Important Anniversaries on TCB Rail Trail
The year 2009 marks two anniversaries being observed on the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail. They are the 50th anniversary of the end of the train known as the 'Parkton Local,' and the 20th anniversary of the reopening of Monkton Station for use as a trail visitor center. Allen Brougham, 68, formerly of Monkton and now a trail volunteer, vividly remembers both.
The Parkton Local, which ran between Parkton in northern Baltimore County and Calvert Station in downtown Baltimore, ended its service in 1959. Following lengthy hearings before the Maryland Public Service Commission to plead its case, with a split-decision ruling, the Pennsylvania Railroad discontinued its money-losing operation on June 27, a Saturday. Brougham, who was 18 at the time and a recent graduate of Boys' Latin School in Baltimore, had been a regular patron on the Parkton Local in his final two years of school. It was fortuitous that his graduation just a few weeks earlier negated any further need for the train, but he did make it a point to attend its farewell ride from Baltimore to Parkton. Then, being joined by his father at Parkton, the two of them rode the final southbound run from Parkton, detraining at Monkton. He and his father were the only two passengers to get off at Monkton. Of this, Brougham later wrote in an article for a newsletter he authored called the 'Bull Sheet': "With that, the two of us silently closed a long chapter involving the Monkton Station as a proud sentinel to a long history of rail transportation." Indeed, the station at Monkton had been in continuous use since 1898.
Brougham's father later offered to buy the benches that were in the station. The railroad agreed to the purchase price and granted permission for him to remove the benches, but on the day Brougham and his father went to get the benches, they found that the station had been locked. They managed to get in, however, by climbing through a window, and Brougham's father later began the task of restoring the benches once they were brought home.
Express passenger trains continued to run on the line until 1971, but they did not stop in Monkton. In 1972 freight service ended, too, with much of the line grotesquely destroyed by Tropical Storm Agnes. The track north of Cockeysville was never reopened, and the state began construction on its hallmark bike and hiking trail over the route in the mid 1980's.
Thirty years of neglect and decay had taken their toll upon Monkton Station. But the state's Department of Natural Resources had already taken steps to restore the building to its original glamor when, on May 27, 1989, it was temporarily reopened to the public for a couple of hours to allow its waiting room to be used for a slide show and lectures. The windows were still boarded up, but Brougham recalls the event as truly nostalgic. He noted that the 30 people who had gathered inside accounted for more than had likely been in the station at any one time for quite a few years prior to the end of Parkton Local service. Moreover, it was the first public gathering in the building in nearly 30 years.
The slide show that day was presented by historian Robert Williams, then a park employee, with slides taken along the Pennsylvania Railroad's Northern Central line from the 1950's with emphasis on the Parkton Local. This was followed by lectures by Robert Bishop, who had grown up in the former hotel at Monkton where his father was storekeeper, and by Shirley Clemens, a Corbett resident who had written extensively on the area.
During the course of the event a thunderstorm passed through the area. Of this, Brougham later wrote: "The sound of rain could be heard upon the roof. The single bare light bulb that hung overhead flickered a few times as thunder could be heard, and the boarded-up windows presented a surrealistic setting from the inside."
Yet a second nostalgic event took place at Monkton Station just one month later. On June 27, 1989, then marking the 30th anniversary of the Parkton Local's demise, folks assembled on the lawn next to the station for an outdoor slide show. As fate would have it, that date came on the hottest day of the year. The temperature had reached 100 degrees in Baltimore that afternoon, the humidity was high, and there was no breeze. Still, there were retired railroaders, railroad fans, former passengers and local citizens -- about 100 in all. There was a round of introductions for the many former Parkton Local crew members who were in attendance. One of them, retired conductor Marshall Leach, had even gone so far as to wear his uniform to the event. Said he: "This is what we had to wear, even on hot days such as this." Robert Williams, once again, was responsible for arranging the slide show, and it continued until after 9 o'clock in the evening.
Meanwhile, Brougham donated to the station a two-seat portion from the original Monkton Station benches his father had purchased from the railroad, and this bench is now in use once again in the station.
The final event for which 2009 marks the 20th anniversary was the dedication and official reopening of Monkton Station. This took place on November 11, 1989, with about 300 in attendance. Dr. Torrey C. Brown, then the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, proclaimed the old building open for all to enjoy. Also, he drove the 'golden spike' on the 15-foot section of track that still sits in symbolic display behind the building.
The Northern Central Railroad Trail was later dedicated to Dr. Brown. On May 16, 2007, at a ceremony at the Paper Mill Road parking lot, the trail was renamed the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail.