Point of Rocks, Maryland

The town of Point of Rocks in the U.S. state of Maryland is a small town on the Potomac River that gets its name from a rock formation.  It is a place with a historic train station, and it is known as a great train watching spot as it is at a junction of two rail routes.  (They were original lines of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, but they are owned by CSX today.)  Once a passenger train station, it is a commuter train station for trains going to Union Station today.  The train station, built by Ephraim Francis Baldwin in 1876, is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is not open to the public as it serves as offices for CSX.  As a railroad town, it has seen some railroad battles.

As the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was building the railroad toward the Ohio River Valley in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was being built to connect barge traffic between the Chesapeake Bay and the Ohio River.  Both the railroad and the canal converged at Point of Rocks.  Both wanted the passage along the Potomac River.  The result was that the passage was shared by both the railroad and the canal.  Originally constructed as a single line, a second line was constructed by tunneling through the mountain with two tunnels with the original line still on its original route around the mountain.  The tunnels are still in operation today and can be seen from the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Tow Path.

The second battle at Point of Rocks and the railroad took place during the American Civil War.  This war was led by the famous Confederate General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson who led the Confederate Army across the Potomac River to Point of Rocks attacking the railroad line and seizing 56 locomotives and 300 rail cars.  During the war, the railroad line attacked numerous times.  Henry A. Cole was put in charge of what was known as Cole’s Maryland Cavalry who was set in the town to protect the railroad from future attacks.

Today, the main action in the town of Point of Rocks, Maryland are the trains passing through the junction.  The trains pass through safely today, and many train watchers flock here to watch them roll by.

Point of Rocks, Maryland is served by U.S. Route 15 which crosses the Potomac River.  The old train station is on Maryland Route 28 east of U.S. Route 15 beside the Marc Commuter lot.  It is wheelchair accessible.

The next time you are in Point of Rocks watching the trains, remember that it is a quiet place where the railroad brought much turmoil.

The Northern Central Railway, New Freedom, Pennsylvania

The Northern Central Railway at the Depot in New Freedom, Pennsylvania

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.

The Northern Central Railway in New Freedom, Pennsylvania

Until 1972.

The Northern Central Rail Trail in Freeport, Maryland

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.

Not exactly.

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.

The Abandoned Northern Central Rail Line and the York County Heritage Trail in New Freedom, Pennsylvania

What happened in Pennsylvania?

The Rails of the Northern Central Railway in New Freedom, 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.)

The Number 17 York of the Northern Central Railway Ready to Depart New Freedom, Pennsylvania

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.

Rail Fans Watching the Arrival of the train in Seitzland, Pennsylvania

The Northern Central Railway is at 2 W. Main Street in New Freedom, Pennsylvania.  You can learn more about the excursions and by tickets at https://www.northerncentralrailway.com/.

Number 17 in Seitzland, Pennsylvania

It may be not be ‘Steam Into History’ anymore, but the return on the Northern Central Railway will keep the history moving on.

The Train Returning to New Freedom, Pennsylvania

Ohio Caverns, West Liberty, Ohio

The Entrance into Ohio Caverns outside of West Liberty, Ohio

The small town of West Liberty in the U.S. state of Ohio is a town that was once along the main road between Dayton, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan.  With the development of the Interstate Highway system, the town does not see as much vehicle traffic.  One of the things that does bring visitors to this town is not necessarily in the town itself, but it is a natural wonder that is east of it.

Looking Around the Ohio Caverns.

Welcome to Ohio Caverns.

Gem Mining at the Ohio Caverns in West Liberty, Ohio

Some of you are saying, “Oh, great!  Another cavern.  What is up with this one?”

Ohio Caverns has a few claims.  It is the largest cavern in the state of Ohio.  It has been recognized as the most colorful cavern in America.  It has the ‘Crystal King’, the largest free hanging stalactite in the state of Ohio.  Like over caverns, it has formations that are unique.  Here, you will see many crystalized formations throughout your tour.  The great thing about these caverns is that they are open year-round.  If you are in the western part of Ohio, you will want to make your way to see Ohio Caverns.

Some of you are saying, “This must be a very wonderful place to see.  It looks like I am going to have to visit this place.  There is one thing.  This, being a railroad site, are writing about these caverns because these caverns have a connection to the railroad.”

Well, you are right.  The Ohio Caverns does have a railroad connection.  What is the connection these caverns have with the railroad?

To answer the question, we must go back in time.  As mentioned, before the Interstate Highway was built in the United States of America, people drove on roads.  The U.S. Routes were the original interstate system, and U.S. Route 68 was the way people went between Dayton, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan.  (U.S. Route 68 still passes through the town today.)  The early part of the twentieth century was also the heyday of passenger rail travel.  During this time, the railroad made many stops in small towns.  One of those small towns was West Liberty, Ohio.  Why did they come to West Liberty?  They wanted to see the Ohio Caverns.  The original depot, built in 1900 by the Big 4 Railroad, was partially destroyed by a fire.  A new depot was built in 1926, and when the New York Central System came to town, the region was bustling.

The train arrived at the depot in West Liberty.  The passengers be-boarded the train, and they were taken by a shuttle to the caverns.  They did the tour of the caverns.  They were taken back to the train, and they went on their way.

Unfortunately, passenger service ended in 1942, and freight service slowly came to an end as well.

Some of you are saying, “That is very nice, but I guess the railroad is gone and the depot was destroyed.”

Let us say that passenger service is no longer available to West Liberty.  The railroad still passes through on the west side of the town.  As for the train depot, let us say that things got very sweet.

Some of you are saying, “What do you mean by ‘things got very sweet’?”

The answer is simple.  It is now the home of Marie’s Candies (https://mariescandies.com/).  Moved to its present location on U.S. Route 68 north of the town center, Marie’s Candies is in the old West Liberty train depot, and the candy shop helped spare this piece of the town’s history from being destroyed.  We can all say, ‘How sweet of them’.

Ohio Caverns, as mentioned, is open year-round closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The hours do vary by season.  They offer different tours to include the Limestone Tour which is handicap accessible.  You can get all the information you need at https://ohiocaverns.com/.

An Underground Pool inside the Ohio Caverns in West Liberty, Ohio

Next time you are in the western part of Ohio, visit West Liberty.  Visit Marie’s Candies.  Visit Ohio Caverns.