Ellicott City Depot
When one views the Ellicott City depot today there is nothing
particularly striking about it, when compared to other railroad depots
like it. However, the station carries a significance far beyond its
looks, as the building is our nation's oldest still-standing railroad
depot, constructed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. What's more is
that the depot's design would become the template for which most others like it would be constructed over the next
century. Aside from the building's architectural and historical
significance, however, it did not offer much else for the B&O as the
little community provided little online freight and passenger traffic. Today the
Ellicott City Station is a museum (part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum) and owned by the town of
Ellicott City, Maryland.
City Station, originally known as Ellicott's Mills Station, has an
indelible link to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, as it was not only
the railroad's first depot but also the first city it reached from
Baltimore on its way to the Ohio River,
as it was originally chartered to do in 1827 (the B&O is also our
nation's first common-carrier railroad). Three years after its charter
the railroad had reached the then small community of Ellicott's Mills
and initially did not even build a passenger station but a freight depot
to serve the small industrial center located there. The small depot
also held significance as the original main line of the B&O (despite
a later alignment trumping the route through Ellicott's Mills it is still in use today, known as the "Old Main Line).
In the early years, Ellicott City Station did hold a bit of importance to the B&O. Before the railroad began its march westward towards the Ohio River and the 13-mile main line was the only route in service the depot served as a western terminus for the B&O where its small fleet of steam locomotives was serviced and turned for the trip back to Baltimore. Early on the location did not have a turntable although one was later installed during the Civil War in 1863. Additionally, the depot was actually a two-story building with only the second-floor at track level.
The railroad came to realize that, at least for a time, Ellicott's Mills
would be the western edge of its system and as such constructed the
Oliver Viaduct directly on approach to the depot. This ingenious little
idea allowed crews to service the steam locomotives from below, essentially making it an early service pit now common in modern railroad maintenance
facilities. Overall, the depot featured a simple gabled roof with a
small central cupola. The overhang it featured covering the boardwalk
is what really set it apart and was a design that most future small depots would use, allowing passengers to remain dry even while outside in poor weather.
The depot's freight importance was mostly during its early years when a local granite quarry, known as Ellicott's quarries, supplied the B&O with a substantial amount of tonnage while in use (the granite also helped build the depot as well as the later turntable). Aside from the quarry service, the B&O only saw freight from nearby farms and locals.
Overall, however, as for Ellicott City Station itself its importance would never really transcend further than its significance as our country's oldest railroad depot (which was originally built in 1830). Ellicott City's magnitude for the railroad, at least in terms of a passenger hub, would quickly dwindle following the 20th century and by 1949 trains stopped serving the depot altogether. By the early 1970s the B&O itself, by then part of the Chessie System (the C&O, B&O, and WM united under one flag), would discontinue use at the station. Fortunately, however, the building's future had already been secured when a few years prior to that in the late 1960s it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
would take, however, until the mid-1990s before the town would gain
ownership of the station when at that time CSX Transportation, the
successor to the B&O and Chessie System, deeded the building over to
Ellicott City. Today, the
Ellicott City Station is part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum and known as the
Ellicott City Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. Along with touring
the building, learning about its history, and seeing the items on
display the museum also houses a large model layout and has a number of
events and programs ongoing throughout the year to take advantage of. To learn more about the depot please click here to visit its official website.
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Ellicott City Depot