The History of the MA & PA Trail
The MA & PA Railroad stretched between Baltimore at North Avenue & Howard Streets, on to Towson, through Long Green Valley into Harford County. It ended at Market Street in York, Pennsylvania. Even by the standards of the day, it passed through some of the most wooded, curvaceous and beautiful scenery on the east coast.
The MA & PA Railroad was an important part of life in Harford County, especially for the towns between Baltimore and York. The early morning run from Harford County to Baltimore City carried so much milk that locals called it “The Milky Way.”
For the owners of the County’s many canneries, quarries and mines, the railroad was part of their livelihood.
Slow but steady
The trains chugged through 23 miles in Harford County at an average speed of only 15 – 20 miles per hour because of the route’s many grade changes and curves.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the railroad trip from Baltimore City to Sharon (north of Forest Hill) took about 1 ¾ hours.
Cargo and Commuters
In addition to mail and all kinds of Harford County products, the MA & PA also carried people—travelers, shoppers, theatergoers and relatives. They welcomed the screeching whistles and billowing steam clouds of the MA & PA Railroad as a way to see what lay beyond their hometowns.
Like other railroads of the time, the MA & PA began a slow decline as buses, trucks and Model Ts began to carry people and products between Baltimore and Bel Air on Rt. 1.
If you know where to look, there are many left-over sights of the MA & PA Railroad in Harford County, including along the MA & PA Trail in Bel Air and Forest Hill. You can learn more about the MA & PA Railroad in Baltimore City and in Baltimore, Harford and York counties at these links: