In my post Mystery Narrow Gauge Railroad of Glen Rock, York County I mentioned the Mystery Narrow Gauge of Parkton. I meant to return and elaborate on that, but haven’t been inspired until now (it’s eleven degrees outside and I drove past it last weekend).
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…
Proposed route of Manchester-Parkton railroad
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!