Posts Tagged ‘railroad’

To give you an idea about how old this original copy of American Railroad Journal is, consider that it is one year older than when the B&O reached Harper’s Ferry. Published in New York, it was edited by D.K. Minor.

It contents include:

Suspension Bridges

Hydraulics as a Branch of Engineering

Public Lands


Literary Notices

Foreign Intelligence

Poetry (!)

There is an unusual account of the proper storage for butter that has been salted, yet not intended to be eaten for several months.

The quantity of salt for butter that is not to be eaten for several months after salting, should not be less than half an ounce of salt, mixed with 2 drachms of sugar and two drachms of nitre, to sixteen ounces of butter. The sugar improves the taste, and the nitre gives the butter a better color, while both of them act with the salt in preserving the butter from rancidity.

Miscellaneous news

Temperance Meeting of Mechanics – We were led by the call of a public meeting, published in the papers, and numerously signed by some of our most respectable mechanics, to look in at Chatham-street Chapel last evening, and we know not when and where we have seen a more gratifying spectacle, than was afforded by the gathering there, in such a cause, of more than 2000 persons, most of whom were, we have little doubt, mechanics.

It is to be regretted that the taste for music is not more prevalent in this country. It has a humanizing and gentle influence upon the character of a people, and affords a source of refined and innocent delight which nothing else can supply. A taste for music encourages all the social virtues; it furnishes an amusement which delights without danger, and affords instead of the dull and sating pleasures of dissipation, a source of delight as refined as it is endless. The ladies are particularly interested in this matter. – When a taste for music becomes more general in the other sex, they may depend not only on having more of their company, but having that company rendered more agreeable by the charms of gentleness, refinement and harmony.

It has a great masthead and is in good condition.

1835 American Railroad

This and other original Victorian Era newspapers are available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry. Contact us for purchase price and delivery options. In most cases, there is only one copy.

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I’m always learnin’ somethin” here …

  1. The Strasburg Rail Road Company was responsible for restoring the William Mason for the movie, “Wild, Wild West” AND there may be a steampunk-related event in the near future!!!
  2. There is a place called The Kitchen Kettle Village in Pennsylvania

  3. That steampunk computer mod enthusiasts are alive and well, and

  4. Taking photographs of Harper’s Ferry enveloped in fog is hard.

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News From Steam At Harper’s Ferry

For Immediate Release: 4/30/2012
Contact: Cynthia – 304-885-0094 or info@steamatharpersferry.com
John Lamb – jwilliamlamb@gmail.com

Legendary Steam Gun Is Focus of Event at Steam At Harper’s Ferry
Author of Book on Winans Steam Gun to Presents Its History and Sign Copies of Book

Steam powered weapons are a staple of steampunk literature, art, and fashion, but in 1861 Harper’s Ferry played a part in the story of the “Winans” Steam Gun. “Its tough to imagine Harper’s Ferry as enemy territory, but in May 1861, Federal troops captured a steam gun, allegedly built by Maryland industrialist Ross Winans as it was being transported to Harper’s Ferry” says John Lamb, author of A Strange Engine of War: The “Winans” Steam Gun and Maryland in the Civil War. “ The men captured with it hoped to sell it to the Confederate troops there.”

While the gun never made it to Harper’s Ferry, Lamb will share its story with patrons of Steam at Harper’s Ferry on May 6. “Steam is a steampunk art and gift shop. What better place to share the story of such an outlandish, but entirely real Civil War device?” Lamb says. “Steampunk is a literary, artistic, fashion, and musical movement that starts with Victorian aesthetics, keeps things steam powered while taking technology and society in different directions. While contemporary to us, its roots go back to the 19th Century.”

 “One of the frequent themes of steampunk literature, is inventors toiling in obscurity on their creations – that is a pretty fair synopsis of the steam gun’s creation by Charles Dickinson and William Joslin,” Lamb says. What started as an effort to build a hand powered “centrifugal” gun by the men, grew into a steam powered weapon that rocketed to national prominence in the wake of the April 19, 1861 Baltimore Riot.

The gun’s menacing appearance and its arrival on the public stage at the height of anxiety after the riots helped bury its true origin, and forever linked it to noted Maryland industrialist Ross Winans through newspapers at time and through many books and historical articles over the years. While the basic facts of the story were talked about at the time, they soon faded from memory, according to Lamb. “Newspaper articles around the 50thanniversary (1911), helped bring out the story of its last days,” Lamb says. “During the 100th anniversary (1961), a replica was built for a reenactment of the gun’s capture. In 2007, Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel put the idea of the gun to the test. My book, published in 2011, continues the gun’s 50 year cycle of returning at key anniversaries for another round of publicity.”

Lamb’s interest in the gun was sparked when he found an engraving of it while working on another project in the early 1990s. “My curiosity about it began simply – what was it, was it dangerous? What happened to it? The more source materials I read, the less sense it all made – with good reason – the accepted account of events had little to do with what really happened.” Lamb says. “I worked on it here and there as I could and slowly a more complete account of the gun emerged. Being on Mythbusters spurred me to complete my work and put out a book, which came out in 2011. I have really enjoyed uncovering the true story of the Steam Gun, and am looking forward to sharing it with gallery guests at Steam at Harpers Ferry.”

If You Go: Historical Presentation/ Book Signing with John Lamb, Author of A Strange Engine of War: The “Winans” Steam Gun and Maryland in the Civil War, 2-4 p.m., Sunday, May 6, Steam at Harper’s Ferry, 180 High Street, 1B (on the stairs), Harper’s Ferry, WV, 25425. For more information visit, http://www.steamatharpersferry.com, call 304-885-0094 or send an email to info@steamatharpersferry.com

About John Lamb

John W. Lamb, author of A Strange Engine of War: The “Winans” Steam Gun and Maryland in the Civil War works in communications and development in the non-profit sector, is interested in Maryland’s Civil War history, 19th Century technology and shapenote singing, and appeared on the Discovery Channel’s *Mythbusters* series episode regarding the Winans Steam Gun. He lives in Harrison, Tennessee, with his wife and 3 children.

About Steam

Steam at Harper’s Ferry is a Victorian/Steampunk themed art gallery and gift shop located in the historic lower town of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Steam at Harper’s Ferry has quarterly openings and features local and regional artists.

John W. Lamb
Author, Historian, and Development Professional
Harrison, TN, USA

The book is available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.

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On April 28 & 29 there will be an Art Walk from Bolivar to Harpers Ferry’s lower town. This character:

can be seen in Art Walk participant windows.  The print is based on an illustration of Maryland Heights by Granville Perkins for the publication “Picturesque America” published in 1893.

Harper’s Ferry.
With illustrations by Granville Perkins

“After a short but heavy rain the air was fresh and bracing on the October day when we started for Harper’s Ferry. There is no season so glorious in any country as an American autumn, and it is, above all, the time to see the mountains to the best advantage. The atmosphere, bright, clear and bracing, acts upon the frame like champagne ; the forests put on their livery of splendid dyes, and gold and crimson and sober brown are massed on all the hills, or set in a dark background of pine and hemlock. For this reason, seated in the cars of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and with the arriving and departing trains making discordant noises in our ears, we congratulate ourselves on the beauty of the day. …

The first near sight of the mountains is inevitably one of disappointment. Is it not thus withall the stupendous works of Nature ? The man who expects to stand spellbound and awe-stricken before Niagara,will find this emotion very commonplace in contrast to the exalted state of feeling he anticipated. Very seldom, indeed, are the combinations such as to present these scenes in all their impressive grandeur ; and rarer still is the mind that is capable of comprehending at once all that is taught by them. Yet those who have been merely summer sojourners among the “eternal hills,” can understand, if they have used their time wisely, why the mountaineer comes gradually to love them. He can feel, seeing them again, the force of the attachment that animated, thousands of years ago, the Hebrew people, whose strong places of defence they were, and that animates to-day the Switzer, who, far away from his native Alps, grows homesick, even at times unto death, and whose eyes are tear-stained whenever he hears the familiar “Ranz des Vaches.” …

Climb the Maryland Heights, as we are to do to-day, and pause on the ascent and look back. Fair and open lies the northern landscape, bounded by its semicircle of mountains. How the mind expands and feels a sense of delight and power as the eye takes in, at one sweep, the glorious scene! The feeling that pictures us as slowly transversing the huge mountains, insignificant atoms on its vast surface, ants that crawl over an ant-hill, vanishes. And then to this first exhilaration, this flush and glow of pleasure, succeeds the softer, calmer mood that sees, in the still and marvellously beautiful vsion, but one of the least of the wonderful works of the Creator. There is no disappointment in a mountain. …

The town of Harper’s Ferry is built at the foot of the narrow tongue of land that thrusts itself out like a cutwater, separating the Potomac and the Shenandoah, and known as Bolivar Heights. It lies in Jefferson County, West Virginia. … Including the little town of Bolivar, on the heights, the population of Harper’s Ferry is about two thousand. The principal street runs parallel with the Shenandoah, with a side-street ascending the hills to the right, perpendicular to which numerous stairs, cut in the solid rock, lead upstill steeper ascents. …

We are now on our way to Jefferson’s Rock. Perched high up to the right are the bare walls of the Episcopal and Methodist churches, whose joyous bells, in other times, aroused the echoesof the mountains on the calm Sabbath, while the worshippers wound their slow way up the steep hill, and perhaps paused at the church-door to take a last look at the glorious scene below, the wooded heights, the shining river, the sleeping town, and to thank God that their little home, secure among its sheltering peaks, was so peaceful and unthreatened. …

Before visiting Maryland Heights and the superb panoramic view that there sweeps around almost from horizon to horizon, a few moments will be well spent in seeing the less striking scenery of the Heights of Bolivar. Unless the traveller be a remarkably good pedestrian, a carriage and horses will have to be procured for part of the ascent of the former, and the drive around Bolivar over a good road can easily be made a part of the day’s programme. If dismayed at the board-signs that,projecting from dilapidated shanties, announce them to be livery-stables, he expresses doubts as to procuring a respectable team, he forgets one thing – he is in Virginia, and on the boarders of the Valley. The man that is surprised, therefore,to see a pretty woman or a fine horse is strangely unacquainted with the latitude. Our landlord, upon being consulted, promises us the horses in a moment, and in little more than that time, they are at the door – a sorrel of mustang blood, and the prettiest three-year-old Black Hawk we had set eyes upon for many a day. …

The evening falls among the mountains, calm and peaceful. The huge shadows of the dusky heights overcast the town and river. If it is in the season – for artists, like migratory birds, have their time for appearing in different places, and for disappearing – some wandering artist from Baltimore, Washington, or, in rarer cases, New York, may stroll in with sketching-portfolio and camp-stool, and exhibit to the wondering natives the counterfeit presentment of familiar scenes.

The night darkens, and the Ferry puts on another aspect, both noveland singularly beautiful. The mountains, dimly seen, close upon the murmoring river and the quiet town. They rise, still sombre and black, unrelieved bya single gleam of light, and shut out the sky, except immediately overhead, or where the long reach of the river has made a break in their continuity, which the eye follows, and down which the twinkling stars, reflected in the water glitter brightly.”

Enjoy the walk!

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When I wrote about the Winans Steam Gun back in October 2011, I had no idea how popular the post would be, and I certainly had no idea that there was a new book about the subject by John Lamb! I will post more in the coming weeks, but I wanted to let you know about this event well in advance.

Steam at Harper’s Ferry will be hosting a book signing and historical presentation on the legendary Winans Steam Gun from the Civil War, 2-4 p.m., Sunday, May 6, with John Lamb, author of A Strange Engine of War: The “Winans” Steam Gun and Maryland in the Civil War.

Hope to see you there! If you can’t make the event, get your hands on the book.

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Harper’s Ferry visitors have a unique opportunity to walk alongside two historic canals. One, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which extends from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD for a distance of about 185 miles and the other, the Shenandoah Canal also known as the Shenandoah Navigation, which is often overlooked even  though its construction began twenty-two years earlier than that of the C&O. 

The canal became obsolete for use as a canal once the C&O was completed, however, the water siphoned from the Shenandoah fed industries, such as the paper mill on Virginius Island, through the early 1900s. If you take the Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park bus from the Park entrance at Cavalier Heights, you can still see lock ruins, especially during this time of  year.

The train tracks along this portion of the Shenandoah were once owned by the Winchester & Potomac Railroad, considered a Confederate railroad system during the Civil War. In 1867, the Winchester & Potomac Railroad was renamed the Winchester & Strasbourg Railroad.

A few weeks ago, Harper’s Ferry experienced some excitement as !!Snow Panic!! set in, although short lived. Here is a photo showing the Shenadoah Canal lock still on the job managing the Shenandoah in the midst of the fearsome flurries.

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I follow a Yahoo! group about the B&O Railroad. I asked Mr. Cohen if I could repost a recent post of his to the group. He said yes, and here it is. If you want to get in touch with Mr. Cohen, there is a group email address below.

The Washington County Branch RR began operations in 1867 or 1868 from Weverton, which about a mile and a half to 2 miles west of Knoxville. The branch was something like 24 miles long and lasted until 1975-1978 when it was removed in stages. Today, IF you know where to look there are evidences to find at Weverton where the branch headed towards Hagerstown. They are located almost exactly opposite the C&O Canal lock house there off old Keep Tryst Rd. I passed right by there yesterday afternoon and this is an excellent time to check it out as the weeds and underbrush are non-existent for photos, especially using the lock house as a prop for photos, maybe a bit of an anachronism with current motive power behind the 180 years old (or thereabouts) lock house. Some of the rails for the branch are still there for a few dozen yards before they were removed heading up the valley where I think Israel Creek flows.

The B&O backed this project and from what I have read, it wasn’t very successful financially. The last passenger operations ended October 31,1949 with I think the Doodlebug running a triangle route between Brunswick, Frederick and Hagerstown and back again.

There were a number of stations along the line and some have good photos surviving. A few are quite elusive to find. The Weverton station was closed from what I have determined in 1929 or thereabouts and was demolished in early 1936, just before the big Potomac flood of that year. Route 340 today occupies much of the old town along the hillside which was removed to make way for that work in the 1960’s. The last permanently assigned station agent Franklin Garber retired in 1929, died in 1944 and is the great-great grandfather of the B&O RR HS Sentinel editor, Harry Meem. Franklin Garber is now a permanent resident in the cemetery in Knoxville at the top of the hill there.

Weverton was named for Caspar Wever (those are the correct spellings) who attempted to establish a milling community at this point but it was too isolated even back then to attract the necessary development.

Wever led an interesting past being involved in construction of the old National Road, what later became Route 40 and construction of the B&O mainline. He was involved in the faulty construction of the first B&O bridge across the Potomac at Harpers Ferry and that forever clouded his future 25 years of life before expiring in early 1861.

As an aside, if you want to know more about Wever, there has been an informative booklet published by Peter Maynard plus I think Dilts’ book covers some of his shenanigans as well.

Bob Cohen

January 29, 2012


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Take a look at these rare Harper’s Ferry postcards. 

The first one has a copyright date of 1911 by W.L. Erwin. In this view, you can see the Island Park bridge.


The next image may be from 1927 because the postmark is August 19, 1927 Luray, Va. and was sent to Walkerton, Ontario, Canada. The sender writes:

Franklin and Mr. Cliwe and myself are on a motor trip, taking in some wonderful signts. Crystal Cave, Pa., Shenandoah Valley, Va., Luray Caverns, Natural Bridge, and then home by way of Eastern Shore.

Anna E. Cliwe

The next two postcards are more recent.

Have you noticed anything? Take a look again at the images. For the most part, the skyline is familiar. If you’ve seen images of Harper’s Ferry before, the train tracks, rivers, lower town are photographic mainstays. But what isn’t there?

Give up?  Look at the first postcard again. Do my eyes deceive me, or is the HILL TOP HOUSE MISSING? Is it hidden by trees? Almost every photograph of the town I have seen from this perspective includes the Hill Top House in the background. I understand that it was burned down in 1912. Does anyone know if that 1912 date is incorrect and that, in fact, Hill Top House was burned down earlier?

What a sad view! 

Come see these and other historic Harper’s Ferry postcards at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.

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The B&O Island Park

Not much is known about the B&O Island Park which was opened in 1879 by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as an entertainment destination for its employees. But here are some interesting facts:

  1. The park was established on Byrne Island which is located in the Potomac River and is considered part of Maryland. The B&O railroad bought the island in 1878.[1] It was expanded in 1890 and was then named “Island Park.”
  2. The park operated from about 1879 to 1909.
  3. It was also used for political conventions and meetings.
  4. The only known remaining artifact from the park is the bandstand, also known as the Town Gazebo, and is located in Historic Harper’s Ferry.

The Jefferson County Museum has at least three post cards showing the footbridge from Harper’s Ferry to the Island Park. The post card titles are:

  • View from Island Park Bridge, Harpers Ferry, W. Va.
  • Bridge and Potomac River, Harpers Ferry, W. Va.
  • Island Park and Bridge, Harpers Ferry, W. Va

Unfortunately, photographs or other images of the reportedly numerous amusements at the Park, are not readily available. According to The Mountain Echo, Vol. I. No. 2, published by the Woman’s Club of the District of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, dated August, 1919, Island Park in the Potomac was

“A beautiful natural park, less than half a mile from Harper’s Ferry, going west, and owned by the B. & O. R. R. Co. In former times the Park was a great resort for excursionists from tri-state points. An ideal spot for camping and fishing, and much favored for local outing parties.”


“Island Park Road, following the Potomac River from the main street in Harper’s Ferry, past the Potomac Pulp Mill, is beautiful at all seasons of the year. In spring and autumn the way is gorgeous with wild flowers of many varieties; in summer luxuriant foliage and cool shade make the river route attractive; while the picturesque grandeur of the rocky heights, ornamented by gigantic icicles, on the one side, and the swift-flowing water on the other side, render the way particularly alluring for a winter walk or drive.”

In addition to this edition of The Mountain Echo, several others can be found at the Jefferson County Museum.

The Superintendent’s Building at Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park has a prominently displayed broadside advertising a political address by several candidates it says:

 Mass Meeting
Harper’s Ferry
Wednesday, October 19, 1892
Addresses by
Colonel Wm. A. McCorkle
Democratic Candidate for Governor of West Virginia
Hon. Wm. L. Wilson
The Silver Tongued Speaker of the South
Col. L. Victor Baughman
Col. Buchanan Schley
Ex. Sec. Thos. F. Bayard
Senator Jno. W. Daniel
Maj. Holmes Conrad
Hon. Isador Rayner

B. & O. R.R.
Will sell
From Frederick, Hagerstown,
Berkley Springs, Winchester and
Immediate Ticket Stations at
For all Trains. Good on
Day of Sale Only


For Time of trains see Time Tables to be had at all Baltimore & Ohio Agents

McCorkle won the election and served as West Virginia’s ninth governor until 1897.  In 1910, he was elected to the West Virginia State Senate. He was born on May 7, 1857 in Lexington, Virginia and died on September 24, 1930 in Charleston, West Virginia[2].

William L. Wilson was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. He was also the United States Postmaster General under President Grover Cleveland from April 4, 1895 to March 5, 1897.  He was born in Charles Town, West Virginia on May 3, 1843 and died October 17, 1900 in Lexington, Virginia.[3]  He is interred at Edge Hill Cemetery in Charles Town.  A portion of U.S. Route 340 in West Virginia, between Harper’s Ferry and Charles Town, is named after him.

November, 8, 2011
(c) 2011 Steam at Harper’s Ferry

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Here is a piece from the New York City Department of Education Community School District 28, Gotham Center of New York City History. It starts out with “The Great Uprising” of workers which began in Martinsburg, WV in July, 1877 when the B&O announced a 10% pay cut.

“Already reeling from the faltering economy, the workers in Martinsburg, West Virginia responded with a strike. The railroad countered by requesting assistance from the state militia, violence ensued, and the work stoppage spread to Baltimore. Determined not to take further losses, B & O took the dispute to the federal government. The new administration of then President Rutherford B. Hayes responded by sending the US Army to West Virginia to prevent what he called “an insurrection.” Enraged by the collusion between big business and the government, thousands of other Americans of many different back grounds—German immigrants in Chicago, African-American militias in Pennsylvania—demonstrated in support of the railroad workers, setting off clashes with law enforcement and additional strikes in Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Buffalo, and elsewhere. In New York State, the governor declared martial law. Within two weeks, the strikes had spread to fourteen cities. 100,000 people were on strike; half the freight on the railroads had stopped moving.” [emphasis added.]

Sound familiar? Click on the image for the full newsletter.


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