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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Indian Head in Charles County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Navy Railroad

Historical Role in Our Nation’s Defense

 

—Indian Head Rail Trail —

 
"Navy Railroad" Marker - off Mattingly Street at the west end of the hiker/biker "Rail Trail" image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, December 16, 2013
1. "Navy Railroad" Marker - off Mattingly Street at the west end of the hiker/biker "Rail Trail"
Inscription.
The Naval Base, [then] known as “The Naval Proving Ground”, was established in the town of Indian Head in 1890. Its main purpose was to test guns, powder, fuses and other naval ordnances as well as producing smokeless powder. The Naval Proving Ground played an essential role in producing supplies for naval ships during the European conflict.

Reliable Transportation Needs. Harsh winters eliminated the use of the Potomac River to transport raw materials and finished products to and from the Naval Base in Indian Head. To complicate the issue, land routes (gravel roads) were often slow or completely unusable due to seasonal wet conditions and occasional flooding. So the development of a railroad was needed to meet the supply demands brought on by an escalating European conflict

In 1918, Congress appropriated a sum of $800,000 for this project. Brothers, Fred and Marshall Bailey were awarded a bid to build the fourteen and one-half mile railroad, connecting Indian Head to the existing Pennsylvania Railroad junction in White Plains. The contractor, using thirty local men, completed construction in just six months. In May 1919, the railway was officially open for business and proved to play a vital role in the development and operations of the Navy Base.

Our Naval Base has made significant contributions
"Navy Railroad" Marker: close-up of photos on left, upper image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, December 16, 2013
2. "Navy Railroad" Marker: close-up of photos on left, upper
to historical conflicts, including two World Wars, the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts. Now known as the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the name has changed reflecting diversification into the fields of chemistry, engineering and production management. NSWC continues today developing, testing and manufacturing the newest generations of explosives and propellants for use in the 21st century U.S. Weapons systems and aboard the most advanced Navy ship and aircraft.

Indian Head’s Naval Base not only played an important role in our Nation’s military history, but also in Charles County’s overall economy. The base has been the area’s largest employer for most of the past century. During the onset of World War I, in an effort to get employees across Mattawoman Creek to connect the communities of Marbury and Pisgah to the base. Remnant pilings can still be seen today.

Just prior to World War II, as roads were paved and transportation routes improved, this railroad became obsolete and sat unused for decades. In 2006, the U.S. Navy – through the Department of the Interior’s Federal Lands to Parks Program – generously donated this abandoned RR corridor to Charles County. This property was dedicated for the public’s perpetual recreational use and enjoyment. The Indian Head Rail Trail represents Southern Maryland’s first successful rails-to-trails conversion project.
"Navy Railroad" Marker: close-up of photos, lower middle image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, December 16, 2013
3. "Navy Railroad" Marker: close-up of photos, lower middle
- Note the railroad section gang at left, which seems to be composed entirely of local Afro-American laborers - separate but equal being the professed policy for civilian workers at the Naval Facility - if not in the county's civilian sector until later decades.
J. Roland.
Charles County, Maryland - "Where Eagles Fly"
 
Erected 2013 by Charles County, Maryland.
 
Location. 38° 35.822′ N, 77° 10.088′ W. Marker is in Indian Head, Maryland, in Charles County. Marker is on Indian Head Rail Trail east of Mattingly Street. Click for map. The marker is on the west end of the former railroad bed at Mattingly Street, one block east of Indian Head Highway (MD 210), and northeast of the "Naval Surface Warfare Center" boundary. Marker is in this post office area: Indian Head MD 20640, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Railroad at Naval Proving Ground (a few steps from this marker); Saint Charles of Cornwallis Neck (approx. 1.8 miles away); Christian Temple Manor (approx. 2.8 miles away); Rich Resources (approx. 2.8 miles away); The Story (approx. 3 miles away); Smallwood's Home (approx. 3 miles away); Araby (approx. 3.1 miles away); General Smallwood's Gravesite (approx. 3.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Indian Head.
 
Also see . . .
1. Town of Indian Head. (Submitted on December 24, 2013, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Indian Head Rail Trail. (Submitted on December 24, 2013, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
3. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division
Last remnant of the Navy Railroad track - view from Mattingly St. toward the Naval Weapons Station image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, December 16, 2013
4. Last remnant of the Navy Railroad track - view from Mattingly St. toward the Naval Weapons Station
. (Submitted on December 24, 2013, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
 
Additional keywords. "Naval Ordnance Station [NOS]"
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceRailroads & StreetcarsWar, World IWar, World II
 
"Welcome Indian Head Rail Trail" image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, December 16, 2013
5. "Welcome Indian Head Rail Trail"
The "Navy Railroad" Marker is visible on the brick deck, center right.
"Go Navy" - the Naval Surface Warfare Center's water tower, upper left, behind its secuity fence image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, December 16, 2013
6. "Go Navy" - the Naval Surface Warfare Center's water tower, upper left, behind its secuity fence
- viewed from the Indian Head Rail Trail east of the "Navy Railway" marker.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 310 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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