It was the line intended to stretch across the countryside to reach the Nation's capital. In actuality, from the Baltimore end, it never made it very far beyond the Patapsco River. Regardless, in its existence, it did serve a very valuable role as an important part of the Baltimore Transit scenario.
Old meets new at the Rolling Road loop, Semi on Route 9 unloads patrons transferring to waiting 14 line PCC. Bill Volkemer photo from Dave's Rail Pix.
Originally, the line was the brainchild of the Columbia and Maryand Railway, who envisioned an Standard gauge interurban line that would travel from Baltimore to Washington D.C.. The D.C. line was completed about as far as Laurel, while work was in progress from the Baltimore end as well (curiosity makes one wonder if they had a "Golden Spike" style meeting in store had the line been completed). Operations in Baltimore actually commenced around Thanksgiving of 1898 from Howard Street across Saratoga, Monore, and across Franklin Street to Franklintown Road. However, just as this was being prepared, the line was sold to the Consolidated Railway which converted the almost completed portion of the line (Franklintown Road to Ellicott City)to Baltimore's wide gauge, and was able to begin (5',4.5") operations in December from just across from Ellicott City up a private right of way, then using a cut off to reach the Frederick Road line in Catonsville, where its Eastern terminus was.
Baltimore's only Standard Gauge Streetcar Line (1898-1901)
Soon afterwards, in April of 1899, the standard gauge line was cut back to have its Western terminus at Monroe Street. No references thus far have made light as to the type of equipment used on this standard gauge line, how it was designated, the level of service operated, and what the fate of the displaced equipment was once the line was ultimately abandoned. Also of great speculation arises as to where these cars were stored and maintained! Thus this very unique operation in the Baltimore Transit story has largely proven to be an enigma of sorts.
In any event, the wide gauge line was extended across a newly completed bridge into Ellicott City in July of 1899, and later to terminate at its ultimate terminus at the Ellicott City Fire House at Fells Lane. In February of 1900, the line was revised to operate along new trackage along Edmondson Avenue to a connection with the 4 line at Franklintown Road, where it continued East along that route's rails, looping Downtown using Charles, Lexington and Howard Streets. At this time, it was likely given its official designation of Route #14. Later in April of that year, the line was rerouted to operate along Monroe and Saratoga Streets to reach its Downtown loop. The standard gauge line was reportedly discontinued the same day, thus giving rise to the possibility of a brief period of dual gauge trackage along Saratoga Street.
Route #14 served as a prime example of a route that served to generate development. Early survey maps dating from the early days of the line show a virtual absence of development west of Franklintown Road, aside from the large cemetery. In these days, there was no such thing as Edmondson Village and Rognel Heights. As such, the majority of early riders along the #14 line came from Ellicott City, Oella, or Catonsville. This would balance in time however, as new developments and growth sprang up along the line.
In May of 1907, operation of the line moved from the old Carbarn at Edmondson and Bruce Streets to a "modern" facility at Edmondson and Franklintown Road. This Edmondson Car house would serve as the storage and maintenance facility for the Ellicott City line for almost the remainder of its entirety.
Throughout the early years, as the line continued to grow, the use of capacious Semi-Convertible cars grew as well on the line. The double ended cars were particularly well suited to the line, as the configuaration of the steep hillsides in Ellicott City would likely have made any attempt at a loop for Single Ended cars a serious undertaking. In 1927, the line was reconfigured so that Ellicott City Cars would be designated as #9 while cutback cars terminating at Rolling Road would retain the #14 designation. The lines would develop thier own charachter as a result of this differentiation, as #9 cars would operate with two-man crews (Motorman, Conductor) and Double Ended cars, while the #14 would use a single "Operator" and would eventually be modified to be able to operate Single ended cars.
This route however would also be the home of one of the most interesting and little known operations of Baltimore's Street Railways: the Dump Track. In the vicinity of Edmondson and Athol Avenues (present day Edmondson High School) was a spur that diverged Westward out of the Eastbound (inbound) track and curved off to the South and East to a dumping ground for old "trash" from the transit company. This may have included old transfers, schedules, unneeded records, and other mostly paper items that were no longer usable. Needless to say, this "trash" would likely now be a treasure in the hands of any transit conoissuer. The dates of operation for this dump are uncertain, but the 1945 Track map still shows this unique and interesting spur.
Despite a 1935 Chase Report recommendation that the line beyond the City Line (North Bend) be converted to a bus operation, the line as a whole continued to persevere for quite some time. In 1941, UR&E's successor, the BTC looked instead at the idea of cutting the #14 line back to a new loop at North Bend while continuing the #9 line as a rail shuttle. Opposition among riders led the PSC to insist that the BTC was to construct a loop at Rolling Road for use by the Single ended cars (Semi-convertibles and PCCs), while the #9 was to still continue as a through operation during peak hours on Mondays-Saturdays. In 1941, these loops were constructed and this operation was commenced, while Double-Ended cars on the #14 could still short turn at Rognel Heights. It appears that the former connection to the #8 line at Catonsville Junction was previously removed about 1939 with the construction of the loop just South of Edmondson Avenue. One slight revision was imposed in July of 1941 as the last block of Howard Street rail was abandoned as Downtown cars were now routed up Park Avenue in the completion of their loops, thus making Howard Street a "free-wheel artery" as intended.
Among the interesting operation was the all-night service along the #14 line. The line operated as a Shuttle from North Bend Loop to Edmondson & Poplar Grove, where a timed connection to Inbound cars of the #4 line was made. Cars left on their Outbound trip after receiving passengers transferring from the Outbound trip of the all-night #4 car. This operation continued well into the bus era.
The Saturday peak operation of Route #9 into Downtown was discontinued shortly once manpower shortages during World War II became too great, but the Weekday operation continued as agreed. Following the war, the lines continued as is until February of 1950, when the #9 line was converted to a one-man operation, using the yellow Semi-Convertibles, as opposed to the red cars. In May of that year, the route was revised once again to "free" Monroe Street of car tracks in a one-way flow program, and cars were rerouted to use Gilmor Street between Saratoga Street and Edmondson Avenue.
Two years later, one of the most significant dates in the history of Baltimore's streetcar system would occur. On the afternoon of August 7, 1952, a yellow semiconvertible car pulled out of the Charles and Lexington stand and took with it nearly 50 years of history. For with this trip, the operation of revenue Semi-Convertibles (the most ubiquitous car of by far of all car types) in Downtown Baltimore ceased for good. From then until closure, Semis were limited to shuttle operations on the #9, #26, and #35, and perhaps limited charters from the ever reluctant NCL operation.
Now it seemed it was just a matter of time for the disjointed operation to call it quits. Despite this, the first blow was an abrupt move which moved from the table into implementation in a matter of mere weeks. Spearheaded by Traffic planner Henry Barnes, a move was introduced in mid-1954 to reverse the directions of flow on both Charles and Lexington Streets. As a result, the cars could not use their loop as it was then configured. Instead, it would be necessary to reverse the loop, installing and relocating new track in the process. At first, this was the BTC's intention as long as the city was willing to pay for the costs. BTC even devised a temporary detour for the cars to use while the construction was to progress.
By July, however, the BTC was unsuccessful in its attempts at getting the City to foot the bill. A new proposal now called for the combination of Route #4 (which shared the #14's Downtown loop) with the #15 streetcar line from the East, making a larger #15 line. This same proposal also called for the conversion of the #9 and #14 to bus, with additional service provided by an extension of bus Route #20. This proposal failed to win the approval of the Public Service Commission. BTC tried again with another conversion proposal in which the #14 would be combined with the #23 bus from the East, effectively making one long bus line. Despite numerous objections, BTC, with the support of Barnes, went ahead with the conversion, and #23 line buses began operation on the former #14 streetcar on September 18, 1954, absorbing the Wildwood branch of the #20 at the same time. Edmondson Avenue Car House closed on this same day, as cars along the #4 segment operating on the extended #15 line were supplied by Belvedere Car House.
Still, the Ellicott City streetcar was not dead - yet! Route #9 was retained as a streetcar operating from Catonsville Junction to the Ellicott City terminus. Cars were now stored chained to the track at Rolling Road Loop. The three cars, (5706, 5745, 5748) almost certainly operated by Irvington Car House Personnel, were poorly maintained (if at all) and spent their final months operating the line as if they were zombies, as they were by far the oldest revenue vehicles still on the property. It was as if all but the final nail in the coffin were in.
That final nail came forth in June of 1955. In the early morning hours of June 19, the final trip was made from Ellicott City to Catonsville Junction, bringing with it a close to Fifty years of Semi-Convertible operation in the Baltimore area.
On June 20, service began
on the new #9 bus, operating from Ellicott City to Catonsville
Junction over a highly altered route. The line largely played "touch and
go" with the right of way of the streetcar line, which was being dismantled that
summer, as there weren't many suitable parrallel roads on which to make the
journey (although it can be argued that the shape of many of the roads chosen
weren't suitable from a riding standpoint). Travelling outbound the route used
Edmondson, Old Frederick, Rockwell, Westchester, Oella, Old Frederick,
Frederick, and Main to loop at Saint John's Lane in Ellicott City.
Assigned coaches came from the Belvedere Division, and were typically the
nature of old Fords or 900 series coaches. It appears that they were more often
900's as the Fords were practically due for retirement when the line was
initiated, as only a handful remained on the roster. The buses, while giving
closer service to the Oella Community, took far longer to make the trip due to
their curcuitous route, and did not offer Sunday service. Thus, it came
as little suprise to observers when they too made their last trips on February
1, 1957. The Ellicott City Bus line vanished almost as quickly as it
In the years following, little came of the Ellicott City line. The right-of-way lay almost forgotten among thick growth. Hundreds of miles away, the sole surviving Semi-Convertible, #5748, rested at Seashore Trolley Museum, after an unsuccessful attempt of Baltimore fans to save it. And while the car has yet to run again, the right of way has once again been brought into use, as a hiking and biking trail, from Chalfonte Drive at the end of Edmondson Avenue down to Oella Avenue near the Patapsco Avenue. Walkers and cyclists can now retrace the path of this fabled journey, including the intrigiung "Deep Cut" at Westchester Avenue. The path has a great number of trees along it providing a cooling canopy even in the Summer months.
Still of speculation to the wondering transit mind is the fate of the line, had the connection to Washington been a success. Interestingly, this Columbia and Mayland line would likely have had to travel directly through the planned Columbia community that rose up in the 1960s. Perhaps the pioneering fathers of the line were on to something, just a bit too early!