Bernard J. Sachs, a longtime member of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, in his recently published book, “Baltimore’s Picturesque Jerkwaters: Historic Neighborhoods, Notorious Beer Gardens, Serene Lakeside Pavilions, Beachsides by the Bay, Mills in the Valley & To Every Corner of the Metropolis,” has performed a notable historic service in documenting the lesser traveled streetcar lines that were components of the city’s 425-mile system.
Sachs defines “jerkwater’ car lines that were “short in length, sometimes but a few blocks long, or a lightly patronized branch of a busy trunk line; or a distinctly rural route often traversing a lightly settled countryside before ending at a small community; or single track for all or most of its length; or some combination of the above.”
He writes about jerkwaters that were to be found in the Gwynns Falls Valley, Jones Falls Valley, York and Harford roads, East Baltimore, North Point Peninsula, South Baltimore and even downtown.
A story, that is not in the book, but was a favorite of the late James A. Hartzell, Baltimore Sun artist and creator of the Oriole Bird mascot, concerns the Union Avenue Jerkwater, the No. 46, that connected Hampden to the mills in Woodberry from 1901 to 1949, and Edwin P. Young Jr., a beloved 1940s-era Sun and Evening Sun city editor, who had a preference for gin.
The streetcar would trundle up Union Avenue, where it laid over between runs in the middle of 36th Street, just west of Roland Avenue, and near the old Cavaco’s drugstore, now Sugar, a sex toys shop.
When Young ran out of gin, recalled Hartzell, who had worked for the editor, he stepped out of his Union Avenue residence, flagged down the outbound car, pressed money into the motorman’s hands, who on his return run to Woodberry, delivered the precious spirit he had procured at Cavaco’s to the thirsty editor.
The line passed into local streetcar history in 1949, and five years later, the editor had a bigger assignment as an executive with the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin in Rhode Island.