Ryan Miller walked out onto the station platform and looked down the track. William Anderson, his engineer and friend for the better part of the last 20 years was pulling one of the steel hoppers from McClure’s Feed and Coal track. Ryan shook his head, just like old man McClure to buy a hopper full of anthracite in the Spring, probably got a good price per ton at this time of year. Ryan watch as Curtis Green, Will’s fireman, threw the Feed and Coal switch and climbed back into the cab as the ten wheeler drifted by him. Ryan looked across the tracks and watched the growing group of children waiting for the afternoon show of putting together the “down train”. Will blew the whistle for the grade crossing. In a moment, the hopper and engine came across Beckleysville Road and by Ryan as Will went to pick up the “milk car” at the creamery and start to assemble the mixed train. Ryan turned around and looked into the waiting room. No one yet for the down train.
This is the story of Beckleysville, the end of the branch on the Northern Maryland, a 30 inch gauge shortline meandering through Harford, Baltimore, and Carroll Counties. The railroad serves many villages towns, and milk platforms. Beckleysville is the end of one of the two branches on the Northern Maryland. The railroad has been the lifeline of Beckleysville’s five small businesses and the local package delivery company since 1888 when it arrived in town. No one in town owns an automobile; horses, mules, and carriages still are very evident. McClure’s, the local coal, lumber and feed dealer, owns a small gas powered dump truck. They still have two horse drawn delivery wagons for just about everything else. McClure’s usually receives one sometimes as many as three cars a month. In the Spring, hoppers of coal and flats of fence rails can be found in the “Up Train”. A boxcar or two of various LCL freight is switched into McClure’s siding as well. A boxcar or two of fertilizer is received in the Spring.
The Creamery is the steady daily customer for the Northern Maryland, along with packages and other LCL freight. The Northern Maryland uses 30 foot wide door baggage cars as their milk cars. The mixed train always includes a milk car along with one of the NM’s distinctive combines with a cupola. Passenger numbers in 1914 have been steady at around a 70-80 tickets sold per month. Since the mixed runs every day except Sunday, its passenger load is not a lot.
The other industries; a local tobacco warehouse, grain warehouse, and small canning company are only big shippers in the Fall months. The grain warehouse sometimes ships a car during Winter and early Spring when one of the various mills along the line is in need of corn or grain to grind.
World War I will pick up traffic some along the branch, but by the mid 1920s and trucks will erode the traffic base and the Northern Maryland Beckleysville branch will be abandoned. The depression will finish the rest of the Northern Maryland and it will fade into pastures, woods, and small housing developments over time. However, in May 1914, the children are getting a show as number 11, the Northern Maryland’s sole ten wheeler assembles the mixed, three freight cars, milk car, and combine for the “Down Train”. The early Spring weeds will part as the train slowly drifts out of Beckleysville, the coal smoke will drift away and the village will go back to its normal pace.
This is the story I wish to tell, a small rural farm community linked to the rest of the world by their equally small narrow gauge railroad. Operations are very slow and limited. The size of the layout and its easy operational set up will allow for daily running if desired. As far as an exhibition railroad, it will be a nice easy operation for a first time operator. A nice start for the first step on the craftsman journey.
Almost all the structures planned for the layout still exist, although one is short for this world as I write. The station is going to be a replica of the Ma&Pa’s Whiteford station, the grain and tobacco warehouses are both along the old Lancaster, Oxford, and Southern at Fulton House (across the street from Robert Fulton’s birthplace). McClure’s store is a building located alongside the old NCR/PRR/PC line in Freeland Maryland. I have been thinking about including a fertilizer warehouse similar to the one at Muddy Creek Forks along the Ma&Pa. I have always liked the Ma&Pa station in Whiteford, Maryland. It is almost gone now and I think the NM would have used a similar building for the station in Beckleysville.