Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Train Station, Laurel Maryland


The Baltimore & Ohio was the first railroad line constructed in this country for both freight and passenger service on a comprehensive scale. Construction began in 1828 and by 1830 the first 15-mile section, running from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills (Ellicott City), Maryland, was complete. The Washington Branch of the B&O, completed in 1835, came from the Baltimore line through Prince George's County and into Washington. It entered Prince George's in Laurel and continued in a southwesterly direction, carrying passengers and freight on to Beltsville, College Park, Riverdale and Hyattsville.

The Laurel station was designed by Baltimore architect E. Francis Baldwin. John w. Garrett, then president of the B&O Railroad, hired Baldwin in the mid-1870s to design a number of stations as well as the B&O's new headquarters building. He designed at least thirty railroad stations along the B&O, probably beginning with the Point of Rocks station in 1875. His designs reflected the picturesque Queen Anne style, popular during this period. Despite similar floor plans and basic functions, no two designs were exactly alike. Both the Laurel and the Hyattsville stations were erected from Baldwin designs in 1884. Baldwin also is known to have designed stations at Branchville, Riverdale and Beltsville. The Laurel station, however, is the only Washington Branch station extant (Harwood).

The development of Laurel began in the early 19th century with Nicholas Snowden's grist Mill (converted to a cotton mill in the 1820s). It grew to become the principal industry in Laurel, along with other mills, iron foundries and various small industries and businesses. The presence of the B&O greatly affected the growth of Laurel, providing the transport necessary to industrial development. Laurel's location along the Patuxent River (which powered the mills), midway between the cities of Baltimore and Washington and the freight and passenger service of the B&O, ensured its success. For decades Laurel was the largest town in the county. Laurel's economy was based on industry, rather than tobacco production and distribution, which formed the economic base of the rest of the county.

Two other rail lines were later developed in Prince George's County, although the B&O remained the principal line, carrying both freight and passengers. The second railway in Prince George's County was the Baltimore & Potomac. Built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1870s as a way of extending a route into Washington, it provided a rail connection between Baltimore and southern Maryland, passing through Upper Marlboro on its way to the Potomac River in Charles County. It also included a branch line into Washington. The B&P was used more for freight than passenger service. The third rail line built in Prince George's was the Chesapeake Beach Railway which ran from the district line at Seat Pleasant to the Chesapeake Bay, via Upper Marlboro. Railroad entrepreneur Otto Mears built it in the 1890s to transport persons from the District to his resort at Chesapeake Beach. It also included a rail link from Upper Marlboro into Washington. The line was abandoned in 1935.