The Short Line Trail History
Short Line Railroad History – The Short Line Railroad ran from St. Agnes Station (present day Loudon Park), on the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad (B&P, now Amtrak), to Catonsville — a distance of about 3.5 miles.
The railroad would pass through the lands of
- J. B. Brinkley, near Loudon Park Cemetery
- Seemuiler and Beechfield Estates,
- The properties of R. W. L. Rasin, John Gill, Dr. G. A. Liebig (present day locations of the National Cemetery, Charlestown Retirement Community, and the community of Kenwood) and Tilton Tinsley’s Paradise estate.
- West of Paradise, the line would continue through John Wethered’s property, the Spring Grove Asylum and the Mitz estate.
- Crossing under Bloomsbury Lane the Short Line entered the Glenn property, reaching Frederick road at a point near its junction with Mellor Avenue.
Ground was broken on December 6, 1883, with completion anticipated in May 1884, at an estimated price of $37,000. The Catonsville Short Line and the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad entered into a lease agreement on December 6, 1883, that gave the B&P exclusive rights to the Short Line for a term of ninety-nine years relating to the use, management and operation of the railroad.
On Monday, November 10, 1884, operations began as the first revenue run was made from Catonsville. The first published schedule for the Short Line listed eight round trip passenger trains a day between Catonsville and Baltimore. In addition, an unknown number of scheduled freight trains, and periodic special trains, traversed the line during its first years.
The yard along Mellor Avenue was completed in December 1884, which provided an immediate opportunity for local businesses. Mail service was added to the Short Line’s sources of revenue in March 1885. In addition, an eight-wire telegraph line was constructed along the rights-of-way by the Western Union Telegraph Company, during the spring. The final improvement to the yard area was the completion of the ticket office and waiting room in April 1885, at the terminus of the track next to Library Hall on Frederick Road.
As the Short Line prospered, and Catonsville continued to grow, the City and Suburban Electric Company began constructing an electric line from Baltimore along Frederick Road to Catonsville. Completed in 1897, the new trolley line had the immediate effect of drawing away a great deal of the Short Line’s passenger traffic. This created a deficit in operating revenue for the B&P causing them to discontinue passenger service in 1898. The B&P had not released their claims as related to freight traffic however, and continued to offer freight service on a flexible schedule that allowed them to earn a profit.
However, the railroad found itself facing a pattern of dwindling revenues throughout the 1930s as a result of the economic depression that had gripped the nation. Eventually filing bankruptcy, the Short Line was sold to the Hudson Realty Company and the newly formed Caton & Loudon (C&L) Railway in October, 1945.
Citing a lack of customers and mounting losses, Penn Central (Pennsylvania Railroad’s successor) petitioned for the abandonment of the C&L. After running the last carload to Catonsville in April 1972, the abandonment became official on July 28, 1973, when the Interstate Commerce Commission granted Penn Central’s petition.
Today, the Catonsville Short Line is enjoying a rebirth as a 2.2 mile bike/hike trail. Since 1999, Catonsville Rails To Trails has been raising funds, overseeing construction and promoting the trail. Approximately ½ mile of the trail has a crusher run surface and a second portion is slated for resurfacing in the fall of 2012.