When it comes to things to do in Baltimore, a trip to the city’s Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum is a “must-visit” for anyone interested in our country’s railroad history or the impact of the B&O on Baltimore and the surrounding areas.
Let’s briefly look at the history of the B&O Railroad, what you can expect during your visit to the museum, and how you model railroaders can bring the iconic B&O into your layout.
A brief history of the B&O Railroad
The B&O was the United States’ oldest railroad, founded in 1827, with building commencing the following year and the tracks opening to trains for the first time in 1830. While the New Jersey Railroad was chartered years earlier, in 1825, the B&O was the first to:
- Run an American-built locomotive on its tracks
- Have a passenger and freight station – at Mount Clare, now the site of the museum
- Have paying passengers
- Establish and publish a regular timetable for its services
While these are basic features of every railroad worldwide in the 21st century, the B&O has a lasting reputation for innovation after introducing these to the world in 1829 – 30!
The location and reach of B&O meant that the American Civil War massively impacted the railroad. Raids on B&O tracks and facilities were common, with 1861’s Great Train Raid seeing the theft of eight locomotives. While B&O was a vital pillar of the Union’s cause at the time, politicians and the military didn’t protect the railroad or its assets. This approach ultimately led to the Confederate side being able to continue impacting operations, which likely led to the Civil War lasting far longer than it might have otherwise.
After the end of the Civil War, B&O started to quickly expand west and north, primarily through mergers with nearby railroads but also thanks to its comprehensive building program.
By the end of the 19th century, B&O would fall into bankruptcy, eventually emerging and being acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad but keeping its individual identity. When this relationship ended in 1906, B&O faced numerous operational challenges until the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway took over in 1963. Chesapeake and Ohio would later become part of CSX, which maintains ownership and operation of the old B&O lines today.
While the B&O arguably has a more storied history than any American railroad, it gained additional fame among non-history or railroad fans as one of the railroads in the original version of Monopoly!
What to expect on your visit to the B&O Railroad Museum
The B&O Railroad Museum calls itself “The Birthplace of American Railroading,” and it isn’t lying!
The museum’s main building is on the site of B&O’s original station at Mount Clare, with many of the original buildings and structures – including the original station building, B&O’s passenger car works, and the railroad’s roundhouse – still there and open to the public.
The museum is also home to a comprehensive collection of early American locomotives and rolling stock while boasting a host of other trains, cars, and railroading artifacts and memorabilia like signage and old timetables from across the world.
If that’s not enough – there’s a vast online collection you can also sink your teeth into after your day at the museum. Additionally, if the history of American railroading is your thing, you can visit the museum’s Research Library on weekdays by appointment and can even arrange to access employee records to learn if a relative ever worked on the B&O!
As with most museums, there are several ways to experience the B&O Railroad Museum. Of course, you and your family can explore everything the site offers at your own pace and leisure. But if you want to immerse yourself further into the history of the B&O Railroad and get even more from your day out, you can enjoy experiences like train rides, guided tours, behind-the-scenes experiences, and programs tailored specifically for children.
The museum’s website also features a calendar of events. As such, you can plan your trip to coincide with a community day or Farmer’s Market, helping you get even more from your day!
3 amazing B&O locomotives to add to your model railroad collection
If you’re inspired by your day at the B&O Railroad Museum and by learning a little about the history of the B&O, why not add a piece of history to your layout? You might even find your favorite locomotive or car from the museum here at Model Train Stuff and decide to add it to your collection!
Here are three of our favorites:
- Our DCC ready Walthers Prototype HO scale locomotive set is based on trains that carried the B&O mark in the 1960s and 70s.
- Our DCC ready Williams by Bachmann O scale Baldwin 4-6-0 locomotive – Baldwin Locomotive Works were one of four prominent members of B&O’s locomotive roster.
- Our DCC ready Lionel S scale Legacy Pacific 4-6-2 locomotive is a common sight on railroads across the United States but resplendent in all-black and carrying the B&O name.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to make the B&O Railroad the center of a new collection or layout, or have someone inspired to start model railroading by your trip to the museum, this Bachmann HO Blue Star Train Set is an excellent way to get started.
Enjoy your trip…and share your highlights!
You’re sure to have an incredible day at the B&O Railroad Museum, learning new things and creating memories to last a lifetime. And then you get to go home and relive that iconic history through your own model railroad!
Remember to tag us on Instagram in your pictures of your day out and of your favorite B&O locomotives, cars, and accessories sitting proudly in your model railroad layout.
Enjoy your trip…and happy railroading!