In the early years of the Twentieth Century, visitors from Washington, DC, and Baltimore flocked to Chesapeake Beach for the weekend. They stayed in the resorts and hotels, enjoyed the beaches of the Chesapeake Bay, and even gambled while slot machines were legal.
Would you believe that on the weekends, the population of Chesapeake Beach swelled to 10,000 people?
One of the ways the weekenders got to the resort town was the Chesapeake Beach Railway. The nearly 27-mile train line ran from Washington to Chesapeake Beach, making several stops along the way. The trip took about an hour; if you took the local train, which made more stops, the trip took 90 minutes.
The train ran for 35 years, pulling out of the station for the last time in April 1935. It was financially troubled, but its demise can also be contributed to a major fire that destroyed one of the resorts and the construction of new highways. As cars became more common, there was no need for vacationers to ride the train.
Today, most of the railway is gone. Some of the right-of-way is along trails at the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary; look for the “clinkers” along the way. Clinkers are leftover pieces of burnt coal from the train.
The trail begins near the Chesapeake Beach Waterpark and continues almost 1.5 miles south. You’ll follow and cross Fishing Creek and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding marshland and forest. Bring your camera and binoculars because you’re likely to see wildlife and birds, including bald eagles. Get out early enough, and you could see crabbers at work.
If you’re looking for a detour, visit the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum, which is a few blocks from the trail.
Fishing Creek’s watershed empties into the Chesapeake Bay. Signs along the trail identify marsh plants and animals and explain other important features of the area.
The railway is wheelchair accessible and bike friendly. Pets are welcome, too!
The Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail opened in September 2011 and is open daily from dawn to dusk. Parking is available at the water park or in the neighborhoods of Bayview Hills or Richmond Station. A spur off of the trail leads to these neighborhoods.
To learn more about the rail trail and see a video of its dedication, visit http://www.chesapeakebeachmd.gov/attractions_railwaytrail.htm.
(Images via Town of Chesapeake Beach.)