Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Discover the Abandoned New Castle-Frenchtown Railroad - By Bike

Artist's rendition of the NC&F Railroad in Old New Castle, courtesy of Hugh Ryan Jr.

The New Castle-Frenchtown Railroad was started in 1832, and was one of the first railroads in the United States. It provided a vital link between the Delaware River and the Chesapeake Bay that was a fast and efficient route for north-south travelers. The stretch from Porter Road west to the Chesapeake Bay was abandoned in 1856, mainly due to competition which included the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

The route of the abandoned section of the NC & F Railroad, relative to Elkton and Newark, is highlighted in blue. The route east of Porter can be traced northeast along the active Norfolk Southern Railroad to Old New Castle.

While most abandoned railroads happened in the mid-late 1960s with the advent of the Interstate Highway System, the New Castle-Frenchtown Railroad met an early death during the mid-1800s railroad heyday. Fortunately for rail trail enthusiasts, much evidence remains of the old right of way (ROW), in spite of several sections that were developed prior to its adoption in the National Register of Historic Places. For an abundance of NC&F route maps and history, visit HERE.

Bird's eye view of the rail bank, facing  just west from DeLaws Road. This stretch runs about .2 miles to Forrestal Drive, and is one of a very few where the rail bed is clearly defined. See it on Google Maps HERE.
A stone platform runs perpendicular and across the ROW - purpose unknown.
Remains of an old bridge pylon across Belltown Run.
Rail "Tie" uncovered: The first rails were a hybrid of wood and steel, and mounted on drilled stones instead of wood or modern cement ties.
Pristine wildlife habitat can be viewed from the ROW.
For the superstitious among us, the New Castle-Frenchtown Railroad is a ghost train hunter's paradise. It is also a treasure trove of artifacts and transportation history, most easily explored by bike. And you can learn more about it with a visit to the Pencader Heritage Museum.

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