Home |  Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

Remembering the Thurmont-Frederick
 trolley system

George Wireman

Surely everyone living in Thurmont in 1954 remembers the Saturday morning of February 20 when a crowd gathered on Carroll Street near the Western Maryland Railway Station to witness the final run of the Thurmont/Frederick trolley.

It was in 1907 when the Washington, Frederick and Gettysburg Railroad purchased the Monocacy Valley Railroad and began building the connecting link of three miles between Lewistown and Catoctin Furnace. When this link was completed it provided a continuous track from Frederick to Thurmont, where it made connections with the Western Maryland Railroad. The line between Frederick and Washington and from Thurmont to Gettysburg never materialized.

Not long after the line was completed from Frederick to Thurmont, the Frederick Railroad Company was formed and took over the operation of the railroad from Frederick to Thurmont, and operated a steam railroad between the two communities. In 1909, electrification of the Thurmont-Frederick division was accomplished, thus making it the very first electric railroad in the United States to handle freight cars with electric locomotives. In that same year the first electric passenger car made its maiden run from Frederick to Thurmont.

The unique feature of this line was the standard gauge track, which made it possible to route freight cars over the tracks which provided many services to communities located along the scenic route. It became an established fact, that the interurban trolley far out-paced the horse and buggy.

The trolley operations brought with it many changes. There were excursions into the country, picnics, scenic rides, all-day visits to farm friends amid sweet clean country breezes unpolluted by carbon monoxide fumes.

Many individuals along the line depended upon the trolley for transportation to Frederick where they held important jobs. Gradually the automobile and the bus came into its own, and patronage of the trolley line began to dwindle. But despite the competition there were many who remained faithful commuters to the very end.

In January of 1954, the announcement that passenger service between Thurmont and Frederick had declined to such an extent that it would be discontinued. As a result of this announcement, the line was deluged with riders. Not only did the citizens of the two communities develop a nostalgic interest in the trolley, but tourists from as far away at Florida, California, and Oklahoma flocked to the area to ride the rails of the last surviving line of its kind.

Then came that fateful day. On Saturday, February 20, 1954, the Thurmont/Frederick trolley made its final run. I was there for that final run and it was a day of sad nostalgia and as I glanced through the crowd I noticed that for some it brought mist to the eyes and for me a sentimental ache in the heart.

Giving up the trolley service was hard for some of the veteran commuters who had grown up with the trolley line and accepted it as a necessary part of their lives. The ceremonies were brief, with remarks by Thurmont mayor, C. Ray Weddle and R. Paul Smith, President of the Potomac Edison Company, owner of the line.

Following the ceremonies at Thurmont, two trolleys filled with dignitaries and tourists, made their way to Frederick where the guests were entertained at a special luncheon at the historic Francis Scott Key Hotel. Although it was a cloudy day and raining, the weather didnít dampen the spirits of those attending.

The freight service of the Thurmont/Frederick line continued for a number of years.  Finally, this too was discontinued and in September 1958 the tracks were removed and the Thurmont/Frederick trolley line became another chapter of history.  February marked the 50th anniversary of the last run of the Thurmont Trolley. I was there for that final run. Although it happened 50 years ago, I remember it well, as if it were yesterday.  But, time marches on.

Read other article by George Wireman

Read other articles of Thurmont's history

If you have any Information or historical news clippings on business in the Thurmont Area, Please send them to us so we can included them in our archives. E-mail us at: history@mythurmont.net