Written By Neal Brooks; Photo collage by Mark Stutzman

(This article is part of our continuing series leading up to Victorian Chautauqua, scheduled for July 9 & 10)

The B&O Railroad began with the vision of two men, John Work Garrett, who ultimately, became the president of the B&O, and E. Francis Baldwin, who was the primary architect of the B&O buildings. Together the duo built many of the B&O buildings from the Central Building and Camden Station in Baltimore to the station in Parkersburg, WV.

Garrett became president of the B&O in 1858 after an acrimonious stockholders fight. He was bound to stockholders with a promise of a good return on their investments while caught in a race to see which would be the major railroad line to the west, the B&O or the Pennsylvania Railroad. The competing lines were trying to provide the fastest and most convenient service at the lowest fare.

Just as the B&O line was building a head of steam, the Civil War created a deep divide in the nation. Garrett promised President Lincoln that he would devote his railroad to the Union cause even though the railroad ran through Confederate territory for a short distance. At that time, people in Baltimore and Maryland were ambivalent about which side of the war effort to support. This commitment found favor with Lincoln who was determined to preserve and protect the Union.

Following the war which ended in 1865, Garrett became a powerful voice in Annapolis, Maryland’s state capital, as well as in the halls of Baltimore. He became very influential in the development of Western Maryland which would later bear his name. When Garrett County, the last county established in Maryland, was granted the right to govern itself, county architects decided to pay tribute to him by adopting his name for the state’s western-most county. Garrett rewarded the new county with the first mountaintop railroad station, a church, and several notable hotels. Through their well-established reputation, the B&O ushered hoards of vacationers to reach these sought-after, remote destinations. Garrett, unfortunately, did not live to see the completion of the Oakland B&O Station before his death in 1884 while at his impressive cottage in Deer Park. This was the same year construction began on the Oakland Station.

About Neal Brooks
Neal Brooks began an interest in railroads in childhood living near the B&O Railroad main line through Silver Spring, MD and running his model trains. He continued that interest in his studies as a history major in college and graduate school. He has continued to share his passion for the B&O during several courses taught at the Community College of Baltimore County and most recently in popular classes at Garrett College. His theme for this presentation will focus specifically on late 19th and 20th century ways that the railroad had significant influences on Garrett County as a tourist destination and economic engine.

In the latter part of the 19th Century, the B&O Railroad had a major impact under the presidency of John W. Garrett for whom Garrett County is named. He’ll discuss the growth and decline of the B &O, and include a final piece on the Amtrak attempt to continue local passenger service. The remnants of the B&O are still present as part of CSX rail system. This presentation, illustrated with pictures and prints from diverse sources, will cover the railroad in general terms for an audience with even a mild interest in rail travel or Garrett County’s tourism. His presentation is wide ranging and intended for all ages interested in the region and in general transportation history, not just rail fans.

Historian, author, and educator, Brooks has an undergraduate degree in history from Towson University and a doctorate in history from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland. He will present more about the B&O Railroad in Garrett County as part of the Victorian Chautauqua Celebration to be held on Saturday & Sunday, July 10 & 11. He will appear under the Martin Tent on Saturday, from 10:45 — 11:45 AM.

For complete schedule, information and more stories like this, please visit https://www.victorianchautauqua.com and make plans to attend this unique festival.

About the Photo: This collage, created by local artist Mark Stutzman, includes John Garrett and a photo of the original B&O Depot in Mountain Lake Park.