The Eckhart Branch Railroad


This is one in a series of short articles on the early mining railroads of Allegany County, Maryland. These roads were built in the early 1840s, in anticipation of connecting with the B&O railroad and the C&O Canal. Built by iron and coal companies, some of these mine roads owned and operated their own equipment, where others operated with early B&O motive power & rolling stock. All of the lines were absorbed into the Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad by 1870.

The Maryland Mining Company (MMC) was incorporated in Maryland on March 12, 1829. The company built the railroad from Eckhart to Will's Creek, a length of 9 miles, and later extended the line as the Potomac Wharf Branch (14 miles total). The railroad was absorbed into the Cumberland & Pennsylvania in 1870.

The Maryland Mining Company Railway from Eckhart Mines to Will's Creek following Braddock Run was completed in 1846. This section included two tunnels, the one closest to Cumberland (lower tunnel) being 506 feet in length, and the upper tunnel being 335 feet long. The tunnels were separated by 0.6 mile. The grade reached 3% in places. This branch was also the location of a large horseshoe curve, at Clarysville. The construction of Interstate 68 from the Vocke Road intersection to the bridges at Clarysville removed most of the evidence of the Eckhart Branch railroad in that area, including the tunnels.

The Potomac Wharf Branch was built between 1846 and 1850, as an extension of the Eckhart Branch into Cumberland. Will's Creek was bridged at the west end of the Narrows in 1846 with a four arch structure that is still standing in 1994. The rail line connected with the Mount Savage line at the West end of the Narrows. After passing through the Narrows on the North (B&O) side, it recrossed Will's Creek on a bridge (no longer present) just east of the present Route 40 road bridge. Some of the tracks may still be seen near some billboards, and a gas station. A picture of a classic wreck scene, circa 1860, shows that bridge collapsed into Will's Creek, with the engine C.E. Detmold hanging on. The original Potomac Wharf Branch bridge was a 203-foot deck plate girder structure, with two support pillars in the creek. It was built in 1849, and rebuilt after the Detmold accident. It survived until the flood of 1936.

The Potomac Wharf branch was used to carry coal to flat-bottom Potomac River boats, and to canal boats, before the canal wharf facility was completed. The flat-bottom boats ferried coal down the Potomac to Georgetown and Alexandria during the Spring, when the water level was high enough for navigation. After the C&O Canal reached Cumberland, canal boats could enter the Potomac River through the guard locks. The original Potomac River wharf had been built by Mr. John Galloway Lynn of Cumberland, and was known as the Lynn Wharf. It was deeded to the Maryland Mining Company in 1849.

The Cumberland Coal & Iron (CC&I) Company, chartered in 1850, purchased the Maryland Mining Company's mines and railroad property, including the village of Eckhart, in April 1852. The rail line was extended to the Hoffman mines in 1859. Cumberland Coal & Iron was in turn acquired by the Consolidation Coal Company in 1870. At that point, the Eckhart Branch became part of the Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad, also owned by Consolidation Coal. However, for a period of 20 years, from 1850-1870, the Eckhart Branch operated independently of the C&P.

The B&O Railroad provided early motive power and rolling stock to the Allegany County coal shortlines. The B&O supplied at least eight Camel engines, as evidenced by Winans notes (ref. 9). These included B&O engines 161, 162, and 163, among others (see ref. 6). In addition, Ross Winans of Baltimore, as well as other builders, sold engines, tenders, and coal cars to the various mining companies. Passenger service was provided on the Eckhart Branch sometime before 1853, and the C&P continued to use a gravity passenger car on that line. The passenger car was then hauled back up the mountain at the end of a string of empty coal hoppers. Servicing, watering, and coaling facilities were located in Eckhart. The C&P maintained an engine house and servicing facilities here, and the foundations of these are still evident.

It is not known if this is a complete list of Eckhart Branch Motive Power. All of the listed engines except the first are of the Camel type. Hicks (ref. 2) recounts that the transfer records (from MMC to CC&I) mention five engines. Two of these are Winans, but lighter in weight than the listed engines, and three are much lighter. Reference 10 mentions that the company motive power included three first class engines, two second class, and forty-one horses and mules. Rolling stock included sixty-eight iron hopper, gondola, scow, and passenger cars in 1853.

Eckhart Branch Motive Power Roster

Builder type date Name (*) company disposition

1. unknown 2-2-2 -?- Enoch Pratt MMC unknown

2. Winans 0-8-0 1849 Eckhart MMC rblt 1868, to C&P #27

3. Winans 0-8-0 1849 Mountaineer MMC to C&P #28. scrp. 1876

4. Winans 0-8-0 1851 Fire King MMC unknown

5. Winans 0-8-0 1852 Black Monster CC&I ** to C&P #29

6. Winans 0-8-0 1854 Braddock CC&I to C&P #31, renum. #30

7. Winans 0-8-0 1853 Cumberland CC&I to C&P #30

(*) Before 1851, general railroad practice was to name engines rather than number them. Locomotives were generally named after geographical references, or persons of significance.

(** ) same as B&O #106 and 108. see Ref. 6. 19" x 22" cylinders, 43" drivers.

No pictures of any of these engines are known to exist. The Transfer records mention "2 engines of 23 ton's weight, 1 second-class coal/wood burner of 15 tons, 1 English make, American built of 15 tons, and 1 second class engine of 12 tons." The use of the Enoch Pratt is questionable, although it may be the 'American built of 15 tons' mentioned. A 2-2-2 wheel arrangement is unusual. The Robert Stephenson Patentee of 1833 was of this pattern. In England, they were known as a Crewe-type. The English Crewe-type was produced by Allen, 1843-1857. His 'goods engines' were 19.5 tons, much more than the Enoch Pratt. American manufacturers known to have copied Stephenson's work from Britain include Baldwin, Rogers, the Locks & Canal Company of Lowell, Ma., and the West Point Foundry. No extant records support the sales of an engine from any of these companies to the Maryland Mining Company. The West Point Foundry supplied the machinery to the Georges Creek Coal & Iron Company for the blast furnace at Lonaconing. A Cumberland Valley RR 2-2-2 by Seth Wilmarth of Boston, built 1851, is known. Mr. Enoch Pratt may have financed the engine. There isn't a connection of him with Maryland Mining, but he was a major Baltimore hardware merchant, and financed some of Winan's projects.

The Eckhart was a "second class" engine, with 17" cylinders. The Braddock was a first class engine, with 19" cylinders. Mr. Winans customarily gave a thirty day trial period to the purchasers. The engine Mountaineer was delivered on December 1, 1849, and accepted on Jan. 8, 1850. The engine Cumberland cost $11,000., and was delivered May 28, 1853. The engine Fire King, delivered 6/30/1851, came with a 4 wheel tender, holding 1 1/2 tons of coal, and 900 gallons of water. The engine Frostburg went into service on Nov. 20, 1852.

Service on the Eckhart Branch was hard, as evidenced by a series of correspondence with the Winans works in Baltimore in 1856 (ref. 8). On June 16, 1856, CC&I ordered a replacement right-hand crosshead for the engine Braddock.. The Braddock had gone into service on July 1, 1854. On September 24, they needed the same part for the engine Eckhart.. The Eckhart had been placed into service on August 1, 1849. A frantic telegram on December 9, 1856, emphasizes the need for urgency for shipment of the replacement left-hand crosshead for the Eckhart. The engines Black Monster and Cumberland were at work at that time. The parts were delivered to the B&O Railroad at Cumberland. It is not known whether the repair work was done at Cumberland, or at Eckhart. The engine Eckhart was later rebuilt at the C&P shops in Mt. Savage in 1868.

At the openning ceremony of the railroad on Wednesday, May 13, 1846, a special train took the board of directors and guests from Cumberland to Eckhart, and returned. About two weeks later, an accident occured on the line near the connection with the Mt. Savage Rail Road, at the west end of the Narrows. A dozen passengers were injured when the brakes burned out on the train, and it overturned due to excessive speed. It was noted in the newspaper account that these were the same brakes used on the Baltimore & Ohio line, but they were not adequate for the grades of the Eckhart Branch. Flooding in July of 1846 also caused extensive damage to the line's lower end.

A word on names. The term Eckhart Branch seems to date from the later period of the 1870's. In a schedule published in the newspaper, the line is referred to as the Cumberland Branch.. It seems to depend on which end you started from. In the earliest accounts, the line is simply called the Maryland Mining Company Railway. During the Civil War, the rail line was most probably used to transport supplies to the Military Hospital facility at Clarysville.

From 1846 to 1870, the Winans camel engines of the Eckhart Railroad eased the heavy coal loads down the mountain, around the horseshoe curve, and through the tunnels to Cumberland. These were the days of manual car brakes, and link-and-pin couplers. Later, the camels would haul the empty coal hoppers and the lone passenger car back up the mountain in preparation for another day's work. The legacy of the Eckhart railroad continued with the C&P, and with Western Maryland equipment into the 1950's.


1. Mellander, Deane, "Rails to the Big Vein, the Short Lines of Allegany County, Maryland," January, 1981, Potomac Chapter, NRHS, Inc.

2. Hicks, H. Ray,"The Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad," R&LHS Bulletin No. 66, March, 1945, pp. 36-50.

3. Stakem, Patrick H., "The Engines Cumberland," March, 1992, Automatic Block .

4. Dilts, James D., "The Great Road The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio The Nation's First Railroad, 1828-1853," 1993, Stanford University Press.

5. Hughes, George Wurtz, "Extracts from reports of an examination of the coal measures belonging to the Maryland mining company, in Allegany county; and of a survey for railroad from the mines to the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, at Cumberland," 1837, Printed by Gales and Seaton, Washington (available: Pratt).

6. Edson, William D.,"Steam Locomotives of the Baltimore & Ohio An All Time Roster," 1992, ISBN 0-9632913-0-0.

7. Winans Notebook, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Folder 72, box 23.

8. Winans papers, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Folder 3, box 1.

9. Report of President & Board of Directors of Cumberland Coal & Iron Company to the Stockholders, Feb. 11, 1853, New York, John F. Trow, Printer.

10. Rankin, Robert G., "Report on Cumberland Coal Basin," 1855, New York, John F. Trow, Printer.

11. Cumberland Alleganian, 1846, various issues.

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