B & O Rail Road Sites In Howard County 1857

Ellicott's Mills, fourteen miles from Baltimore, covering the bottom and slopes of the steep hills with dwellings, and their tops with churches and other public edifices." Click on image to enlarge. 

Appleton's magazine article from 1857

In extent, commercial importance, and pictorial attraction, this great route is one of the most important and interesting in America. It unites the city of Baltimore with the waters and valley of the Ohio, at Wheeling, 397 miles away, making one of the pleasantest and speediest of the great highways from the Atlantic to the Mississippi States. Its whole course is through a region of the highest picturesque variety and beauty, and it is itself a work of the highest artistic achievement in the continual and extraordinary display of skill which the singular difficulties of the way have called forth. It claims, too, especial consideration, and reflects the greatest honor upon the State of Maryland and its beautiful metropolis of Baltimore—as the first railway in America which was built by an incorporated company, and with the assistance of the public purse. 
The corner-stoneof the road was laid [in Baltimore by Charles Carroll] at the very early period in the history of railways of July 4, 1828, and on the 30th of August, 1830, the first section was opened by steam-power, 14 miles, from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills. The trial of the first engine was made on the 25th of August of that year. On the 1st of June, 1853, the entire route, of nearly 400 miles, was completed, and on the 10th of January a formal opening of the road was made by a through excursion, with great public fêtes and rejoicings. 
The following picturesque description of the journey to the West by this noble highway, is from the pen of William Prescott Smith, Esq., of Baltimore [1825-1872, wrote The Book of the Great Railway Celebrations of 1857].
Its graphic interest will easily excuse its length. Leaving the city, we cross the

Carrollton Viaduct, a fine bridge of dressed granite, with an arch of 80 feet span, over Gwynn's Falls; after which, the road soon reaches the long and deep excavation under the Washington Turnpike, which is carried over the railroad by the Jackson Bridge. Less than a mile farther the “deep cut” is encountered, famous for its difficulties in the early history of the road. It is seventy-six feet in extreme depth, and nearly half a mile in length, and the traces of the slides and gulleyings of twenty odd years are to be seen upon its furrowed sides, tinted with various ochrous colors of the richest hue. Beyond this, the road crosses the deep ravine of Robert's Run, and, skirting the ore banks of the old Baltimore Iron Company, now covered by a dense forest of cedar trees, comes to the long and deep embankment over the valley of Gadsby's Run, and the heavy cut through Vinegar Hill immediately following it. 
The Relay House, eight miles from the inner station, is then reached, where, as the name imports, there was a change of horses during the period in which those animals furnished the motive power of the road. 
At this point the open country of sand and clay ends, and the region of rock begins at the entrance to the gorge of the Patapsco River. In entering this defile, you have a fine view of The Thomas Viaduct(named after the first President of the Company), a noble granite structure of eight elliptic arches, each of about sixty chord, spanning the stream at a height of sixty-six feet above the bed, and of a total length of some seven hundred feet. This bridge belongs to the Washington Branch Road, which departs from the main line at this place. The pretty village of Elkridge Landing is in sight, and upon the surrounding heights are seen a number of country seats belonging to men of business, who reside here during the summer, tempted by the beauty of the spot and the facilities of access which the railroad affords. 
The road now pursues its devious course up the river, passing the Avalon Iron Works a mile beyond the Relay House, and coming in a couple of miles farther, to the Patterson Viaduct, a fine granite bridge of two arches of fifty-five, and two of twenty feet span. This bridge crosses the river at the Ilchester Mill, situated at a very rugged part of the ravine. The Thistle Cotton Factory appears immediately beyond, and soon after Gray's Cotton Factory, and then the 
well-known and flourishing town of Ellicott's Mills, fourteen miles from Baltimore, covering the bottom and slopes of the steep hills with dwellings, and their tops with churches and other public edifices. The Frederick Turnpike road passes through the town here, and is crossed by the railroad upon the Oliver Viaduct, a handsome stone bridge of three arches of twenty feet span.Just beyond this bridge is the Tarpeian Rock, a bold insulated mass of granite, between which and the body of the cliff the railroad edges its way. Half a mile further, we see the extensive buildings of the Union Cotton Factory scattered over the opposite hill side, and from between two of the mills a fine cascade, pouring incessantly down from the race into the river.
The road next comes in sight of the Elysville Factory buildings, where at a circuitous bend it crosses the river upon a viaduct of three timber arches, each of one hundred and ten feet span, and almost immediately recrosses it upon one of two arches of one hundred and fifty feet span. Thence it follows the windings of the stream to the Forks, twenty-five miles from Baltimore, where, by a deep cut through a narrow neck, it turns the western branch of the river, and thus crosses its former channel twice without a bridge. 
Passing the Marriottsville limestone quarries, the road then crosses the Patapsco by an iron bridge fifty feet span, and dashes through a sharp spur of the hill by a tunnel four hundred feet long in mica slate rock, which forms a substantial roof without other support. For a mile or two beyond this the road runs along pretty meadow lands, but soon re-enters a crooked gorge, which it follows with many diversions of the stream from its original bed, as far as Sykeville, [Sykesville] a village prettily situated at an opening in the valley, and showing a mill and cotton factory. 
This point is thirty miles from Baltimore, and the road after leaving it encounters some rough cutting through points of hard rock, after which it again emerges upon a comparatively open country, and after passing one or two rocky hills at Hood's Mill, it leaves the granite region and enters upon the gentle slopes of the slate hills, amongwhich the river meanders until we reach the foot of 
Parr’s Ridge, dividing the waters of the Patapsco from those of the Potomac. The road crossed this ridge at first by four inclined planes, (two on each side of the ridge,) intended to be worked by stationary power, which was, however, never applied, as before the trade of the road would have justified its use, a new location was made in 1838, and a grade of eighty-two feet per mile with a cut of fifty feet at the summit was substituted for the planes, the steepest of which had upon it an inclination of about three hundred and sixty feet per mile. The new road of about five miles in length, crosses the ridge north of the old, and is but little longer. From the summit of the ridge at the Mount Airy Station, forty-four miles from Baltimore, is a noble view westward across the Fredericktown Valley, and as far as the Catoctin Mountain, some fifteen miles distant."
Appletons' Illustrated Hand-book of American Travel… by railway, steamboat, and stage.  NY: 1857

©2018 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD