In the middle of the Great Depression the Pennsylvania Railroad electrified its main line between New York and Washington and this resulted in a number of improvements in Elkton. In the center of town a sharp curve in the tracks created a hazard so company engineers straightened the right-away, eliminating the dangerous bend. While they were at it they also eliminated three grade crossings and built two bridges to carry traffic safely over the busy railroad, one on North Street and the other on Bridge Street. Blue Ball Road was also slated for a bridge, recalls railroad historian Mr. Richard Hall, but the owners of the land demanded such a high price the plan was dropped. Since the goal was to do away with grade crossings the company built an improved road known as Elkton Blvd., to connect Blue Ball Road with Bridge Street. This first phase of work was completed in 1934.
The realignment also caused a need to replace an old depot that had somehow managed to outlive its usefulness in 80-years. Thus in February 1935 The William M. Francis Company of Wilmington started building a new one, a one-story brick structure with a green slate roof. In a few months the station opened to travelers. This modern facility, with all the latest conveniences, included a baggage and waiting rooms, as well as an agent’s office. A pedestrain tunnel underneath the tracks connected the main station on the Philadlephia side with the tracks for southbound traffic. It replaced a structure built in 1855.
Once the depot opened the Pennsylvania had completed the extensive improvements started by the railroad more thanthree years earlier. The sharp curve in the company’s tracks between North Street and the Big Elk Creek brigde has been elminated, the tracks being about one quarter mile further north than previously. The total cost of improvements made here, not incuding electrificaiton were estimated at over $1-million.
For a generation of residents, the Elkton Station was an important community center, the place that linked them to the larger world. Passengers arrived and departed here, the mail came and went, and the Railway Express Agency brought in the freight, while morning and evening newspapers arrived from the cities. But as the golden age of railroading faded, regular passenger service ground slowly to a halt here by the mid-1960s. A brief attempt at providing commuter service ended in 1981. After that the station became little more than a storage shed and a workshop used by Amtrak’s right-away-crews.
Today that symbol of the community’s railroad age still stands quietly alongside Amtrak’s main line as Acela’s rush by. Mayor Joseph Fisonia has said that restoration of service to this station is important to the economic well being of the central business district and for the region’s transportation needs.
Note: Thanks to Mr. Richard Hall for revieiwing this article and providing additional information