ASME-Landmark:Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Old Main Line


Before the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was built, all American railroads were privately owned and created for the purpose of hauling the goods and materials of their owners. But on January 7, 1830, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad became the first railroad to carry paying passengers, and it is now the oldest railroad in the United States.

Created for the purpose of opening the American West, construction on the "Old Main Line" began on July 4, 1828. In Baltimore, the sole surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, 92-year-old Charles Carroll of Carrollton, turned the first spade of Earth for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. On this occasion, Mr. Carroll reportedly remarked that the significance of his act was second only to his signing of the Declaration.

Among many firsts are its use of coal-burning locomotives, T-rail sections, conical wheels, high-pressure steam engines, and iron wheels on passenger cars. Early experiments included those with feedwater heating and superheaters, Charles Grafton Page's electrically operated locomotive, and so forth.

The "Old Main Line" originally operated between Mount Claire, Baltimore, and Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. By 1857 the B&O system had been opened from Baltimore to St. Louis. By 1874 its rails extended into Chicago and by 1886 up the east coast to New York and then Philadelphia. In 1951 the B&O had grown to 6,000 miles of line, 2,000 locomotives, and 100,000 cars. See ASME website for more information