Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Depending on the detailed criteria, such as first to haul both passengers and freight, the Baltimore and Ohio is considered to be the oldest railroad in the United States. Rather than take excerpts of facts from various sources, we'll quote below from one source for the early 19th Century specifics on the B&O, as this is the true beginning of railroading in the USA.
You can then look up all the in-between activities of the B&O on some of the listed links before you refer back to this quick synopsis of the end of the B&O:
- the B&O merged with the C&O in 1962,
- became part of the the Chessie Syetem in 1972,
- which in turn grew into today's CSX Transportation in 1986.
The three paragraphs below are quoted from this site:
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad History
The Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road Company, Americas first common carrier, was chartered on February 28th, 1827 by a group of Baltimore businessmen to ensure traffic would not be lost to the proposed Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. Construction began on July 4th, 1828 with the laying of the first stone in a grand ceremony attended by the honorable Charles Carroll, the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence.
The early horse drawn rail lines were made of wood rails with iron straps laid upon stones. The first stone, now located in the B&O museum in Baltimore, contained a copy of the original charter. President John Quincy Adams, believing that canals where the way of the future, broke ground the same day at a ceremony for the C&O Canal.
The first "official" passengers rode in horse-drawn carts from Mount Clair in Baltimore to the Carrollton Viaduct - then being constructed - on January 7th, 1830. On May 24th the line was completed all the way to Ellicott's Mills, Md. Progress to the Potomac was restricted by the C&O Canal, which had the blessing of the federal government and had already acquired the best route. The first trial run of Peter Cooper's Tom Thumb in August of 1830 brought steam to the railroad along with many other improvements. Cast iron rails replaced wood, trains of carts divided the weight upon the rails, flanged iron wheels held to the rail better than wood, and a breaking system was developed.
You can learn more about the B&O's extensive history at these sites:
B&O Historic Historical Society