Route of the New Castle - Frenchtown Railroad


  The NC FT RR was started around 1832-- one of the first railroads in the country.  The railroad  provided a  link between  the Delaware River and the Chesapeake Bay that was faster than the stagecoach 'turnpike' for north-south travelers.  It was abandoned around 1856 due to competition from direct rail routes to the west.  Part of the route was absorbed into what is now the Pennsylvania Railroad after a series of mergers.

WHERE was the railroad? 

The whole route:
Check out the overall map, detail maps of  Glasgow, Bear, State Road and New Castle areas, and close-up aerial maps all along the way!

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The eastern part:
There is a historical marker on the Delaware River at one end.  The New Castle Hundred entry in the 1868 Beer's atlas of Delaware shows the route for the this portion of the railroad.  (Hundreds are a geographic subdivision unique to Delaware).   An overlay of the Pennsylvania railroad using ESRI ArcMap GIS software on the old map shows the close overlap of the railroad with the old map route..
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The western part:
A Civil war era chart of the CHESAPEAKE BAY FROM HEAD OF BAY TO MAGOTHY RIVER shows the railroad route of the 'abandoned' railroad in 1861. An overlay shows that the narrow modern Lewis Shore Road closely overlaps the old railroad route.  The road runs over a restored stone bridge.
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The part in between the ends (in Delaware):
Aerial photographs are available for Delaware from 1932 to 2002 and for Maryland.  The 70 year old photos clearly show the route as directly connecting the end of the spur of the existing railroad and the terminus in Maryland as a more or less continuous line of hedgerows (thornapple, Osage Orange), fences, embankments or raised areas in fields. Overlaying modern roads with ArcMap reveals access points to the route including McDaniel Rd near the Md. border, a road directly on the route
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The part in between the ends (in Maryland):
From the Frenchtown Wharf area (south of Frenchtown Rd.), the railroad ran along the embankment of what is now Lewis Shore Rd, then turned and ran straight towards New Castle.
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Aerial images from 2002 and DELDOT GIS transportation information was provided by the University of Delaware Research & Data Management Services (RDMS).  The aerial photo of the Frenchtown Wharf area near Elkton came from Md. DNR

James Meek
University of Delaware