station was in use as a passenger station and a freight station with passenger service ending in 1949, and it was a freight depot until 1972.
Some of you are saying, “And the depot was demolished, and the tracks were taken up. Now the trains do not come to Ellicott City anymore.”
You are wrong again. The old train station remains, and it has recently survived two massive floods that did severe damage to Old Ellicott City. It is the oldest surviving train station in the Western Hemisphere. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark. The tracks are still active, and you can see CSX trains today. (The original rail line is still active with most of the section owned by CSX and the first mile and a half owned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore.)
Some of you are saying, “And it is now decomposing and rotting like all those other old train stations.”
Again, you are wrong. When the old train station was decommissioned, local preservation groups stepped in to preserve the station, and it remains in its original location on the ‘National Road’ (Maryland Route 144) despite two massive floods that destroyed must of the historic section of the town. It was made into a museum, and you can visit the museum today.
When you visit the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station Museum in Ellicott City, Maryland, you will see the station in the way it was when was an active train station to include the bedroom of the station master, the ticket office, and the passenger waiting room. You can see the original train platform. (There is a fence between the station and the tracks.) You can see where a turntable once stood. You can go into the old freight house and see a model train display of the original route of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Baltimore and Ellicott City. You can climb inside a Baltimore and Ohio Caboose. If you are fortunate enough, CSX may reward your visit with a passing train.
Today, you can visit the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station Museum in Ellicott City, Maryland. It is owned and operated by Howard County Recreation and Parks. It is located at 3711 Maryland Avenue. (It is at the intersection of Main Street which is Maryland Route 144.) It is open Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00am to 3:00pm and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm. Admission is free. Parking is street parking. (Metered parking next to the station, but there is free parking at nearby city lots.) Although the freight house and station are wheelchair accessible, the caboose is not. There is also a long flight of stairs inside the station. (Wheelchairs have access to both floors.) You can get more information at https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Baltimore-Ohio-Station-at-Ellicott-City.
Ellicott City, Maryland is a town with a robust history. From a mill town to a place where history still thrives even after massive destructive floods. Although the train no longer stops here, it is still a town with a great railroad history.