Construction of the Railroad

Construction of the Chesapeake Beach Railway (CBR) began in October 1897.  From the first, Otto Mears insisted on speed and economy, overriding the professional advice and safety standards of his engineers. In particular, the type and quality of materials used in trestles and culverts was an issue. The 66-foot-wide right-of-way selected for the railroad involved extensive cuts, fills, and trestles. Some 31 trestles and bridges were projected for the line. Instead of customary frame bents constructed of sawn oak carefully mortised and bolted, most of CBR trestles were fashioned from rough timber piles, with bark intact. Piles supporting trestles 40-50 feet in height were driven into the ground only four to six feet rather than the recommended 10 feet. Secondhand rails were used, poorly ballasted with cinders rather than stone, and spiked down with inferior cross-ties without the benefit of tie-plates. In August 1898, Chief Engineer Lincoln Hyer left in frustration. He was replaced in November of that year by William A. Beerbower who had worked for Mears in Colorado. Beerbower, while also financially constrained from replacing substandard construction, gradually made safety improvements in critical areas. As rails wore out, an effort was made to improve the quality of replacements.

The CBR crossed the Patuxent River on a manually operated swing drawbridge built by the Youngstown Bridge Company, the most expensive feature of the railroad. The 183-foot bridge span was mounted on a pivot that turned it 90 degrees so that both trains and steamboats could traverse the river. At Chesapeake Beach, Beerbower had a canal dredged, diverting the course of Fishing Creek, to drain the reclaimed marshland upon which the end portion of the tracks and the station house were built. A “Y” turnabout for the train was also constructed on the south side of the canal. Near the District Line Station in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, a roundtable, engine house, and maintenance shop were built.

The first leg of the railroad was completed as far as Marlboro (today know as Upper Marlboro, Maryland) by December 1898. The tracks finally reached Chesapeake Beach in March 1899.

Chesapeake Beach R.R., The Track Laid to the Border of Calvert County, Eight Miles From the Bay”. The Baltimore Sun, p.8, June 23, 1899.
Chesapeake Beach R.R., The Track Laid to the Border of Calvert County, Eight Miles From the Bay”. The Baltimore Sun, p.8, June 23, 1899.