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Maryland's Interurban and Streetcar History

Published: June 5, 2023

By: Adam Burns

The state of Maryland contained just three notable interurbans, two of which were very important; the Hagerstown & Frederick Railway and Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Electric Railway.  

More information about the latter may be found here.  At its peak this high-speed, rapid-transit system maintained an 83-mile network linking Washington, D.C. with Baltimore, as well as an important branch to Annapolis.  Passenger service was discontinued in 1935 although the system was still grossing about $1 million annually.  Freight service continued for several years afterwards.

There was also the 76-mile Hagerstown & Frederick, that somehow survived decades longer that it probably should have connecting Hagerstown, Williamsport, Frederick, and Thurmont with several branches.  

The H&F's longevity can partially be explained by its relatively robust carload freight business.  However, it was also notable as being the last interurban, east of Chicago, to still offer passenger service, surviving until February 20, 1954 according to Dr. George Hilton and John Due's book, "The Electric Interurban Railways in America."  Today, traces of this interurban can still be traced throughout the towns it served.

2937579679332752767913806298367.jpgHagerstown & Frederick Railway car #171 crosses Fishing Creek in Lewistown, Maryland in 1953. The car was acquired new in 1919. Skipper Clark photo.

Annapolis Short Line

(Annapolis and Baltimore Short Line): The Annapolis Short Line, officially known as the Annapolis and Baltimore Short Line was created in March of 1887.

It was a short-lived interurban railroad that served the Annapolis area, near Baltimore until 1907 when it was purchased by the Maryland Electric Railway.

Later the route was purchased by the Washington, Annapolis & Baltimore Electric Railroad in 1921. After the WB&A ended operations in 1935 it became the Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad. In 1952 passenger service was discontinued followed by freight operations in 1968.

Cumberland & Westernport Electric Railway

The C&W began operations in 1902 operating a 25-mile system connecting Cumberland, Lonaconing, and Westernport.

It was to be western Maryland's only interurban but unfortunately was never able to earn much in the way of income. It was finally abandoned in 1926.

Cumberland Electric Railway

The Cumberland Electric Railway began operations on the Fourth of July, 1891 connecting North Centre Street to Narrows Park in Cumberland. The railroad remained in operation until 1932 when it was discontinued.

Frederick & Middletown Railway

The Frederick & Middletown Railway was the name initially given to the Hagerstown & Frederick Railway, which connected its namesake towns.

Services began in August of 1896 and by October of that year had connected Frederick and Middletown. Passenger services on the railroad ended in 1939 while freight operations remained until 1961.

Hagerstown & Frederick Railway Company

The H&F began operations in 1913 through the formation of several small systems.

It was a quite large interurban at 76 miles in length and connecting its namesake cities as well as smaller communities such as Boonesboro, Myersville, Middletown, Jefferson, Braddock Heights, and Thurmont. Additionally, it reached Pennsylvania towns like Williamsport, and Shady Grove.

In 1906 it established interchange service with the Chambersburg, Greencastle & Waynesboro. The H&F was one of the few eastern lines to actually build up a profitable freight business, thanks in part to its connections with the Western Maryland Railway which was willing to negotiate into interchange agreements (the nearby Baltimore & Ohio, however, was not).

It was the last interurban to provide passenger service east of the Mississippi when service was finally discontinued on February 20, 1954. From there, the line was converted to diesels for freight traffic although this too was abandoned four years later in 1958.

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