It is one of those things that are so infrequently thought of, but yet are vital arteries throughout the landscape. Running on rails like veins in a cobweb, trains transport goods and people from one place to another.
The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad is one of the oldest railroad companies in the United States. The result of two pioneering train men, Phillip E. Thomas, and George Brown, the Baltimore and Ohio Train Company was chartered on March 8. 1827. The initial objective? To create a rail system between Baltimore and the Ohio River to ship goods from the Eastern seaboard to the midwest. Initially being only in Maryland, the railway quickly expanded west, over the Potomac River, through Harper’s Ferry, passing Wheeling, West Virginia and ending at Parkersburg, West Virginia.
By 1970, the B&O Railroad operated 5552 miles of road, and 10499 miles of track. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_and_Ohio_Railroad.)
In spite of the enchantment of train transportation in Baltimore, the city of Baltimore felt otherwise. With a city ordinance prohibiting rail lines through the city, there was no thru train service. Upon arrival from points east to the Baltimore Railroad’s President Street’s Station, train cars had to be removed from the tracks. The cars were then pulled through Baltimore city by horses for ten blocks on Pratt Street to arrive at B&O Railroad’s Camden Station.
This city ordinance became pivotal in the beginning of the American Civil War. As Baltimore sat just below the Mason-Dixon Line, it was a divided city. With strong sympathies for southern interests, and a city with the largest population of freed African-American Slaves in 1861 the storm was beginning to brew.
On April 19, 1861, the Union’s Six Massachusetts Regiment was traveling to Washington D.C. Routing through Baltimore, there was no choice but to derail and begin transporting the cars across Baltimore by horse. As the train cars passed one by one through the city, the Confederate sympathizers became outraged. They began to attack the train cars, throwing bricks and stones and then creating a blockade.
The solders from the Massachusetts Regiment had no choice but to disembark and in formation continued on foot towards the B&O Railroad’s Camden Station. The mob attacked the Massachusetts soldiers, who had no choice but to defend themselves.
Within just a few hours, the tides turned for the American Civil War. Now known as the Pratt Street Riots, the first blood shed in the Civil War occurred that day. Four soldiers from the Massachusetts Regiment, and twelve civilians were killed during the riot. With these casualties, both the Union and the Confederates became enraged and the American Civil War became a reality.
The B&O Railroad is now part of the CSX Transportation network who established the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. Opened on July 4, 1953, this museum is considered to be one of the most significant train museums in the world. Containing the largest collection of 19th century locomotives in the United States, visiting the museum is a true delight.
These Iron Horses of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company are works of art in their own right. Whispers of stories of those transported from here to there on their life’s journey echoing inside.
The B&O Railroad Museum knows how to celebrate Christmas. Decorated and lots of fun children activities planned, it’s a perfect place to spend a day and becoming a kid yourself. With a train full of toys for the “Toys for Tots” program, to train rides with Santa there is always something to do. Children run along the tracks mesmerized by these iron giants, and pretend to be a train conductor by trying their hand at working a locomotive.
The Baltimore and Ohio Train Museum is one of those places that one visit is not enough to discover all the treasures inside. From the original roundhouse and historical trains throughout to interactive displays and real train rides. This museum is a must visit for young and old.