People came to Chesapeake Beach from near and far. Some by train, some by steamship, some by carriage and later automobile. They came to play, to see the amusements, to work, to enjoy a day on the shore. And all of them took home memories that lasted a lifetime. Here are some of their stories.
Memory of a Steamer Bound for Chesapeake Beach
Preston Bryant was a young child in the 1930s with fond memories of the beach. His memory begins with his family at the Baltimore waterfront early in the morning getting ready to board a steamer bound for Chesapeake Beach. Preston’s dad would get their favorite spot on the second deck near the stern, and his mom would pack a large picnic basket with all kinds of food and items to keep everyone well fed and busy. The anticipation of what awaited him was enough to thrill any child, however what he loved best was the steamboat ride itself.
He loved looking over the rail at the center of the main deck to watch the engine and the men working there “to a young kid it was just the best. The smell of the steam and hot oil were an aroma that has lasted me lifetime.” Once the boat arrived, he recalled the miniature steam train on the long pier that would greet the disembarking passengers and of course the roller coaster and amusements. One of the things people would do is crab off of the pier, and there was a fellow out on the end that would steam the crabs and they could eat the crabs on the way back up the bay. When it was time to leave, the steamer would blow the whistle a number of times alerting passengers it was time to get back on board the steamer to return to Baltimore. He and his family took this trip many times throughout the 1930s, leaving an indelible memory on the young boy. Preston Bryant would grow up to become a Captain and Docking Master working on tugboats in Baltimore for 43 years.
Memories of a Railway Worker: Roland Morsell
Roland Morsell was an African-American man, born on March 25, 1912 in Calvert County, MD. When the museum first opened, he was interviewed about his experiences working on the railroad and at the park once the train stopped running in 1935. He began working on the Chesapeake Beach Railway with his father, Joseph Morsell, in the mid to late 1920s. His responsibilities varied from repair work on the track, loading coal when it was delivered, driving the miniature train on the long pier and occasionally working as a hostler. A hostler was the man who took the engine when the last trip was over for the day, shook out the hot coals, and added new coals to keep it warm all night long and ready to run first thing in the morning.
Another facet of his job was to work as a flagman in Owings, MD. With no automated crossing gates, and as automobiles gained popularity, rules of the road became a necessity. Flagmen were posted at the larger stations with road intersections along the railway to control traffic during the busier months. Mr. Morsell recalled holding two lanterns, one with a white globe, one with a red globe to indicate stop or go at the intersection until the last train passed through. Mr. Morsell’s memories help tell a portion of the inner workings of the railway that otherwise might have been lost.
Muriel Geoghegan: Memories of Riding the Train
Muriel Geoghegan was born on June 18, 1910. She was the daughter of James Bennett, a section foreman for the Marlboro Station. He worked for the CBR from its beginning in 1898 until the last train left the beach in 1935 when he supervised the pulling up of the train tracks. For a large part of her childhood, her family lived just two houses down from the Marlboro Station. She and her siblings would wave as the train went by.
The train was a focal point for her entire family, not just her father as the station master. One of her brothers, Harry, worked the telegraph in Marlboro, her other brother, Leslie, cleaned train cars in the summertime and remembers the interior reversible seats. Her father would take Muriel out on the hand-car; they would ride to assess and note anything that needed attention along the tracks.
She and her family regularly took the train to the beach for summer outings. Her favorite concession on the boardwalk was what she called the “string game” where no matter what, everyone won. She recalled the best prize, a round dish, was won by her sister Mazie. After a fun filled day, she would ride the train back home. The train was more than just a mode of transportation, it was a way of life.
Henry Hartung – Family reunions at the beach
Henry was born in 1907, and had wonderful memories of visiting the beach as a child. His father would rent the Dolores parlor car to transport family and friends for picnics at the beach. Some came by train and some by steamer from Baltimore.
First stop in Chesapeake Beach was at Joe Frank’s restaurant. It was on the boardwalk next to the dance pavilion. He and his friends would run and explore the boardwalk. They ran to the crab house, and to the stand where the kids would pull a string and get a prize, which always seemed to be a “tin cricket” when he really was hoping to win a ukulele.
While the kids had fun exploring the beach and amusements, his father went would fish and crab off the long pier. Henry remembered his father bringing home crabs in a gunnysack. When questioned by the interviewer if the sacks of crabs were carried on the train, he laughingly said “sure, everybody came home with a sack of crabs. They smell like crazy, you know, by the time you got to Washington.”
He fondly remembered the Dolores parlor car too. He loved the brass lights that were lit one by one by the conductor. What fascinated him as a child about the lights was watching the kerosene swish back and forth in the clear glass bottom of the lamp as the train moved. A more humorous recollection for Henry was about the windows in the Dolores. He recalled that while the windows had little screens, there was a small open space at the bottom, and that is where the cinders would get in. This might not have been the best part of the trip at the time, but you will hear his delight as he remembers it in his interview.