THE link between the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad...


June 21, 1994

THE link between the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad -- better known around these parts as the famed Ma & Pa -- and academia is tenuous, at best.

But writer Lawrence Biemiller valiantly made the attempt in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. The tie-in? The author of a 1963 book on the Ma & Pa is a former prof. Here are some excerpts, with a York, Pa., dateline:

"To whatever extent this railroad really is famous, it's largely the doing of [George] Hilton, a retired economics professor from the University of California at Los Angeles. In "The Ma & Pa: A History of the Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad," he described the 77-mile line as less a railroad than a work of art, one that carried slate and milk and passengers between here and Baltimore at 20 miles an hour. Visitors, he wrote, might easily conclude 'that the whole thing came from the mind of some Velasquez or Rembrandt among model railroaders, who, having exhausted his art in HO and O gauges, came finally to the hills north of Baltimore to create his masterpiece at a scale of 12 inches to the foot.' Not many short-line railroads get mentioned in the same sentence as Velasquez and Rembrandt. . . .

"As for the Ma & Pa, it abandoned its Maryland trackage in 1958. . . Except for the York yard, the original Pennsylvania trackage has also been abandoned, but the railroad's new owners have acquired instead a former Pennsylvania Railroad line between York and Hanover, Pa. 'The line to Hanover I think does quite well,' Mr. Hilton says. 'It's a viable short line of the modern type, cheaper to operate than large railroads because of relaxed union requirements.' Its failure to be anything like the work of art he fTC once wrote about is the kind of disappointment Mr. Hilton has become inured to. 'By 1958,' he says, with no sign of regret, 'the stuff that my generation was enthusiastic about -- interurbans, streetcars, steam locomotives -- had all passed into history.' "

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