One of my many interests is the study of old and abandoned railways. The Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad is one of my favorites because it ran through many places I’ve called home. There is a Ma&Pa Railroad abutment located in the woods east of Towson that I hiked to and wrote this article about.
The Ma & Pa as it was affectionately known, ran from Baltimore to Harrisburg via Bel Air, as seen in the timetable map on the right.
If a local government had snatched up the right of way after the Ma & Pa declared bankruptcy in the middle of the last century, it could have been an extreme transit right of way in the current one. Sadly, planners let this one go, and now there is no rail transit to Towson, nor is there a rail link to bustling Bel Air and Baltimore.
Working in Towson has got me interested in how this railway traversed it. There are two stone abutments on York Road near the intersection of York and Towsontown Blvd, which stand tall as reminders of this rail line. Traveling east, however, the path is not as clear.
By the time I-695 (the Beltway) was planned, the Ma&Pa was already nearly dead. Building the Beltway interchange at Cromwell Bridge Rd and Loch Raven Blvd required an immense earth moving project because of the ridge that runs east and west across the county. The Ma&Pa tackled this feature head on by steaming uphill to Towson and then staying on the top of the ridge. Since the beltway had to be a loop, State Roads Commission engineers had to cut through the ridge, and they chose this location.
There once was a gap in the ridge right around where Loch Raven Boulevard and Cromwell Bridge Road meet today. That gap was smaller in those days and contained a stream, the bed of Cowpens Road, and a large trestle on which the Ma&Pa rode. When the beltway designers chose this area to run the road through, the trestle had to go.
The plat above tells the story of what became of the railroad trestle at this location. The beltway and an upgraded Loch Raven Blvd would forever change the landscape. However, some evidence of this trestle remains today, and there could be more to be found.
Ma&Pa Railroad Abutment Hike
On a hot Tuesday in July 2013, I hiked up the ridge south of Loch Raven High School looking for an abutment there, with a friend. Here’s a rough GPS trace of that trip. Right where I thought it’d be, we found a large stone abutment, still largely intact and unaltered. After taking a few photos, we hiked back down to the car and called it a day.
Later, I produced two maps of the abutment as well as places to look for other ones. Some of the areas are vastly overgrown with shrubs and weeds, so I may have to return in the winter. I’m curious whether certain other abutments survive, and what, if any, evidence there is in the triangle between Loch Raven Blvd, I-695, and Cromwell Bridge Rd.
Update 19 Nov 2015: Updated links.
Update 22 Dec 2016: links and content