Many Presidents Rode the Rails

On this historic day when people all along the northeast corridor between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. greeted the nation’s 44th president, Barack Obama, we look at a few other times when the nation’s leaders came through the county on the rails.  It was a frequent occurrence in the era before air travel became common. 


Riding Cecil’s First Railroad – The seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, rode Cecil’s first little railroad, the New Castle and Frenchtown during his administration (1829 – 1837). 

Lincoln Sidetracked at Elkton — The 16th President took a flying trip to West Point in June 1862.  On his return to Washington, D.C. his train was put on the siding at Elkton to let a Philadelphia bound express pass by.   During 15 to 20-minutes the “special lay off on the switch” a number of people shook the President’s hand and exchanged a few words of conversation with “Old Abe.”   Two years later (June 1864) when Lincoln made an appearance in Philadelphia, the railroad let him pass right through without delay.  It provided a special train for the wartime executive and the locomotive, gaily decorated with flags rushed past Elkton with a “shrill scream” from its steam Whistle.

Grant’s Destination, Elkton – May 18, 1872, was like no other day in Elkton history.  On that day the distant smoke of a locomotive steaming toward the railroad station announced that President Ulysses S. Grant was approaching the county seat.  The president and Mrs. Grant stepped from the train and were greeted by a crowd of people.  The party was here for an overnight stay with Postmaster General Creswell. 

Whistle Stop Tour Brings Taft – In May 1912, William Howard Taft in an all-day speech making tour taftcampaigned in Elkton.  Arriving by special train, he found houses and businesses elaborately decorated in his honor.   Excitement filled the streets as he rode to the Howard Hotel in the automobile of William T. Warburton.  Speaking for about an hour from the porch of the Howard Hotel, he hurried back to his train for whistle stop in Aberdeen. 

Roosevelt Waits for at Perryville — The 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, left office in 1909 but in 1912 he decided to jump back into politics, running on the Progressive Ticket against William Howard Taft.  On a speechmaking tour in May 1912, a locomotive dropped his coach at Perryville where it had to wait for another engine to take it across the bridge.  When word spread everyone who could get away from him home or business gathered to get a glimpse of the ex-president.  Hearing the cheering Roosevelt came out on the platform and spoke to the crowd.

Hoover Hurries Past – Immediately after Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the oath of office in March 1933, Herbert Hoover, the chief executive who had served when the stock market crashed and the nation spiraled downward into the depression, made his exit from Washington D.C.  Speeding to New York City on the Pennsylvania Railroad, the weary ex-president was piloted by an engineer from Perryville, Harry Fay.  As passenger extra 5385 swiftly passed through the county, the train averaged 60-miles an hour. 


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