Indian Head in Charles County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
— Indian Head Rail Trail —
Who would ever have imagined that a railroad track, once built with a focus on war, would one day be the source of such peace…
The Indian Head – White Plains Railroad was built during World War I in an effort to meet increased demands for the production of smokeless powder (a propellant used in firearms and artillery). Its presence had an immediate impact on the Naval Powder Factory’s overall efficiency. During America’s entrance into World War II, the railroad continued to provide an important link between the production of powder and support of the war effort.
A post-war decision to close smokeless powder production operations and the development of an improved highway system led to the declined need for railroad transportation. By the early 1960’s, the rail line was no longer an asset to the Navy.
Through the Department of the Interior’s Federal Lands-to-Parks program, this 13-mile corridor was donated to Charles County “for the public’s perpetual recreational use and enjoyment”. Fourteen years after the county identified this abandoned land as a potential linear trail, the Indian
Using County and State funding, railroad recycling revenue and private contributions, Charles County began trail construction early in 2008. With an aggressive work schedule and the efforts of dedicated park construction crews, the trail was open for public use within 18 months.
The Indian Head Rail Trail has quickly become a regional favorite among cyclists, hikers and nature enthusiasts. This extraordinary park offers spectacular views of the backwaters of Mattawoman Creek, as well as the chance to intimately experience mature hardwood forests, unique wildlife habitat, natural wetlands and occasional farmland. Along the IHRT, visitors will discover some of Southern Maryland’s most scenic and undeveloped natural areas.
Railroad construction started in 1918 to provide reliable transportation to the Indian Head Naval Powder Factory – an alternative necessary to increase WWI support.
Existing rail bed provided ideal trail base material, thus represented a significant cost savings. Extensive grading and compaction were necessary to support the final trail surface.
A smooth 10’ wide asphalt surface was meticulously installed to provide a high quality, multi-use recreational experience.
After WWI and II, the need for railroad transportation came to an end. This rail corridor sat unused/abandoned for decades.
Charles County Park crews installed fencing and rehabilitated bridges to protect trail visitors from the occasional steep slope and stream crossing.
In 2006, the railroad was conveyed to Charles County for the purpose of developing a 13-mile rail trail. Rails were salvaged and recycling revenues were dedicated to trail construction.
Following the Mattawoman Creek floodplain, the old rail bed was susceptible to flooding damage (during major storm events). Aging galvanized culverts were “sleeved” with plastic storms pipe to protect the future integrity of the trail.
Official Grand Opening (November 2009) - Trail supporters; along with County, State and local partners gather to celebrate the completion of this wonderful recreational resource - The Indian Head Rail Trail.
1918 Navy builds railroads, connects to Pennsylvania RR
1919-1945 Heyday of military operation
1955 Hurricane Connie 4.9 miles washed out
1956 Powder production ends. Railroad becomes obsolete
2006 RR corridor conveyed to Charles County
2007 Railroad track removed & recycled
2008 Trail construction begins
2009 Indian Head Rail Trail opens to public
Erected by Charles County.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Railroads & Streetcars • War, World I.
Location. 38° 35.524′ N, 77° 6.83′ W. Marker is in Indian Head, Maryland, in Charles County. Marker can be reached from Livingston Road (Maryland Route 224) half a mile east of Hawthorne Road (Maryland Route 225), on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Indian Head MD 20640, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Araby (approx. 0.8 miles away); Saint Charles of Cornwallis Neck (approx. 1.3 miles away); Pomonkey High School (approx. 2.8 miles away); Railroad at Naval Proving Ground (approx. 2.9 miles away); Navy Railroad (approx. 3 miles away); In Honor and Memory (approx. 3 miles away); Myrtle Grove Game Refuge (approx. 3.4 miles away); Smallwood's Home (approx. 4.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Indian Head.
Also see . . .
1. Indian Head Rail Trail. Charles County (Submitted on October 9, 2016.)
2. Indian Head—White Plains Railroad (pdf file). Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (Submitted on August 5, 2019.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 6, 2019. It was originally submitted on October 9, 2016, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 450 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 9, 2016, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.