A day on the Ma and Pa

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MARC Rider

Apr 5, 2011
One fine Sunday last August, I needed to plan a nice day trip, not too far from Baltimore. Noodling around on the Web, I discovered the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Preservation Society who maintains a "heritage village" and some original Ma and Pa railroad trackage. Plus, there's train rides! (of a sort)

What is the Ma and Pa? It was a short line that ran between Baltimore and York. Originally two different narrow gauge lines that intersected in Bel Air, Maryland, they were combined to form a really inefficient roundabout route between Baltimore and York that took about 4 hours to ride. (You can drive between the two cities in about and hour if I-83 isn't jammed up.) The scenic route through the Maryland and Pennsylvania Piedmont also opened up the horizons of the local people living along the line. Before the railroad came in the latter 1800s, rural southeastern York County, PA. might as well been a remote Appalachian or western community, even if it was pretty close to major cities of the east coast. We sometimes don't realize how remote even nearby places can be without mechanized transportation. The Ma and Pa is also well known among railfans because, toward the end of the full Baltimore - York service, they had a lot of, shall we say, "antique" rolling stock and archaic operations which caught the attention of folks like Lucius Beebe and other railfans. Apparently during the last days of passenger service in the early 1950s, they ran railfan specials that made an AU gathering look like a small family get-together. The rails between Baltimore and the Mason-Dixon line were abandoned in 1958. The rest of it was abandoned by 1984.

The Preservation Society somehow obtained some historic buildings in the hamlet of Muddy Creek Forks, Pa. and rebuilt a few miles of the railroad. The "heritage village" consists of a circa 1900 general store, a flour mill, and a railyard with rolling stock in various states of reconstruction. They give rides on a maintenance train they call the "speeder." The weekend I went up, they were having a "World War I encampment," which consisted of a couple of the volunteer working in WWI uniforms, some displays of various military artifacts, mostly German, and reproductions of patriotic posters from the era adorning the walls of the general store. There was one poor guy who decided to wear a wool German Army uniform (not a tropical uniform!) in the humid Mason-Dixon summer heat. The conductor of the train ride was decked out more reasonably as a British officer from the Last Days of the Raj, complete with pith helmet and some sort of whisk device that I guess they used to use to whap subordinates who were giving them trouble. The docents at the general store were dressed as American civilians, circa 1918.

Here's the general store/station:


Our speeder awaits departure:


Riding along Muddy Creek:20180812_132313.jpg

We stopped at the ungated grade crossings and our British officer signaled traffic:


Some WWI memorabilia:


An American propaganda poster:


They do have a real locomotive, but they don't have any passenger cars with wheels yet:



Some other stuff in the yard:



Wandering around the grounds is free. The train rides are $7. It's quite the thrill riding on those open cars with not very much to hold on to. The docents were very informative about life in this small rural community in the early 20th century. We're so used to seeing "living history" stuff from the Colonial era or the Civil War, that it's hard to image that the early 20th century is now just as "historical" as the Civil War era was when I was a kid. This area was a rural as anything back then, now it's rapidly becoming a suburb of Baltimore, unless the Amish, who are moving in from over the river in Lancaster County, buy up the land before the real estate developers do.

A nice day out, I strongly recommend it if you are in the Baltimore/York/Lancaster area and need ideas for an outing. The surrounding countryside is pretty scenic, too.


Dec 31, 2014
Great trip report. I concur the speeders are a unique railroad experience. I’ve ridden one and I felt every bump and imperfection in the track.