Tag Archives: railroad

Senator Robert Kennedy’s Funeral Train Passes Elkton

Late in the afternoon of June 8, 1968, the long-delayed funeral train carrying the body of Senator Robert F. Kennedy to Washington passed through Elkton. It was around 6 p.m. and the train was about 4-hours late. Larry Beers, a teenager, took his 8-mm home movie camera and captured the scene that hot June afternoon so long ago. Recently the footage, which had been unseen for nearly 50 years, was retrieved and Professor Rein Jelle Terpestra digitized the film. Here is Larry’s 3-minute film with some introductory comments and a few additional photos.


Eder on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

Eder was a station on the B & O Railroad. It was located near the bridge that carries Nottingham Road over the tracks, and is about one mile east of Mechanics Valley.  It was named for William H. Eder, who owned a large farm in that vicinity.

The Baltimore & Ohio railroad began providing service between Baltimore and Philadelphia in 1886. To accommodate freight and travelers in Cecil County a number of stations (8 or 9) were built adjacent to the tracks, and one of these stops was Eder.

A timetable for the railroad appeared in an October 1886 edition of the Elkton Appeal. It showed that there were two trains a day stopping at Eder. A westbound train was scheduled at 7.24 a.m. and an eastbound one stopped at 6:51 p.m.

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Eder Station

Eder Station on the B & O Railroad.
source: Library Comp;any of Philadelphia, Online Collection.

On the Road to Providence

The Providence Paper Mill, 1890.  Source:  Hexamer Maps from the Philadelphia Free Library.

The Providence Paper Mill, 1890. Source: Hexamer Maps from the Philadelphia Free Library.

On the road to Providence, you didn’t go far and you didn’t go fast.  But the twisting, rambling route brought railcars to the doors of manufacturers along the Little Elk Creek.  The companies, grinding flour, making paper, processing wool, and producing other goods, had clustered along the valley stream, over time.

Before the railroad arrived teamsters hauled bulk materials and supplies to and from the mills, but this was time consuming and costly on the rough roads.  However, when the last spike was driven on the new Baltimore & Ohio across Cecil County in 1886, the hauling distance was shortened, as freight was carried to depots at Childs and Singerly.

That continued until 1893 when the Lancaster, Cecil, Southern, a 4 ½ mile spur from Childs to Providence, opened for traffic.   Investors started considering the idea for a line in this region In 1890 when a group of Lancaster, PA businessmen reorganized a distressed carrier, creating the Lancaster, Oxford and Southern, which was to build a branch south into Maryland.

Two years later, a charter was granted for the Lancaster, Cecil & Southern, a company authorized to build a road from Elkton to the Pennsylvania State Line to meet the other carrier. They selected a right-of-way that followed the tortuous course of the creek.  It involved extensive excavating, grading and bridging, and by July there was an “air of hustle” along the stream for 300 men worked grading, ballasting and laying rails.  Finally by February 1893, trains rolled to the end of the line in Providence.

The spur from the Childs Station brought railroad transportation directly to a cluster of manufacturers on the creek.  This line was never designed to be adapted to rapid travel because of the grades and curves, but such demands would never be placed on it wrote the Cecil Whig.  Starting at Childs, it touched Marley Paper Mill where there was a twelve car siding.  From there it passed by Harlan’s Book Board Mill and then it ran up the west side of the creek to Carter’s Cecil Paper Mills, where it crossed the Little Elk Creek twice and followed the west bank of the stream to Levis & Brothers Flour Mill.  It finally reached Providence Paper Mill.

A Baltimore and Ohio locomotive made a daily run from Wilmington to handle the freight work on the short spur, which involved hauling twenty carloads of freight a day over the line in February 1893.  With traffic moving, the promoters noted that it wouldn’t be too long before they opened up the north part of the county from Providence to Oxford, PA., a distance of about 8 miles.  But this is as far as the L. C & S got.

As the 20th century advanced, freight traffic slowly dwindled.   The old mill at Providence, which had been in continuous operation for more than 60 years closed on September 25, 1948, leaving some 200 employees without work.  The closure was a blow to residents as there were few industries of any importance to which the workers could turn, the Cecil Democrat reported.  Obviously the shuttering of the large industry on the spur caused freight to sharply decline.  In 1954, the mill which has been inactive for years was being renovated in preparation for resuming operation, when a fire raced through the manufacturing structure.

With the destruction of the plant the potential for any large shipment of freight stopped on the upper end of the branch.  Sometime afterwards the railroad abandoned the portion of the spur from Providence to the paper mill at the edge of Childs.   In May 1972, the company gave notice that it was abandoning the Childs branch completely, from Childs Station to a distance of approximately 1.14 miles in Cecil County.

Although a small spur of 4 ½ miles to Providence, the old road had been an important one, moving goods, raw and finished, through the scenic Little Elk Creek Valley, while providing important shipping access for mills along the industrial waterway.  But by 1973, all was quiet along the Lancaster, Cecil and Southern.

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Providence Paper Mill in a postcard from about 1912 shows the end of the Childs Spur.  source:  personal collection

Providence Paper Mill in a postcard from about 1912 shows the end of the Childs Spur. source: personal collection

Station Agent at Childs Recalls 50 Years on the B & O Railroad

F C. Breitenbach B & O Station Agent at Childs.  Source:  Cecil Democrat, Oct. 7, 1954

F C. Breitenbach B & O Station Agent at Childs. Source: Cecil Democrat, Oct. 7, 1954

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.”

A postcard of the Childs Railroad Station, Circa 1914.  Source:  Personal Collection

A postcard of the Childs Railroad Station, Circa 1912. The card was unused so there is no postal cancellation. Source: Personal Collection