The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is one of the first and oldest railroads in the United States, and America’s first commercial long-distance railroad, and for this reason Baltimore still keeps a keen and proud awareness of its historical heritage. A pioneeristic railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was one of the most technologically advanced American railroads back in the days of early trains history. Several great minds of railroading pioneerism gave birth to hundreds of innovative ideas in this railroad, the most famous of which is undoubtedly the first American steam-engine locomotive.
During the early 1800’s, Maryland facedeconomic stagnation as its largest port Baltimore had no direct commercial routes leading to the rich and rapidly growing western states. In 1827 an association of 25 traders and bankers decided that building a railroad was the best way to reach out the newer trade routes, and so they began building what was one of the first, and largest, commercial lines in the world. Their initial investment amounted of $3 million, an incredibly huge sum for that period, but it was more than just a “worthy investment”. In just one year, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was able to generate a yearly revenue that covered the initial investment in almost its entireness, becoming one of the principal trade routes of the North American continent. The railroad covered some 380 miles (610 km) in 1854, generating millions of dollars of shipment revenues that let Baltimore grow as the financial capital of the southernPhiladelphiaregion. The first stone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroadwas laid on July 4th, 1828 and it is now kept in the B&O Museum in Baltimore, containing a copy of the original charter. On May 24th, 1830 the line was finally completed all the way to Ellicott’s Mills, and it was built with granite stringers topped by strap iron rails. Most of the initial parts of the railroad were built with granite, and still resist today as its first bridge, the Carrollton Viaduct, named in honor of one of the railroad’s founders Charles Carroll of Carrollton, which is still intact. Granite was then deemed too expensive though, and it was later substituted by more economic materials, and more technologically advanced solutions such as cast iron rails and flanged iron wheels replacing the original wooden counterparts were also applied.
Peter Cooper’s “Tom Thumb” company was the first B&O company to operate a locomotive built in America in 1829, and in August of 1830 brought the first steam train in American history.The Baltimore and Ohio Railroadincluded the first American passenger and freight station in Mount Clare, and was the first railroad that published a timetable in 1830. From its original Potomac River course, the railroad rapidly expanded itself to reach Washington in 1835, with a steady flow of US mail transported every day within its wagons. In 1843, theB&O hosted the first American telegraph line, that run for 38 miles (61 km) along the railroad, connectingWashingtonD.C. to Baltimore. During the Civil War the railroad was used to move Union troops and supplies, and it was attacked several times, so it saw several cycles of destruction and rebuilding that actually served as a general renovation for the entire system.
The Baltimore and Ohio railroad is so important for American history, that today it’s considered as a National Historic Landmark, and an entire Railroad Museum grew over it becoming a realRailroad University of the United States. The first published history of an American railroad was published in 1853 by William Prescott Smith, and it was “A History and Description of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad”, just to point out how important this railroad was for the development of American commerce through the last 2 centuries. Today the museum with its numerous exhibits, is place of heritage preservation, fully dedicated at promoting and preserving all the culture of“America’s First Railroad”and prides itself as the oldest, most comprehensive American railroad collection in the world.
Today the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is part of the CSX Transportation (CSX) network, includes the Staten Island Rapid Transit (SIRT), and links together 13 states of the United States with more than 5552 miles of road and 10449 miles of track operated.Today nearly all modern locomotives and most freight cars are painted with the CSX logo and even the oldest vehicles have been repainted in yellow, blue and orange.