Williamsport Branch

Williamsport Branch

At Williamsport the Western Maryland had a short branch that was completed in 1873 to reach the C&O Canal. This was the main line as the tracks did not go any farther west until constructed to connect to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Cherry Run in 1892. Back at Williamsport a coal off loading facility was constructed to offload coal and other supplies from canal boats for transfer to railcars. The coal was then hauled east at a much faster pase to the Port of Baltimore. With this new connection, it gave the C&O Canal and WMRR new competition against the B&O RR who at the time had the fastest route between Cumberland and the ports at Baltimore. After the canal days were gone that branch was only kept alive by a few local business with the biggest being the large coal burning Potomac Edison power plant. Sometime in the mid-1950's the power plant began receiving coal by truck and the branch was no longer in use. Later in 1974 the branch was upgraded as the power plant again began receiving coal by rail. This went on for only 9 months when the power plant switched back to coal delivery by truck. Most of the track towards the end of the line was left and still remains today. The lift bridge was reported to be in working order. Only one section of the old right-of-way has changed. This change is along the road by the creek where a building was built atop the right-of-way. The branch will most likely never see another train again.

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A very old photo along the Williamsport Branch. This part of the WM may still be the main line as the WM was only constructed west from Hagerstown to Williamsport to reach the C&O Canal and its resources. It appears as if the old Williamsport Station is on the right. The branch/main line follows the creek passing the station then heads thru a small cut to reach the canal. The highway bridge crossing the creek still remains today. Later the WM would construct west from here crossing the creek on a trestle just beyond the mill in the distance as it headed west towards the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Cherry Run.

Two old photographs from the Library of Congress show the trypical routine that went one here along the canal in Williamsport. In these two photos coal is being offloaded from canal boats onto either freight cars or in piles for future loading. The coal was then transported to the Port of Baltimore or North towards New York City.

The track layout photographed in 1970-71 while still in use by the WM to serve the power plant. (Don Biggs photo)

Looking east from the lift bridge and from under the Rt. 11 Bridge. These two photos are roughly 15 years apart and the area has remained mostly untouched with the exception being the tree growth.

A diamond is here directly under the bridge. A second track passed to the left of the diamond and paralleled the canal. This track was basically a switchback for the canal loading point. Notice the WM tell-tale in the distance. The purpose of the tell-tale was to alert crewmen working atop freight cars of the overhead bridge just beyond here.

Pictured here lying in the foreground is the switch for the switchback into the canal loading era. (2005)

Walking down the track just beyond the switch and road bridge you come upon the second tell-tale. The second photo is looking west back towards the lift bridge near the end of the track. (2005)

The WM lift bridge over the canal is still reported to be in working order.

The abandoned rails leave the lift bridge and run under the pavement around the bend to the power plant where they split into a number of tracks. Most of the tracks are still is only now covered by new roads.

The tracks diverged at the power plant into yard tracks to store coal hoppers. Today the plant receives its coal by truck.

Down in the power plant in 1970-1971 when coal was received by the Western Maryland Railway. (Don Biggs photos)

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