In the late 1890's, Otto Mears envisioned a Chesapeake Bay waterfront resort with railroad service direct from Washington and Baltimore. Mears and a group of Denver business associates designed an elaborate resort town complete with hotels, bathhouses and beaches, casinos, a race track, and a 1600-foot boardwalk. The boardwalk extended over the water and featured a band shell, a carousel, a dance pavilion, a roller coaster, and a variety of entertainment booths. Passenger steamers arrived daily from Baltimore during the summer months and tied up at the end of a mile-long pier.
The first train arrived in Chesapeake Beach on June 9, 1900, filled with passengers and freight. For a few glorious years, the one-hour “Honeysuckle Route” carried holiday travelers through the rural Southern Maryland countryside to the fanciest resort on the Western Shore. The resort fulfilled Otto Mears' dream, but after 35 years financial hardship brought on by the Great Depression and the growing popularity of the automobile spelled the end of the railroad. On April 15, 1935 the last train left the station.
Today, thanks to the work of local preservationists, volunteers, and the support of the Calvert County Commissioners, the old railway station is back in business. Turned into a museum in 1979, the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum preserves the history of the bayside resort through audio-visual presentations, artifacts, photographs, and exhibits portraying resort life during its heyday.
The Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is included in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (CT-100). Erected in 1898 for the Washington and Chesapeake Railway Company, the station at Chesapeake Beach derives significance from its association with the transportation and related commercial history of Calvert County and as an excellent example of rural railroad architecture. Otto Mears' Washington and Chesapeake Railway Company ran from the fall of 1898 until the spring of 1935. The station was likely the work of a Mr. Winston, who was the contractor and builder for most of the houses and structures in the original town and park.
The exhibits in the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum depict the thriving history and life of the railway and amusement park. The museum offers a wide variety of objects and artifacts, both original and best representations of the era. The museum brings the railway and amusement park to life with pictorial displays, postcards, oral histories and memorabilia. Our exhibits range from railroading lanterns to a Dentzel carousel kangaroo from the park as well as authentic period bathing suits. Visitors may also enjoy our diorama showing the train depot and boardwalk as it appeared in the early 1900's. In addition, the museum offers a DVD presentation of the history of the Chesapeake Beach Railway which includes oral histories of the amusement park that was part of the resort area. The Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum is home to the last known railcar, The Dolores, which is located behind the museum.
Slices of life c. 1900-1950s…that is what this exhibit captured. The majority of the objects in this exhibit were collected in Chesapeake Beach, MD. The…
In the late 1890's, Otto Mears--an independent, short-line railroad builder from Colorado--and a group of Denver associates designed Chesapeake Beach as a resort town complete…
The Dolores See "The Dolores" parlor car, which brought passengers from Washington, D.C. to Chesapeake Beach; the only remaining rolling stock left from the Chesapeake…
From 1900 until 1930, Chesapeake Beach was a thriving independent community. People would mainly come for day trips by railway and steamboats like "The Dixie"…
At the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum...
A Few of Our Treasures
What our Visitors say
Correine and Kris are very knowledgeable. We learned a lot during our visit!Anonymous
Cannot say enough about the Chesapeake Beach Railway experience: fun, informative, worthwhile.Anonymous
Loved the small tour size (3 people)! We received a lot of one-on-one information from the docent.Anonymous