Delmarva’s Railway Heritage

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Today commercial cargo trains regularly travel the length of our peninsula. Sadly passenger service no longer exists here. But our railway heritage is not forgotten.

Railroads have their beginnings on Delmarva in the 1820's. By 1856 a line from Philadelphia had reached Milford, Delaware; and then Selbyville by 1874. Within three years it ran halfway through Worcester County Maryland to the small village of Newark. Atlas makers for the train company decided there simply were too many towns named Newark on the map so they gave the new train station the nearby Indian place name of "Queponco" which means "land of burnt pines".

Meanwhile over on the Chesapeake side a Princess Anne attorney named John W. Crisfield brought the Eastern Shore Railroad to a place called Somers Cove. Like many of the communities along the tracks the economy boomed with coal and other goods being brought in and farm produce, poultry, and oysters going out; to be sold up and down the East Coast. Somers Cove did so well it became known as "the seafood capital of the world". The folks there were so happy they changed the name of their town to Crisfield to honor the man who brought them so much prosperity.

Soon the railroad ran the length of the peninsula all the way to Cape Charles where a barge would carry the cars across the Chesapeake to Norfolk. By 1884 freight was not the only thing the trains carried. Passenger trains ran three times a day from Salisbury to Ocean City. Further north a ferry brought people across the Chesapeake to Clairborne. The Baltimore Chesapeake & Atlantic made the connections there for travelers going east through Delaware, toward Salisbury, and points south. The BC&A was often late and was known not so affectionately as the "Black Cinders & Ashes Railroad".

Many of today's largest towns on Delmarva enjoyed the benefits of the railway boom. But even as early as the 1870's the railroads began to flounder and fail, changing owners frequently. After World War I increasing taxes and regulations put more pressure on the companies. The hurricane of August 1933 destroyed the railway bridge to Ocean City nailing the coffin shut on Delmarva's passenger trains.

Since that time there have been some short lived tourist excursion train services. But now, only freight trains travel through our region. Most of the old train stations that still exist have been converted to other purposes. Some that have been restored and made into museums can be found in Selbyville, Federalsburg, Stevensville, and Queponco. A number of local historical museums also have devoted exhibits to our railway heritage. In Parksley train enthusiasts can see actual retired train engines. Some unused rail lines are being converted to trails for hiking and biking including one from Lewes to Rehoboth Beach, one in Easton, and one between Berlin and Snow Hill in the planning stage.

During the holiday season, toy train displays take us back to a time when it was common for folks to travel between our shores by rail. Visitors love such delightful shows as the Children's Train Garden at the Pocomoke Canoe Company in Snow Hill, the Festival of Trains in Chester, and the Christmas Train Garden in Cambridge.

Organizations With Holiday Train Displays

Children's Christmas Train Garden
Pocomoke River Canoe Comapny
2 River Street
Snow Hill, Maryland
Come to the second floor of the Pocomoke River Canoe Company, home to the Corddrey Company Crossing Train Garden that is reminiscent of Snow Hill many years ago. Children and their families will love this recently renovated enchanted wonderland reduced to "O" gauge. While admission is free, donations are greatly appreciated.

Festival of Trains
Old Kent Narrows Outlet Stores
Chester, Maryland 21619
Queen Anne's County
Model trains and villages, Santa, punch and cookies - donations accepted.

Delaware SeaSide Railroad Club
P.O. Box 479, Ocean View, Delaware,19970

Christmas Garden of Trains
Cambridge Rescue Fire Company
Christmas Garden of Trains in Cambridge, MD
The display, now in its 78th year, is created each year by the volunteers with the Cambridge Rescue Fire Company. It takes them weeks to create the Train Garden.
Monday through Friday from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1–4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. FREE Admission. Refreshments are sold.

Ocean City’s Winterfest of Lights
Northside Park - Ocean City
November 21st through January 1st
Join Santa Claus on board the Winterfest Express, (a holiday decorated boardwalk train) for a one mile journey set to music through 58 acres of spectacular lights featuring themed displays and a 50-foot Christmas tree!

Delmarva Train Station Museums

Georgetown Train Station
140 Layton Ave.
Georgetown, Delaware 19947

Laurel Train Station and Museum
The Visitor Center and Train Station Museum is open 10am - 2pm Monday-Friday, 1:00pm -4pm Sunday.
For more information, visit the Laurel Chamber website or call 302-875-9319.

Marion Station Railroad Museum
28380 Crisfield-Marion Road
Marion, Maryland 21838

Stevensville Train Depot
Cockey's Lane
Stevensville, Maryland

The Eastern Shore Railway Museum
18568 Dunne Avenue
Parksley, Virginia 23421

Bay Coast Railroad
Headquarters Cape Charles, Virginia
The Bay Coast Railroad (reporting mark BCR) operates the former Eastern Shore Railroad line from Pocomoke City, Maryland, to Norfolk, Virginia. The Bay Coast Railroad interchanges with the Norfolk Southern Railway at both Norfolk, Virginia and Pocomoke City, Maryland.

Hurlock Train Station
Federalsburg, Maryland
Train rides on the "Hurlock Express" are given at the annual Hurlock Fall Festival held on the first Saturday of October, run from the town of Hurlock's historic train station (built in 1867).

Selbyville Train Station
Selbyville, Delaware

Delmar Railroad Attractions
On the National Register of Historic Places a highball signal and 1929 caboose serves as museum for railroad artifacts. They are located in a small park on Route 54 at the railroad tracks. The Delmarva Model Railroad Club posts holiday open house events for model train enthusiasts at the Delmar Public Library 101 N. Bi.State Blvd.
Call 302-846-3336 for more information.


Junction and Breakwater Trail
Wolfe Glade parking lot on Wolfe Glade Road, Holland Glade parking lot behind Tanger Outlet Seaside
The trail is suitable for hikers, bikers, and strollers. It is accessible from the designated trailheads. Trail users will pass through mature hardwood and conifer forests and open fields, and will experience scenic vistas of coastal marshes at the Wolfe Glade and Holland Glade crossings.


Information for this article came from:
Counties of Maryland's Eastern Shore by Elaine Bunting & Patricia D'Amario
2003- Tidewater Publishers, Cnetreville, Maryland

Articles for Consideration - 250 Years of History - Worcester County Maryland
1993 - Worcester County Commissioners