Regular readers are probably familiar with my modest obsession over the Parkton and Manchester (or is it Manchester and Parkton?) railroad which was partially constructed in Maryland in the late 19th century. Due to poor weather, I found myself googling the M&P this evening.
“Returned to Maryland in 1867 and engaged in rail-road construction until 1873 on the Western Md Pittsburg & Connelsville [sic], Parkton & Manchester, and Port Deposit rail-roads. He was one of a firm of three who in 1869 undertook the construction of the M & P Rail Road but a failure of funds compelled the contractors to suspend work in ’71 after completing 5 miles. Embarrisments[sic] in attempting to complete 17 miles of the WMRR resulted in the failure and dissolution of the firm and his final abandonment of that branch of business. He spent 2 years in litigation with the two above-mentioned companies & obtained judgment against both.”
This is the kind of find that makes me (sometimes) love the internet. We now know the contractor who started the P&M, the approximate construction time period, and the claim that they completed 5 miles. Amazing, huh?
I wonder what a search of Maryland archives for information related to Shower’s litigation could turn up…
Some time ago, while researching online for evidence of the Parkton and Manchester Railroad, I found a google result which appeared to be a historic map of railroads in Maryland. Bandwidth limitations prevented me from downloading it at the time, and I forgot all about it. Luckily I stumbled upon it again and downloaded it this time.
On December 31, 2000, I was traveling south on I-83 below the Mason-Dixon line and noticed a distinct hump which appears to intersect the highway at right angles. I’m not talking no little hump. I am talking a big hump, as in serious railroad fill. The location is just north of the Middletown Rd exit (used to be exit 31) near Parkton, Maryland. It’s close to the Northern Central Rail Trail (NCR), which is built on the former Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), but it is definitely not part of that track. This grade intersects the highway at almost perfect right angles, while the PRR was running almost due north at this point.
I spent some time pondering satellite views and topo maps of the area, concluding that it probably would have connected with the PRR at Parkton. I mentioned it to my brother, who used to work on the LaMonica’s large farm in the area, on Rayville Road. My questions spurred him to remember two strange cuts, one on either side of Rayville Road, roughly in line with the dam constructed to form their lake. He sent me a map showing the dam (black), cuts (blue), and a possible route for the railroad, which matches nicely with what I saw from the highway. He theorized that they might have been headed for Manchester…
Some time later I was at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum for a meeting. They had their archives open and I asked their archivist if he knew anything about the possible railroad. He looked through their collection of clippings from the narrow gauge era (~1870-1880) concerning Maryland railroads and found mention of a Manchester and Parkton Railroad (sometimes Parkton and Manchester Railroad). Seems my brother was somewhat prescient! The railroad seemed interested in reaching Bachman’s Valley to the southwest of Manchester. Coincidentally, this seems to be about where the Mystery Railroad of Glen Rock seems to have been headed. I guess Bachman’s Valley looked like a pretty rich source of local iron ore at that time.
Most of those snippets of history regarding the charter and modifications to the charter can now be found on Google Books. Unfortunately they don’t give much detail. I just found a “History of Baltimore City and County…” by John Thomas Scharf on Google Books, which includes this passage:
“The proposed Parkton and Manchester Railroad commences at Parkton and was projected to extend into Baughman’s Valley Carroll County It was chartered by the Maryland Legislature in 1868 and sixty thousand dollars was spent in surveying and grading but in 1870 the company ceased operations Its charter empowers it to connect with the Western Maryland Railroad or the Frederick & Pennsylvania Line Railroad and it is hoped that the suspended enterprise may be revived The line as laid out runs through a section of country rich in agricultural and mineral resources a distance of thirteen and three fourths miles The town of Manchester Carroll Co is authorized to subscribe to the stock or indorse the bonds of the company to the amount of twenty thousand dollars and if this money ever becomes available the construction of the road may be taken up again”
Assuming it did indeed “commence at Parkton”, it seems reasonable that the sixty thousand dollars would have covered grading across the present I-83 and Rayville Rd. It would be interesting to do a GPS survey of just what they managed to construct. Unfortunately, this area is now becoming infested with “country manors”, so it’s not getting any easier. If I get a chance, I will try to visit the LaMonica farm and track the roadbed on their property, and waypoint the crossing of I-83. Maybe I can find a few other public road crossings to record.
I’d like to hear from anyone else interested in this railroad, or who is intimately familiar with the area between Parkton and Manchester!
Years ago I was exploring in southern York county, Pennsylvania, near the town of Glen Rock on the Northern Central (NCRR) branch of the PRR. I had been exposed to the area while riding over the railroad line on a railroad motorcar owned by a friend of mine, during an organized “motorcar meet”. This was probably 1992 or 93.
Just outside the town of Glen Rock, in an area probably best defined as Centerville, I noticed a curious little structure which resembled a very modest railroad station. It stood on a level area partway up a hillside, near a big tree. It was one room, board and batten sided, painted white, with overhanging eaves. And it just screamed “railroad!” at me.
As I recall, I examined the level area on the hillside, and how it was basically aimed at the level of the NCRR, and proclaimed “railroad!”. I must have headed upstream (SW) along Centerville Creek to see if I could find any further evidence. What I found was ‘Narrow Gauge Rd’ (actually, at that time I think the sign said Narrow Gage Rd, but regardless, it was attention-getting!). Hence began the saga of the Mystery Narrow Gauge Railroad of Glen Rock, York County.
Following Narrow Gauge Rd, I came to its intersection with SR 216. While I stood there pondering a curious embankment which continued along the creek through someone’s yard, the property owner noticed me and asked what I was doing. I explained my curiosity about the road name and the embankment. He said he had always figured there was some kind of something-or-other there at one time. I think he said he may even have found cinders or something similarly suggestive along the embankment in his yard…
In the intervening years I have considered the case of this mystery railroad several times (often in connection with the nearby Mystery Narrow Gauge of Parkton, Baltimore County, Maryland–more to come!). I’d never made much progress finding any info on it, however.
Today I set off with GPS and maps in hand, and our recent experiences hunting railroad grades, figuring this couldn’t be half as hard as tracking century-old logging railroads buried in Mountain Laurel. Well, yes and no!
What I Found
The day’s hunt actually began somewhat accidentally. I was headed for a tack shop (StableMart–nice people) on SR 851 just a hair north of the Maryland/Pennsylvania line. Approaching Hildebrand Rd, headed south, I noticed a peculiar curving embankment going through a farm field on the east of the road. Very odd!
Concluding my business at the shop, I returned to examine the embankment. It’s not much, just a smooth curve, built up about a foot or so above the field. No signs of cinders or ballast, just dirt. It comes out of the woods and curves towards the road and the summit of a hill. If it were railroad grade, it probably would have required a small cut to get through the crest of the hill. It has a crude farm road alongside it, but it sure looks like it was built up, not just that the road was built down.
With GPS tracking on, I conducted a discreet foray along the track and into the woods, finding that the embankment suddenly ended after a few hundred feet in the woods (later examination of maps shows this to be approximately the headwaters of Centerville Creek). Attempting to examine the terrain ahead, it wasn’t clear where it could have been going. Was I suckered? Maybe this was nothing, but it sure felt funny…
Returning to the car, I proceeded NW to Bonnair Rd and took it NE. At various points along the road it looked like a feasible railroad route. Regretfully most of it is in the yards of lovely country manors, the owners of which usually have little curiosity for history.
At the village of Bonnair [sic], an old farmyard on the north side of the road showed faint signs which could be grade. Turning north briefly on Sunny Slope Rd (?), I found signs of what might be grade near the creek. And in the yard of a rather nice home to the east of the road, I saw curious linear patterns. Approaching the homeowner cleaning their car (which maybe I should do sometime), I was pleased to find a warm reception to my crazy tale and ready permission to tramp around the yard.
After a few minutes in the yard and nearby woods, I concluded that there were definite possibilities, and not much more. But there does seem to be a fairly distinct hump through the yard, with fairly distinct trenches on either side. Once it enters the woods, it becomes more vague. Returning to the house, I told the resident about this, and she said they had always wondered why there was the hump in the yard and why water collected in long lines there. Hmmmm. Hopefully someday I will return to tell her much more about who, what, when, where and why!
Does This Tale Ever End?
I briefly explored south of Bonnair (road name forgotten), then headed NE along Bonnair Rd again. Not far east of the fair homeowner’s place, I found a large open field sloping down from the road on the north side. In one area, a hump clearly crosses the field in a straight line right in front of an old farmhouse and barn. Ok, I am not imagining this. That has got to be railroad grade. Despite a strong desire to track this grade with the GPS, the place didn’t look particularly welcoming.
Instead I continued NE to SR 3015, where I briefly headed NW to pick up Ridge Rd. A short distance SW on Ridge Rd, I again encountered Centerville Creek and what appears to be a fill. Closer examination showed a rather crude (as in possibly incomplete) fill on either side of the creek, as might be used for a bridge approach. The end towards SR 3015 looks pretty sweet, which the other end seems to have no clear goal. It is possible that road construction destroyed portions of it, or that it was never continued along the creek. Or flooding of the creek damaged it, as there is a large section of it which is washed away. Recall that this area was very hard hit by Hurricane Agnes in 1972…
With waning light, I took SR 3015 up to the southwest end of Narrow Gauge Rd. I stopped to look at the embankment in the yard encountered 15 years ago and had a conversation with a fellow who is apparently an employee of the aforementioned friendly homeowner, who obviously thought I was quite insane (railroads, satellite navigation, computers, huh?).
Finally I headed back for the NE end of Narrow Gauge Rd. I can’t quite reconcile what I find there with my memories. The little station under the trees very regretfully seems long gone (as I think I observed some years back). A number of new houses and possibly a new driveway have confused my recollection of the arrangement. There does seem to be a grade headed towards the NCRR across the road. There is a concrete pad which might have been the location of the “station” (a concrete floor hardly seems likely in a building of an 1870s railroad, but it could have been added later).
Ah, So It Does End!
I hope to return soon and continue exploration of this route. I’m convinced there was a narrow gauge railroad built here, although it seems unlikely it ever operated, at least for very far or very long. But it appears they had fairly lofty goals, and someone needs to record what they can of it before it is lost to urban sprawl.
If anyone in the areas of Glen Rock, Shrewsbury, Bonnair, Centerville, Fiscal, Rockville, Hildebrand, Krebs Valley, Rocky Ridge, Pierceville, Stiltz, Sticks, Glenville, Hokes, Intersection, Black Rock, or Lineboro Pennsylvania can shed any light on this mystery, I would sure like to hear from you!
I’ve been discussing the mystery with Pennsylvania historian Tom Taber, who worked with Ben Kline on the Pennsylvania Logging Railroad books. It seems likely that the mystery railroad was the Shrewsbury Railroad. If so, the route I found suggests that it was named more for the township of Shrewsbury than for the town of Shrewsbury. Curiously, I located information on an 1839 act to incorporate a “Shrewsbury Railroad”, although that seems far too early for the narrow gauge railroad craze, which was more like 1870-80.
Today we went over to Beach Creek Railroad country on a bit of a whim. We walked the dinky railroad to the top of the mountain above Monument. The line heads up the hollow a couple of miles and then switchbacks up the side of the mountain. Most of it is used as road nowadays for access to natural gas wells.
From the looks of some areas of the road, there may be a quarry operating somewhere up there too. The area is obviously rich in fire clay. It’s also obvious Harbison-Walker was mining coal on that mountain to fire their kilns–at least at some point–as the dinky right of way is liberally sprinkled with coal. Small spikes and bricks are in abundance around the lower end of the line. The top of the mountain has evidence of multiple clay pits and subsidence from underground coal or fire clay workings. It’s also apparent that in later years they used an inclined plane [or ‘funicular’ or perhaps ‘gravity tram’–correct terminology is debatable!] straight down the side of the mountain to avoid the switchbacks. This is clearly shown on Penn Pilot images of the area, as well as historic topos.
After Monument, we took a ride up to Kato and happened to locate the inclined plane that Phil had once mentioned. If you head up the road out of Kato towards Clarence, the grade of the incline is in the woods not far to the left. Upon reaching the top of the hill, there’s a yellow and black gate across the road leading into the area where the mines were that fed the incline. We found the area at the top of the hill where the hoisting machinery was located. Nothing is left except for some studs sticking up out of concrete bases. Paul found a joint bar (which had been adopted by ants) and about 1/3 of a broken mine car wheel.
If you go further up the hillside, there is evidence of tramway grades and collapsed drift entrances. It seems likely that they were simply running the mine cars to the top of the hill and then hitching them up to the incline. Due to time constraints, we did not walk this all the way down the incline to the BCRR grade. That’ll have to wait for some other day.
A survey of historic logging (and other) railroads in central Pennsylvania and beyond.