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.HISTORY AND CONSTRUCTION OP THE STREET RAILWAY
SYSTEM OP HAG-ERSTOWN, MD.
J. Alan Campbell
The Maryland Beta Chapter of Tau Beta Pi
April 27, 1954 ,
The first street railway system in Hag erst own was
the Hagerstown Railway Company founded in 1896, This was
added to by the formation of other companies which extended
the trolley service throughout the county. In Frederick a
similar transportation system grew up and by 1904 the tracks
of the two systems were connected at Myersville. The Security
power plant was built in 1912 to meet the growing demands for
electric power made by all the various trolley companies. In
the spring of 1913 all of these concerns were combined to form
the Hagerstown and Frederick Railway Company. This organization
later changed its name to the Potomac Public Service Company
because its light and power business was becoming far bigger
than its transportation service* In 1922 the Williamsport
Power Company was formed to build a steam power plant at
Williamsport. This is still the largest power station in the
whole system. The Williamsport Power Company combined with the
Potomac Public Service Company and the Cumberland Edison Company
to form The Potomac Edison Company in 1923. At present the
entire electric railway, power, and lighting system of Western
Maryland is owned and operated by the Potomac Edison Company.
Since 1911 or 1912 the electric railways have been losing
importance as a means of transportation, until now many of them
have been abandoned and bus service put in their place. Indica-
tions show that in the future all the trolley service will be
discontinued and other means of transportation used in its place.
HISTORY AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE STREET RAILWAY
SYSTEM OP HAGERSTOWN, MD.
The street railway system In Hagerstown Is part of
an electric railway system which covers most of Washington
and Frederick Counties of Maryland, and has tracks in
adjacent southern Pennsylvania. This electric railway
system is part of a coordinated transportation system which
includes bus service throughout Maryland and parts of Virginia,
West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Potomac Edison Company
now controls this transportation system that originally was
composed of numerous small companies each controlling a very
small branch of the system.
THE HAGERSTOWN RAILWAY CO.
The first of these companies In Washington County
was the Hagerstown Railway Company. In 1896 Messrs. Lane,
Mealy, and Cushwa, of Hagerstown, conceived the Idea of
building an electric railway system over the streets of
Hagerstown and connecting Hagerstown to Wllliamsport . They
also proposed building a track to Funks town, a suburb of
Hagerstown* On March 12 of the same year, with the aid of
some outside interests, they incorporated the Hagerstown
Railway Company, which was granted franchises to construct
and operate these lines. They were also given permission
to do a general power and lighting business in Hagerstown
and throughout Washington County.
The original franchise ordinance granted the
company permission to operate the Mulberry Street loop, the
Washington Street line, the South Potomac Street line, and
the Summit Avenue line. This formed a rectangular loop of
single track six blocks long and two blocks wide. It
extended from the business section of town toward the north
and east residential sections. The other lines were also
single track and they radiated from the loop to the city
limits; one west, one southwest, and one south. No other
tracks were laid within the city limits of Hag erst own until
1905 when connections were made with the tracks of the
Hagerstown and Northern Railway Company.
The ordinance of 1896 also provided that "cars
shall be operated daily except Sunday (said Sunday being
optional with the said Railway Company) at least from the
hours of six o'clock A.M. until eleven o'clock P.M. and at
least one car shall be run over each line in each direction
every fifteen minutes during the time of running the same
each day as above set forth". The speed of all care was
limited to eight miles per hour by the ordinance and it was
not until March 13, 1922 that this ordinance was amended to
permit speeds of twenty -five miles per hour with a maximum
of fifteen miles per hour at street crossings. The Railway
Company was required to lay down and maintain all paving
between the tracks and for two feet on either side of the
tracks. Small amounts of freight were carried over the
system but the passenger service made up the bulk of the
business. The passenger cars were at first small single
truck cars with overhead trolley and two 600 volt direct
current motors, one geared directly to each axel. Later
larger cars were used but the overhead trolley and 600 volt
direct current motors are still used throughout the system.
The source of power for the electric railway was
a small steam power plant located at Lee Street in Hagerstown,
where coal was stoked by hand to small boilers. The old
fashioned Edison bi-polar direct current generator was used,
belted directly to a Corliss engine. This plant furnished
power and light for Hagerstown and the vicinity as well as
for the trolley cars.
On June 18, 1905 the Hagerstown and Northern
Railway Company was incorporated by the same interests that
controlled the Hagerstown Railway Company. Their purpose
was to construct an electric railway from Hagerstown directly
north to the Mason Dixon Line, a distance of about seven miles.
As soon as this project was completed the Franklin County
Railroad Company of Pennsylvania was incorporated to build
six miles of track to connect the northern terminus of the
Hagerstown and Northern Railroad to Shady Grove, a small
town in Pennsylvania.
In 1901 the Hagerstown and ^oonsboro Railway
Company was organized to extend the Hagerstown Punks town
line to Boonsboro. The same men who controlled the other
companies also controlled this one. They laid the track and
began operations in the same year. All of these various
companies used the same tracks In Hagerstown, and they operated
as a unit rather than as separate companies.
DEVELOPMENT IN FREDERICK COUNTY
While this development in electric railways was
going on in Washington County a similar development was going
on in adjacent Frederick County. Hagerstown and Frederick
were the centers of the two systems which, as will be shown
later, finally grew into one system with main headquarters and
load center In Ha^erstown.
The first of the electric railway companies in
Frederick County was the Monocacy Valley Railroad Company
Incorporated March 16, 1886. This was the only electric
railway In Frederick County until 1894 when The Frederick
and Middletown Railway Company was organized to give the
farmers in the Middletown Valley an outlet for their produce
through Frederick. This company did both freight and passenger
business and was the best means of transportation from
Middletown to Frederick because of the poor condition of the
roads at that time. On April 9, 1898 the Frederick Thurmont
and Northern Railway Company was granted its charter. This
became a very Important route for carrying freight to and from
Frederick. The northern end of this railway had physical
connections with the Western Maryland Railroad near Thurmont,
so that freight cars could be switched from the Western
Maryland tracks to those of the Frederick Thurmont and North-
ern Railway Company and delivered by them to the various
business concerns in Frederick. To make these deliveries the
street railway system of Frederick was used to advantage and
freight was delivered in any part of Frederick without unloading
the cars. Two years later, in 1900, the Frederick Thurmont
and Northern Railway Company changed its name to The Washington
Frederick and Gettysburg Railway Company hut its ambition to
build an electric railway from Frederick to Washington was
THE MERGER OF 1913
By the end of 1901 the two electric railway systems,
one centered about Hagerstown and the other at Frederick, had
expanded toward each other until there were only seven miles
between them. But it was not until March 22, 1904 that the
Washington County interests together with local interests
about Myersville incorporated the Hagerstown and Myers vi lie
Railway Company to construct and operate an electric railway
from Hagerstown to Myersville. This completed the link
connecting Hagerstown to Frederick by electric railway.
The expansion of the trolley systems and the rqj id
growth of their business led in 1912 to the feeling that all
the companies should combine in an effort to construct a large
power plant to insure power for the entire system. In order
to do this the Frederick and Hagerstown Power Company was
formed to build and operate a power plant at Security, two
miles from Hagerstown. The Security Power Plant had four
coal stoked boilers each la ving 175 pounds per square inch
working pressure. These supplied steam for tvio 1500 &.W.
Westinghouse turbo-generators and one 500 K.W. Westinghouse
turbo-generator used only during peak load. Two rotary
converters were also located at Security to supply 600 volt
direct current to the nearby trolley lines.
In order to better coordinate the electric power
and transportation systems and unify the control of these
companies, there was a merger in 1913 which took in all the
companies so far mentioned and several others. The main
companies included in this merger were i
The Frederick and Haters town Power Company 1912
The Hagerstown and Northern Railroad Company 1907
The Hagerstown and Myersville Railway Company 1904
The Hagerstown and Boonsboro Railway Company 1901
The Myersville and Catoctin Railway Company of Frederick
The Frederick Gas and Electric Company 1904
The Hagerstown and Frederick Railway Company of Washington
The Frederick Railroad Company 1909
It should be mentioned that the Frederick Railroad
Company which went Into this merger was formed in 1909 from a
consolidation of The Washington Frederick and Gettysburg
Railway Company, The Monocacy Valley Railroad Company, The
Jefferson and Braddock Heights Railway Company, and the
Frederick and Mlddletown Railroad Company. Therefore, the
merger of 1913 includes every electric railway in Washington
and Frederick Counties. The merged companies went by the
corporate name, The Hagerstown and Frederick Railway Company,
although this soon proved to be an inadequate name. After
1913 the main purpose of the company no longer was to provide
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electrical transportation; since the light and power business
was becoming far larger than the transportation service. Hot
only was the light and power business becoming larger but the
trolley service was competing with an increasing number of
busses, taxis and private cars. Although no figures are
available earlier than 1926, It is the opinion of officials
of the company that the peak of the trolley service was in
1911 or 1912. From that time until the present the electric
railway* s business has been steadily falling. Because the
Hagerstown and Frederick Railway Company no longer seemed a
fitting name it was changed in 1926 to The Potomac Public
Service Company, which better expressed the purpose of the
By 1926 they were performing a number of different
services, for instance they ran trolleys and busses, furnished
power and light, sold electrical equipment and had a number of
other minor interests. But the company was growing and expand-
ing their power business more than any other branch. They were
buying power plants and building up their business throughout
Western Maryland. In order to aid this growth and expansion
financially as well as with experience, it was arranged that
the American Water Works and Electric Company acquire an
interest in the Potcmac Public Service Company.
THE WILLIAMSPORT POWER STATION
After making a most complete economic and engineering
survey of the Potomac Public Service Company, The American Water
Works and Electric Company decided to finance the building of a
super -power plant for them. A very careful study of the load
center and all possible locations resulted in a decision to
build the plant at William sport, Md. This is only six miles
from Hagerstown, the load center, and it had adequate railroad
facilities for coal and supplies. It is on the banks of the
Potomac River where it has an abundant water supply for cooling
and condensing purposes. The Williamsport Power Company was
formed to build this power station and the original installation
was completed in 1923. The main generating equipment consisted
of a 14,000 K.W. Westinghouse turbo-generator with two 1450 H.P.,
B. and W. Cross Drum type boilers. But because of the rapid
growth of the power company and the demand for higher
efficiencies, additional generating power was soon necessary.
To keep stride with this demand extension of about eighty feet
was made to the boiler room and about sixty feet to the turbine
room. In this space was Installed an additional Bab cock and
Wilcox Cross Drum boiler unit of the improved type and a
30,000 K.W. Westinghouse turbo-generator with the necessary
Within a year of the formation of the Williamsport
Power Company its name was changed to The Potomac Edison
Company and it then acquired all of the property of the
Cumberland Edison Power Company. Next, the Potomac Edison
Company and the Potomac Public Service Company were consolidated
under the name of the Potomac Edison Company which is the
present owner and operator of all of the power and transportation
systems so far discussed. After this consolidation several
smaller companies were acquired but none of them affected
the electric railway system in any way with one exception.
When the Blue Ridge Transportation Company became a subsidiary
of the Potomac Edison Company on August 3, 1923 the trolley
system was coordinated with a bus transportation system that
covered most of Maryland and parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia,
and West Virginia*
THE TROLLEY SYSTEM AT PRESENT
In the past few years the bus service has been
taking the place of the various trolley lines one by one.
Many of the lines have been totally abandoned and the tracks
taken up. For instance the entire line built by the Hagerstown
and Northern Railway Company has been dismantled and bus
service is used in its place. Not only is the number of miles
of track decreasing fast, but on those routes which are still
in use the number of passengers is greatly diminished. This
trend is shown very clearly on the accompanying graph titled
"Hagerstown and Frederick Railway, Number of Passengers
Carried Per Car Mile". As can be seen from the graph there
was an average of about three people per car mile in 1926 but
in 1933 the average was only 1.25 people per car mile. There
is no prospect that this number will increase in the future,
so it is just a matter of time until the trolleys are totally
displaced by other means of transportation in Hagerstown and
the vicinity. There are now left only three routes that
operate on a regulat? schedule in Hagerstown. These are the
routes from Hagerstown to Willismsport, and to Frederick, and
the Summit Avenue line.
Mr. Henry Holzapfel, Vice-President of the Potomac
Edison Company, states that street railway systems in tovms
the size of Hagerstown or Frederick are no longer economical
and cannot favorably compete with private cars, busses, and
taxi cabs. The trolley system in Haters town has flourished
and in its time performed a valuable service to the people;
but its days of usefulness are past. There is no longer any
reason for its existence.
The Potomac Edison News - Vol. 9 and 11
City of Hagerstown Records of Franchise Ordinances.
Case No. 3074 before the Public Service Commission of
Maryland (Stenographer^ Record)
Other valuable information and assistance was supplied by:
Mr. Henry Holzapfel, Vice-Pres. of Potomac Edison Company
Mr. P.W.T. Loy, Vice-Pres. of Potomac Edison Company
Mr. George Twyford, Electrical Engineer of Potomac Edison Co.
Mr. Edgar Koons, Statistician of The Potomac Edison Co.
The Drafting Department of the Potomac Edison Co.
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