Kensington B&O Railroad Station
Kensington's small railroad station was built in 1891, making it the country's second oldest still-active train station. The station originally operated by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, was first named "Knowles Station" after the farmland owned by George Knowles which the station was located on. Later, when a community named Kensington sprung up around the railroad, the station was renamed. Its designer E. Francis Baldwin was the B&O's top architect at the time, creating hundreds of buildings over his long career (though many no longer survive). The station's "Stick Style" design is highly practical, featuring large overhanging eaves that shelter waiting passengers from sun, rain, and snow. However, compared to the B&O stations at Rockville and Silver Spring, the station lacks fine detailing due to financial struggles at the time. Kensington is around 11 miles from Washington D.C., and back in the late 19th century, city residents could travel from Washington's Union Station to Kensington for around 35 cents. Maryland state-run MARC commuter trains now connect the two places after taking over B&O passenger service in 1974. The station parking lot now hosts the Kensington Farmers' Market on Saturdays and continues to serve as a community symbol and gathering place.
Backstory and Context
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was incorporated in 1827 to bring Baltimore back into competition in westerly trade after New York had constructed the successful Erie Canal. From Baltimore, the mainline stretched west to West Virginia and beyond, however, originally, the mainline did not stop in Washington, and instead bypassed through northern Maryland.
However, in 1835, a branch line from Baltimore to Washington opened, diverging from the B&O mainline at Relay station. The line terminated in Washington at Union Station. With Washington growing rapidly during and after the Civil War, the railroad decided to fully connect Washington with the rest of the mainline, building the 49-mile long "Metropolitan Branch," which reconnected with the mainline at Point of Rocks station. The Metropolitan Branch opened in 1873, and the opening of the line brought major suburbanization to Montgomery County villages it stopped at.
The Kensington station opened in 1891. Originally there were separate waiting areas for men and women, and a master's office in the center. While originally named Knowles Station after George Knowles, the station was renamed Kensington in 1894 after Brainard H Warner, the founder of the town, named his planned community Kensington after a visit to England.
In addition to the Baltimore and Ohio railroad service at the station, there was also a streetcar service to the station. The Kensington Electric Railway ran a 2.5 mile service from Kensington station to the terminus of the Rock Creek Railway, which ran from Chevy Chase into the city. The line was later taken over by the Capital Traction Company, one of Washingtons' two main streetcar companies. Although plans existed to extend the line all the way to Sandy Spring, these never came to fruition with the best start being an extension to Howard Avenue reaching 3000 feet. The service was retired in 1933.
Through mergers, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad became a part of the CSX transport networks. It is used by the MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter) Brunswick Line, which services Union Station to stations in West Virginia, and by the Amtrak Capitol Limited service to Chicago.
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