The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Becomes The First U.S. Railway Chartered For Commercial Use
On February 28, 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first U.S. railway chartered for commercial transportation of freight and passengers.
Investors hoped a railroad would allow Baltimore, the second largest U.S. city at that time, to successfully compete with New York for western trade. New Yorkers were profiting from easy access to the Midwest via the Erie Canal.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) was one of the oldest railroads in the United States and the first common carrier railroad. It came into being mostly because the city of Baltimore wanted to compete with the newly constructed Erie Canal (which served New York City) and another canal being proposed by Pennsylvania, which would have connected Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. At first this railroad was located entirely in the state of Maryland with an original line from the port of Baltimore west to Sandy Hook. At this point to continue westward, it had to cross into Virginia (now West Virginia) over the Potomac River, adjacent to the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. From there it passed through Virginia from Harpers Ferry to a point just west of the junction of Patterson Creek and the North Branch Potomac River where it crossed back into Maryland to reach Cumberland. From there it was extended to the Ohio River at Wheeling and a few years later also to Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Put in your water, shovel in your coal,
Put cha head out the window and watch the drivers roll
I'll run her 'til she leaves the rail
For I'm eight hours late with the western mail.”— Casey Jones