For nearly 150 years this was an active rail line, with literally hundreds of industrial sidings serving the waterfront factories and warehouses of East Baltimore. This was the route traveled by Abraham Lincoln on his way to Washington, which has been so much in the news lately. The tunnels currently used by Amtrak weren't built until around the turn of the last century, and trains from Philadelphia entered Baltimore by way of Boston Street, terminating at President Street Station. Passengers then had to proceed on foot or by carriage around Pratt Street to Mt. Clare, site of the B&O Museum, where they would board the B&O to finish the journey to Washington.
This line served many businesses familiar to Baltimoreans, such as the Tin Decorating Company (Tindeco Wharf), the J.S. Young Company, and the National Brewing Company on Conkling Street. The photos show the last car being pulled from the American Can Company plant, now a busy shopping center and the hub of the Canton neighborhood.
There were numerous other connections, which allowed rail traffic to serve Fells Point, the Inner Harbor, and all the way around to Key Highway. Familiar landmarks that were served along these connections were the Candler Building, the News American, and McCormick's.
The types of freight carried were as varied as the businesses served. The last major shipper using the line was the Allied Chemical plant, which once stood at the south east corner of the Inner Harbor. This was active at least into the late 1970's, shipping chromium and other chemicals.
The breweries received shipments of grain, Tindeco received raw materials and shipped out finished containers, and JS Young shipped licorice and extracts. There were also makers of brooms and furniture, food processors, and a huge tobacco warehouse served by the line. In the 19th century, there would have been shipyards, canvas lofts, seafood packing plants and many other related industries. Before World War I, the railroad would have been the primary means of transportation, the goods from general merchandise and groceries to heavy industrial machines would have moved via rail.
By the 1960's, all but the heaviest commodities had moved to trucks, and then the general downturn in the manufacturing base during the 1970's left only a handful of rail users on Boston Street. Eventually, it became more expensive to operate trains on the congested street trackage than it was worth, so service was further reduced. By the mid 1980's, the Canton neighborhood along Boston Street began to reinvent itself as a waterfront residential community, and the remaining factories closed.