The B&O's early days by "Jack" Snyder prepared by Jim Surkamp





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Published on Mar 25, 2012

Joseph P. "Jack" Snyder's new book: Baltimore and Ohio: The Passenger Trains and Services of America's First Common-Carrier Railroad, 1827-1971 [Hardcover]


TRANSCRIPT: Scholar Joseph "Jack" Snyder of Shepherdstown, WV gives an overview of the history of the Baltimore & Ohio leading up to the Civil War

The transcript:
My name is Jack Snyder. I am a writer and historian living in West Virginia. The year is 2012. I'm going to talk today about the history of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from 1827, when it began to the end of the Civil War in 1865 and we're going to cover the area between Baltimore, Maryland and the Midwest, including some of the events of the Civil War. **The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was the first common carrier railroad of the United States - "common carrier" means that it was designed to carry both freight and passengers. It was inaugurated in Baltimore, given legal existence in the year 1827. This was done in imitation of a railroad in England called called the Stockton and Darlington, which was a 25-mile long railroad in western England, designed to carry coal from inland coal mines to the seacoast, where it could be exported. The Baltimore & Ohio, however, was designed for much more than that, it was designed to carry both freight and passengers and it was intended from the very beginning to travel the distance from Baltimore to the Ohio River, a distance of 379 miles and it finally reached the Ohio River twenty-five years after it began in the year 1852.

The importance of the Baltimore Ohio Railroad is greater than it would first appear to be. It was one of many railroads being initiated in that era but it adopted from the very beginning the standard gauge of the English railroads, which was four feet, eight-and-a-half inches. That may sound like an arbitrary number, but that number actually has deep historical roots. It was derived from the distance between the wheels on standard Roman wagons and carts from the heyday of the Roman empire 2000 years ago and it proved to be very effective and successful and is still widely in use today, not only in the United States but in other countries as well. The railroad, as I said, began in 1827 and by 1831 it began its first regular passenger train service to the small industrial city Ellicott Mills - Ellicotts Mills, I should say - just outside Baltimore to the west on the Patapsco River. By 1832, the railroad had reached Frederick, Maryland. Frederick, of course, is a good deal inland, and was the second city in Maryland - still is - after Baltimore. By 1836 the Baltimore Ohio railroad had progressed to Harper's Ferry, Virginia. This of course was before the state of West Virginia which only came into existence during the Civil War. And by 1842, the B&O had reached Cumberland, Maryland, a distance of about 200 miles from its origin point in Baltimore.

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