While serving as head of the Office of Railroad Policy at the Federal Railroad Administration, I was invited to speak at the reopening of the B&O Museum after its roof was severely damaged in a heavy snowfall. I began my talk with this: ”It is a privilege to speak at this event honoring America’s “Second Railroad." I then went on to explain that America’s first rail line went through my hometown — Milton, Mass. — years before the B&O line was begun. The Quincy Granite Railway was operating in 1826 before the B&O began to move in 1830. Moreover, the Granite Railway moved great blocks of granite used to build the Bunker Hill Monument over swampy marshlands to reach a river port. That was a far greater engineering challenge.
Since that talk, I have noticed that the B&O has changed its claim somewhat and now claims to be America’s first common carrier railroad and the museum’s advertising handout refers to providing rides over the “first mile of commercial railroad track in America.”
I fully appreciate the great place the B&O holds in American railroad history and in developing Baltimore’s important economic gateway status, but railroad historians are keen on keeping their facts and dates straight.
Charles H. White, Jr., Annapolis
The writer is a former port commissioner for the Port of Baltimore.