History of B&A Railroad
On the morning of May 9, 1887, 25 passengers boarded engine No. 1, the pride of the newly completed Annapolis & Baltimore Short Line Railroad. Pulling out of the Bladen Street Station in Annapolis bound for Baltimore; this maiden run marked the beginning of 63 years of passenger service on what would become known as the B&A Short Line Railroad.
This rail line was the first major direct transportation route between the state capital in Annapolis and the city of Baltimore. The years between 1918 and the late 1920’s proved to be the most prosperous times for the railroad.
Passenger trains ran hourly between 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and an estimated 1,750,000 passengers a year used the line. It was during these years that Anne Arundel County developed an intricate web of transportation routes via steamboats, bus lines and rail service.
Towns such as Glen Burnie, Severna Park, Linthicum and others came into being due to the presence of the railroad. However it was during this very period of rapid growth that forces were put in motion that would spell the eventual end to the railroad. The Maryland Legislature invested heavily in roads infrastructure to accommodate this new growth. B&A Blvd. was completed in 1910 and Governor Ritchie Highway followed in 1939. Both of these roads paralleled the rail line, and the coming of age of the automobile eventually robbed the railroad of local passengers. Financial competition with the WB&A railroad and local bus lines was fierce. During the course of the rail line’s history it was sold, merged with another line, or went bankrupt six times and was never a very profitable venture. Yet it survived more changes in ownership and economic downturns than its competitors.
After World War II, demand for passenger rail service rapidly declined. American GI's returning from the war bought new cars and homes in record numbers and there were several new bus companies with routes between Annapolis and Baltimore to service these new residents. At a hearing in November 1949 the Maryland Public Service Commission reported "The rails are worn and would have to be replaced if passenger service is continued; the cars and trains are antiquated, decrepit, and unattractive means of travel; schedules are slow, and there is no inducement, save that of necessity, for anyone to travel the area by rail. While not yet dead, it is moribund”. Finally, on February 5, 1950 under the charge of veteran conductor Charles F. Binderman, the B&A Short Line made its final passenger run ending 63 years of faithful service.
The existence of the B&A Short Line Railroad was the defining factor to the course of development of northern Anne Arundel County and the Broad Neck Peninsula. The communities of Glen Burnie, Severna Park, Arnold, Linthicum and others all came into existence because of the presence of this railroad. The B&A Blvd., and Governor Ritchie Hwy., both paralleled the development already established by this railroad. Despite the many financial difficulties of the line, it was the B&A Short Line Railroad that was the determining influence to the development of these communities we see today.
Matthew George, Trails Historian