For many Cecil County villages and towns the railroad station was the center of the community years ago, and the company official overseeing the comings and goings of townspeople, passengers, telegraph messages, freight and mail was an important member of the community. Each place with a station had one, a station agent, in charge of keeping everything on track at his depot.
To keep the operation running smoothly, the agents were assigned many responsibilities at smaller places. Obligations included preparing for the arrival of trains, selling tickets, handling freight, mail and baggage, announcing arrivals, and taking care of the property.
Frederick ‘C, Breitenbach, Sr., of Cherry Hill was the Baltimore and Ohio’s agent-operator at Childs in 1954. He had just completed 50 years with the company, having come to the Singerly Tower in 1904. In subsequent years he was assigned to Childs as an operator-clerk and as an agent-operator at Leslie. His final stint brought him back to Childs in 1935.
“The romance of the railroad has been lost since steam has gone,” the agent told the Cecil Democrat in 1954. He loved “the smell of that old coal,” and “the engineers in those steam engines were hardy men. The trains today are more like street cars.”
Until 1949 local passenger trains stopped at Childs, but as he marked a half-century of service the station only handled freight, most of it going to and from the Elk Paper company plant. When he started at Childs, it was the most important stop in Cecil County and three people worked at the station, he recalled.
But in 1954 he was the only remaining employee. The rural Cecil County depot was slowly reaching the end of the line, although years ago the building alongside the B & O tracks was the center of the village. This old-time railroader had worked across the changing years and changing times as he and the station neared retirement.
He was born in Baltimore in 1885 and died in Union Hospital on May 16, 1958. He was an employee of the B & O for 53 years, last serving as “station master at Childs.”