The Hagerstown & Frederick Railway, a suburban (later interurbantrolley system was developed by George William Smith and initially called the Frederick & Middletown Railway. Construction began early in 1896, almost simultaneously with the development of Braddock Heights Park, the mountaintop resort that was intended to provide patronage for the line. Service between Frederick and Braddock Heights commenced on August 22, 1896.
The line was complete to Middletown by October.
Two years later an extension was built to Myersville, nominally called the Myersville & Catoctin Railway but leased to the F&M and operated as an integral part of the F&M. In 1904 the Hagerstown Railway built a connecting link from Boonsboro to Myersville, and through service between Frederick and Hagerstown became possible, making the still separate lines an interurban.
The Jefferson branch was added in 1906, running down the east side of Jefferson Boulevard. This extension served the H&F investors, who were largely the same as the Braddock Heights investors, by opening up more mountaintop resort land for development. An extension of this branch planned in 1907 which would have taken the line to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad yard facilities in Brunswick was never completed.
Like the H&F, the Hagerstown Railway was begun in 1896. The leading investors were Christian W. Lynch and William Jennings, who took a different approach to development by creating an urban loop within Hagerstown, with crossing lines on Washington Street and South Potomac Street, and a branch to nearby Williamsport. By 1897 line Potomac Street line extended to Funkstown.
In 1901 work began on an extension east to Wagner’s Crossroads (later Boonsboro Junction) and from there south to Boonsboro itself. This section was completed in 1902. Work began immediately on the connection from Wagner’s Crossroads to Myersville.
In 1905 a new line was started, running north from Hagerstown to Shady Grove, Pennsylvania. This permitted a connection to the Chambersburg, Greencastle and Waynesboro Street Railway. Passengers could then take the CG&W on to the mountaintop resorts of Blue Ridge Summit. Incompatible gauges prevented direct transfer.
Emory Coblentz, a Middletown lawyer and stockholder in the F&M, took over the management of the F&M in 1908. He bought the Washington, Frederick & Gettysburg Railroad , which despite its name only ran from Frederick to Thurmont, and incorporated it into the F&M in 1909, renaming the F&M as the Frederick Railroad. During the next two years the network in Frederick was expanded and its facilities improved, with lines on Fifth Street, South Street and Market Street. In 1913, the Hagerstown Railway and the Frederick Railway were merged, becoming the Hagerstown & Frederick Railway.
The company purchased and merged with several power and trolley companies over the following decade, transitioning from a trolley company selling power to a company with a primary income selling electricity. In 1922 the company was renamed to The Potomac Public Service Company, and then at the end of the year The Potomac Edison Company. Potomac Edison continued to operate passenger trolleys until the final line was closed on February 20, 1954. Freight continued with electric freight motors for another year. Diesels were operating the remaining freight services in Frederick when the company sold its remaining railroad assets in 1961.
In common with many more urban trolley systems, the H&F owned and operated two amusement parks, both as business ventures in their own right, and as traffic generators for the trolley business. In pre-air conditioning days, mountaintop parks like Braddock Heights Park were popular summer getaways where city dwellers could entertain themselves and breathe cool mountain air.
In 1920 the company purchased a park in Funkstown known over the years as Watts Park and Willow Grove Park. They renamed it Electric Park and operated it until 1925. Unlike Braddock Heights, this park had to rely on Antietam Creek for coolness, but served much the same function.
The Western Maryland Railway operated a similar park as well. Known as Penn-Mar Park the Hagerstown & Frederick advertised trips to this park in partnership with the WM and the Chambersburg, Greencastle & Waynesboro Street Railway (another trolley system later purchased by the H&F).
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A Day on the H&F by Ira L. Swett – an account of a railfan trip in 1944 (click title to open) From the May 1946 Interurbans magazine, Alex Postpishil collection
Incidents and Accidents from the Frederick News (now the Frederick News-Post) Photos from the Lewis F. Fagan, Jr. collection, now a part of the Society collection)