Baltimore is just about the best city in America if you love trains.

Some of the country’s oldest, most storied train companies — including the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Northern Central Railway — were headquartered here. Gorgeous train stations dotted the 1800s landscape, and many still stand today.

Abandoned tracks peek out from the stone-block streets of Fells Point and the hiking trails in North Baltimore. And Charm City still hums with trains. You can watch the flow of commuter and Amtrak trains at the century-old Penn Station, which is undergoing a $150 million face-lift. You can ride the light rail. We even have a subway.

Train history is so inescapable that The Baltimore Banner is located in the old power plant for the city’s streetcar systems, and Lewis Foulkes, one of the authors of this article, attends a school that backs up to the narrow-gauge Ma & Pa Railroad that ran passenger and freight trains between Baltimore and York, Pennsylvania.

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Here’s how to fill your day if you have a one-track mind:


Our favorite place to watch heavy rail roll by is a perch above the Howard Street tunnel along Mount Royal Avenue, just south of Dolphin Street. While you’re there, you can also catch glimpses of the light rail pulling in and out of the Mount Royal/MICA stop. Sometimes we also peer down at another freight tunnel parallel to that station.

Lewis checks out the freight tunnel below the Mount Royal/MICA light rail stop. (Julie Bykowicz / The Baltimore Banner)
Transflo Terminal Services, best viewed from Fort Avenue, features an epic number of parked tank cars. (Julie Bykowicz / The Baltimore Banner)

Locust Point also has some incredible train sights. Park near Ice Queens Snowball Shop (a Lewis favorite) and walk along Fort Avenue toward Fort McHenry. On your right, you’ll pass Transflo Terminal Services, where all kinds of tank cars are parked.

Another great vantage point for the many tracks in South Baltimore is Latrobe Park. Climb to the top of the hills along the southeast side for the best views. Not far from here, you can also check out a MARC commuter train service shop at the end of Ludlow Street, just beyond the foundry building.

Abandoned train lines

Many of Maryland’s former rail lines have been converted into great hiking trails and bike paths. King among them is the NCR trail, which runs 41 miles from near Cockeysville up to York. It used to carry the Northern Central Railway’s passenger and freight trains. The Maryland portion is also called the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail, named after a former secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

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If you're on the NCR trail, venture just north of the border into Pennsylvania to commune with some great old train equipment, as Lewis did in 2023. (Julie Bykowicz/The Baltimore Banner)

Evidence of its previous rail life is everywhere along the trail. If you spot a white marker with a “W,” that’s where the train was required to whistle. Some of the historic train stations, including in Monkton, are open to the public. Just north of the Pennsylvania line in New Freedom is a sort of train utopia, where you can check out abandoned track repair equipment, boxcars and a giant black diesel engine.

Lake Roland park’s red trail also includes old railroad tracks and great views of the light rail. And Stony Run Trail, which passes just to the east of Roland Park Elementary Middle School, is the former rail bed for Ma & Pa Railroad. There isn’t much discarded train paraphernalia here that we’ve discovered, but Ma & Pa’s Wyndhurst Station still stands today, home to shops and offices.

Wyndhurst Station, now a collection of shops in Roland Park, recalls a more train-centric period in Baltimore. (Julie Bykowicz / The Baltimore Banner)
Fells Point used to thrum with trains transporting goods to and from the harbor. Rails remain embedded in the stone-block streets. (Julie Bykowicz / The Baltimore Banner)

There are grand, historic train stations all across Baltimore: Penn Station (1911), Camden Station, now home of the Orioles’ ballpark (1867), and Mount Royal Station on the campus of the Maryland Institute College of Art (1896).

But train life relics abound — even if some are now covered up by cars. Look down next time you are crossing Thames Street in Fells Point. Woven into the stone blocks are metal rails, a callback to when rail cars shuttled commercial goods to and from the waterfront.

Museums and activities

Mark Dawson, a motorman and curator of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, has stories to tell you as you time travel to the streetcar era along Falls Road. (Julie Bykowicz / The Baltimore Banner)

We’ll get to the big guy in a minute, but for our money, nothing tops the Baltimore Streetcar Museum — and not just because tickets are a deal at $15 for adults and $10 for children. Tucked along Falls Road not far from Penn Station, the museum has limited weekend hours throughout the spring and summer and again in December.

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The museum boasts a collection of 25 vehicles, including four active streetcars that run along specially installed tracks. But the best feature is the volunteers, some of whom have been at the museum for many decades. They know everything about streetcars — and lots about old Baltimore, too.

Ask John O’Neill, president of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum since the 1980s, for a quick primer on how the museum came to be, and he’ll answer this way: “Long story — it’s all a long story.” And as Mark Dawson, a motorman and curator of the museum, shuttles visitors along the track, he regales them with tales of the amusement parks the streetcar companies put up at the end of their lines to gin up night and weekend ridership.

And of course the crown jewel of Baltimore train world is the B&O Railroad Museum.

The building itself is a rail relic, and the museum inside has “the oldest and most comprehensive collection of railroad history in the Western Hemisphere,” according to its website. Mount Clare Shops, including the eye-catching circular passenger car building that forms the center of the museum, the oldest railroad manufacturing complex in the U.S., dates to the 1820s.

The B&O Railroad Museum recently announced an expansion. (Julie Bykowicz / The Baltimore Banner)
The Carrollton Viaduct, the oldest operational rail bridge in the U.S. is worth the short walk to view. (Julie Bykowicz / The Baltimore Banner)

There’s too much to say about this gorgeous museum, but if you want to connect its collection to real life, check out the model of the Carrollton Viaduct. And then you can go; it’s less than three miles southwest of the museum. Park at Carroll Park Golf Course, and walk about 15 minutes on Gwynns Falls Trail for a view.

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Built in 1829, the Carrollton Viaduct is the oldest railroad bridge in the U.S. — and carries CSX freight trains to this very day. It was constructed of stone from Port Deposit and Ellicott City, according to a “Five Minute Histories” video by Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage. B&O rushed to complete its line, including the viaduct, because Baltimore was worried about losing port business to cities digging canals — the rage at the time, Hopkins says.

Adorable miniature steam engines power joyful riders along Leakin Park on the second Sunday of each month. It's free! (Julie Bykowicz / The Baltimore Banner)

Think you have a tiny train lover in the making? One of our favorite things to do during Lewis’s younger years was to ride the steam-powered miniature trains around Leakin Park near Windsor Mill Road. The Chesapeake & Allegheny Live Steamers club sets up shop here on the second Sunday of each month from March through November. Rides are free, though the wonderful volunteers do accept donations.

The club’s goals include preserving “the knowledge of the operation of steam engines, usually of railroad nature,” according to its website. Anyone is welcome to squeeze into these shrunken train cars. They’re best suited for tots, but the adult passengers make for entertaining visuals.

Julie Bykowicz is business and enterprise editor at The Baltimore Banner. Her son, Lewis Foulkes, just completed fourth grade at Roland Park Elementary Middle School.