Railroad Tracks Across the Ice on the Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace.

Now that we are in the middle of the big freeze, it caused us to think about another time that an arctic blast held a tight grip on the area.

It was the winter of 1852, the coldest in many years, and the temperatures dipped far below zero each night.  This caused the mighty Susquehanna River to freeze over, disrupting transportation on the northeast corridor.  In those days, a bridge hadn’t been built between Perryville and Havre de Grace, so a steam ferry, the Susquehanna, ferried passengers and freight across the waterway.

But with the river solidly frozen over from bank to bank the movement of the railroad ferry was disrupted.  This presented a problem as traffic backed up.

The Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, Isaac R. Trimble came up with a solution.  His expedient, tracks laid on the ice.  This unique route opened on January 15, 1852, and It was in use every day through February 24, 1852, when the rails were removed because a thaw was coming on.  Over 1,378 cars were moved over the ice and regular traffic began again on March 3, 1852.

Based on a drawing by F. F. Schell, a lithograph was produced by Thomas S. Sinclair of Philadelphia.  It featured a view of the railroad tracks across the Susquehanna at Havre de Grace.  This was a popular item at the time and it was reproduced in several forms.  The Adams Express Company arranged to get an imprint of it too, and the company distributed the popular image to customers.

Railroad tracks on ice across the Susquehanna at Havre de Grace.  Source:  Enoch Pratt Free Library  http://collections.digitalmaryland.org/cdm/ref/collection/cator/id/181

Railroad tracks on ice across the Susquehanna at Havre de Grace. Source: Enoch Pratt Free Library http://collections.digitalmaryland.org/cdm/ref/collection/cator/id/181

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