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Biking Through History on the Northern Central Railroad Trail

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The Bike Through History program was conducted by members of the NCR/Hereford Volunteers. I (Allen) was named chairman of the newly-formed Bike Ride Committee, and the other three members were David Rusk, Marvin Yaker and Lee Fleishman. Ten official rides were offered - plus two 'unofficial' rides. The following are notes taken for each of the events in the 2006 season:

MAY 17 -

On Wednesday, May 17, our Bike Ride Committee staged its preliminary ride.. Actually it was a 'dry run' to test the continuity, etc., and we originated at Paper Mill Road comprehending the same schedule as our first official ride next week (May 24) from the same location.

The ride was attended by two staffers - myself and David - and by three 'guinea pigs' from the list of participants from last year - Mary, Richard and Michelle.

I am happy to report that everything went smoothly.

We left from Paper Mill at 634PM, biked north stopping at the river bridge from 639PM until 643PM where Richard gave us descriptions of birds we could see in the distance, then to the bend south of Phoenix where I pointed out the alignment of an old track that once ran along the river, then to Phoenix itself for a brief stop to read the interpretive sign, etc., and then to Glencoe arriving there at 720PM and departing 730PM.

On the way back we stopped at Sparks and its interpretive sign along with some reminiscences of the area from when I attended elementary school, leaving there at 746PM and then to the river bridge once again and then to Ashland for its interpretive sign and some more tidbits from my days of riding the Parkton Local.. Each member of the biking party gave input toward the dialogue along the way.

We left Ashland at 829PM and were off the trail at 834PM.

The three guinea pigs offered their critique and they had favorable comments about the adventure, adding that the distance of 10 miles altogether in the 2-hour time span seemed ideal and they also seemed to appreciate the 630PM starting time saying it was better for working people who would be challenged to get to the trail by 6 o'clock (which is the time the rides began in previous years).

MAY 24 -

May 24, 2006, was our first official Bike Through History event and it was attended by 26 people.

There were two staffers - myself and David - and by my count we had 24 participants.

We left from Paper Mill Road at 635PM and went single-file to the Gunpowder River bridge where there was much more room for us to assemble for introductions and a group photo (below).

As part of the introduction I asked each of the participants to give a very short talk on their interest about the NCR Trail, which they did.

We then went onto Phoenix where we assembled around the interpretive sign and one of the participants (Justin) read aloud what was included on the sign, and I then gave a brief remembrance of Phoenix from my Parkton Local days 1957-59.

Next we biked on to Glencoe (which has no sign) and I gave brief reminiscences of Glencoe from my Parkton Local days and one of the participants told us what she knew about Oldfields School which is nearby and the lady's daughter is a student there.

We then went south the Sparks where another participant (Gabriel, our youngest participant) read aloud what was included on the sign, and I gave some remembrances of Sparks when I had attended school there, grades one through four.

Next we stopped at the S-curve about half a mile south of Sparks to look at the stone wall and get a glimpse of the old quarry, and I explained how this had been a 30 MPH curve when it was a railroad, etc.

Finally we biked south to Ashland where another participant read aloud what was included on the sign, I in turn recounted some student mischief from my high school days aboard the Parkton Local involving Ashland, reminded everyone of our next week's schedule & also told them about the similar program in Pennsylvania on Tuesdays, and then we were done and participants were off the trail by about 845PM.

For the record, the first names of our 24 participants were Dan, John, Marty, Grazyna, Barb, Nat, Sara, 3 named Bob, Mark, Barbara, Brian, Tom, Brandon, Jean, Milton, Gabriel, Russell, Pam, Mike, Steve, Justin and Amy.

MAY 31 -

Our second official Bike Through History ride took place May 31 leaving from Monkton Station at 635PM and we proceeded directly south to the river bridge between Monkton and Corbett for our introduction.. I asked each participant to say their name & something very brief about their interest in the trail, & I wrote down 25 names including 22 participants & three staffers.

The staffers were myself, David and Lee.

Lee then took over as leader for the first leg of the ride beginning with a brief talk about biking safety there on the bridge, & then we biked south to Glencoe for a talk about that & then back north again to Corbett for a talk about that.

Then we biked back to Monkton which by then David had opened for us, & we spent about 12 minutes inside the station & I reminisced about the place.

We then biked north to the spot where the old Blue Mount spur bridge can be seen off to the left of the trail & I explained what the bridge had been used for.

A short distance north of this point the trail crosses over Little Falls (just south of Blue Mount Road), and at the suggestion of participant Richard (who had attended the May 17 practice run) we made a stop at that bridge to see if there were any beavers visible in the pond.. No beavers were seen, so I decided to stop back at the same location on the return trip to see if any could be seen then.

Meanwhile, we biked north to Hicks-Wilson Road, our northern destination, and we made closing remarks, but added that we would be making a second stop at the Little Falls beaver pond, which we did.

Shortly after we arrived back at Little Falls, Richard pointed to a beaver which was floating undisturbed by our presence just below the bridge.. This was a real treat seeing a beaver so close up. We arrived back in Monkton & were off the trail by about 840PM.

Names of 22 participants I wrote down include Jayne, Eileen, Laurie, Brian, Russ, Dan, Laura, Norma, Marty, Nancy, Leo, Jen, Phyllis, Genie, Pat, Joe, Barbara, Mark, Michelle, Richard, John and Pam.

JUNE 7 -

The NCR/Hereford Volunteers' third official Bike Through History was attended by three staffers and 15 participants - total of 18 - leaving from White Hall several minutes after 630PM.. There was a prediction of 30 percent chance of rain which could have impacted attendance.

First we biked south to Hicks-Wilson Road for introductions & Marvin Yaker told us some tidbits about the NCR trail and how high it rises between Ashland and the state line.. Here we also saw a deer.

We then biked back north to White Hall where a participant read aloud the history sign.

Following that we biked north to the Little Falls overlook with the sign about poisonous snakes & Lee Fleishman told us some things about snakes.

Next we biked north to a spot next to Parcourse exercise station number 14 where there is a giant sycamore tree growing on the bank of Little Falls off to the right of the trail, a short description of how big these trees can get & how early settlers sometimes hollowed out a sycamore for a family to live in & then eight volunteers formed a circle to demonstrate the circumference of a large sycamore tree.. This activity has been an annual tradition of Bike Through History.

We then biked north to bridge 30-23 and one of the participants read aloud the text of the historical sign at that location describing the purpose of the bridge which spanned a mill race.

We reached our northernmost destination at MP-15 and noted that this is where the NCR began to follow Bee Tree Run which empties into Little Falls at this point & then turned back.

Two stops were made on our southward journey at Parkton to read the two historical signs - each by a different volunteer.. It began to drizzle briefly at the first of these two signs, but then it let up

and there was no further rain, and we got back to White Hall and were off the trail at 850PM.

Staffers (3) included myself, Marvin and Lee.

Participants (15) were John, Paul, Jim, Michelle, Richard, Russ, Eileen, Dave, Mary, Duane, Laurie, Pam, Lips (Bill), Norman and Nancy.

JUNE 14 -

We met at Bentley Springs with a total of 15 participants which included four staffers.. This was the first time all four members of the Bike Ride Committee had participated together in this program.

It was Flag Day, & before we left from Bentley Springs there was a show-and-tell with an original 34-star American flag from my collection that had been sewn during the era of the Civil War.

We then left & pedaled south to MP-15, arriving several minutes later, at which time I had a blowout on my front tire & had to miss the next couple of stops, but in the meantime the participants went through their introductions and with the able leadership of the three other staffers the party biked back to Bentley Springs to read the interpretive sign and then on to the old beaver pond located just north of Bentley Springs, & it is at this point that I caught back up with the group.. It had begun to drizzle and this continued off and on over the balance of the event, but the rain never became very heavy.

Next we biked north to a spot next to Bee Tree Run just south of Bee Tree Road where a new beaver pond has developed, but we saw no beavers. Then we went on to Freeland where we stopped & read the interpretive sign & a short break, and this was followed by pedaling to the state line.

While we awaited everyone to catch up we read the interpretive sign located at the state line, & then we formed a semi circle and each of our 15 participants read from file cards a short portion of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, collectively covering the entire speech, while standing at the state line symbolizing the import of the address as a unifying element toward the eventual end of the Civil War separated by the same state line we were standing upon.. I wondered then, and still do, if this particular exercise had ever happened before - at the state line - with a group taking turns reading the Gettysburg Address.. Perhaps it was.. Who knows!

We left from the state line & biked south with a stop at the new beaver pond, where again we saw no beavers, and then at the old beaver pond to listed to the sounds of the frogs, and we were back at Bentley Springs and off the trail by 855PM.

The participants on this ride included four staffers Allen, David, Marvin & Lee, and 11 participants: Eileen, John, Pam, Brian, Nancy, Marty, Russ, Diane, Michelle, Richard and Charlie.

JUNE 21 -

Our June 21 Bike Through History was attended by 20 participants which included four staffers, and we left from Freeland following an introduction which included the reading of a newsletter story written about the program and a show and tell about a 1956 reenactment of the Lincoln Funeral Train for a television show in which I had played a part.

We headed north into Pennsylvania.

We biked first to Flickerville to the site of the one-time interlocking tower of that name for a brief stop and then to New Freedom station which was open and we spent about 20 minutes there at

the station.

From New Freedom we biked north toward Glen Rock with a brief stop to see the Sielig Furniture sign which was erected c-1940's solely to be seen by train passengers, and we arrived in Glen Rock & most of the group got themselves Italian ice - this in itself being a Bike Through History tradition.

It was the longest day of the year, but due to time constraints we did no further narrative once we left from Glen Rock & headed south once again with intention to get back before dark, and we arrived Freeland & were off the trail by 915PM.

Those attending included all four members of the Bike Ride Committee

plus the following 16 participants: Jane, Eileen, Steve, Marty, Nancy, Barbara, Mark, Bogda, Michael, Russ, Diane, Brian, Pam, John, Richard and Michelle.

This then concludes the first round in the 2006 program.

JUNE 28 -

Wednesday, June 28, we biked northward from Sparks at 630PM with six bikers in attendance.. It was a humid evening but with no rain, and this was the first day without rain in about five days.

We biked to Monkton but made a brief stop en route just south of the bridge south of Corbett to clear a tree.

After our stop in Monkton we biked to the Little Falls bridge at Blue Mount to check on the family of beavers, but there were none visible, and then we biked on to White Hall & made another stop en route just north of Wilson Road to clear another tree.

We found the trail itself to be in remarkable shape following the monsoons over the past several days.

From White Hall heading back south we made a detour via the road to go past the old dam, millrace & paper mill before getting back on the trail.. Shortly afterward we saw a blacksnake & stopped briefly to get a better look.

The clouds threatened but there was no rain, and we were back at Sparks & off the trail by 835PM.

This was an 'unofficial' bike ride, slotted to occur on the off-day separating the first & second series of the Bike Through History program, and there was no historical narrative.. It was styled 'Bike For Fun.'

Participants included Allen, David, Richard, Michelle, Mary & John.

JULY 5 -

The NCR/Hereford Volunteers' first ride in the second round of bike rides left from Paper Mill Road at 630PM this evening (July 5) with six people in attendance.

The number of participants was no doubt impacted by the gruesome weather forecast of rain and thunder showers for the balance of the evening.. In fact, it did rain until about 45 minutes before the ride, but we had NO RAIN during the course of the event from the time we departed until about two minutes before we got back.

The four participants - in addition to two staffers - were folks who had not previously been on a Bike Through History ride.. All four had come together.

First we stopped at the site of the Lime Kiln for several minutes of introductions, & then we pedaled north to Sparks where we stopped for a visit to the Nature Center.. Duvall & Barbara Sollers were there & had opened the center, and we went inside for superb discussions - first from Barbara about the Nature Center & how it had come into being, and then from Duvall about the history of the community of Sparks.. We remained there at the center for 30 minutes & our four

guests seemed very impressed with the session to which they shared in the discussions.

We then biked north to Glencoe, and since none our guests had been participants previously, I decided that it was OK to repeat most of the narrative from the first ride of the first round back on May 24 since it would not be repetitive to them.

Leaving Glencoe we biked south to Phoenix where one of the guests read the historical sign followed by a brief discussion, and then we went to Ashland where another guest read that location's historical sign followed by a brief discussion.

We returned to Paper Mill Road, and as we were crossing the road northbound, just before reaching the parking lot, it began to rain lightly.. We were off the trail by 850PM, and just as we were leaving in our cars it began to rain more heavily.. Such timing, it was incredible!

Those participating were myself and David as staffers, plus Sam, Susan, Sherry and Dick.

I believe this was a very successful Bike Through History event, except for the low attendance.

JULY 12 -

Here is the report on the Bike Through History originating 7-12-06 from Monkton.

The ride itself was attended by 12 people including two staffers.

Also participating was Marvin who biked on ahead to Hicks-Wilson Road to be with our guest speaker.

The weather forecast was less than ideal with a 60 percent chance of rain.. In fact, we did have a brief drizzle during the ride, but we avoided a heavy rain that did fall elsewhere along the route before it arrived, and there was some rain after we got back at the conclusion of the ride.. Once again, the timing was incredible.

Before we left Monkton, our group was given information concerning the former community of Pleasant Valley along with a mission project for us to determine exactly where the community had been & whether the sign installed in 2005 identifying the site of Pleasant Valley was in the correct location.

We then biked south, stopping at the river bridge south of Monkton, where we determined the field mileage from an 1877 map using Monkton Road and the bridge as reference locations for further use in the project.. We also made introductions at this point.

From here we biked non-stop to Glencoe & non-stop back again to the same river bridge spot, thereupon determining the precise field mileage we needed to reach Pleasant Valley based upon the scale offered by the 1877 map, and then we continued onward to Pleasant Valley using this information.

We stopped at Pleasant Valley, & using the method to determine its location by mileage, it is now almost certain that the Pleasant Valley sign IS in the CORRECT LOCATION..

We stopped here & one of our participants read aloud to the rest of us the Pleasant Valley sign.

Next we biked north to the first Little Falls bridge & stopped, looking for beavers, but we saw none, and then continued on to Hicks-Wilson Road where we were met by Bill Schmalzer, stationmaster at Monkton station, who gave us a superb talk on the history of the NCR, the trail & Monkton station, and answered questions.. We were here for more than 30 minutes & this session was the high point of this ride & very much appreciated by the participants.

Finally we biked south again, stopping for about 10 minutes at the Little Falls bridge to look for beavers (and some of us did see one of them), and we got back to Monkton and were off the trail by 9 o'clock P.M.

Participants on the ride itself

Allen, David, Nancy, Mary, Richard, Pat, Bill, Michelle, Meredith, Steven, Beverly and Mud (a nickname).

JULY 19 -

Our 8th official Bike Through History originated 7-19-06 at White Hall and was attended by seven people.. The attendance was disappointing for this event as there was no serious threat of storms

and the temps were lower than they had been in recent days (although at 4PM the temp was still in the lower 90's in the Baltimore area).. In fact, the number of staffers (4) outnumbered the number of participants (3) we were there to lead, the first time this has happened so far in this year's program.

First we biked to Hicks-Wilson Road & we sang 'Happy Birthday' on the occasion of 2006 being the centennial year of the Maryland Park System, & the participants were given DNR wooden nickels.. Marvin then gave a brief talk on the history of the trail.

We then biked back to White Hall, stopping long enough for the participants to get a copy of the DNR Centennial pamphlet.

Next we biked north to Greystone where the site of the one-time passenger waiting shelter was located, & then to Parkton for a brief description of the watering system for steam locomotives & a story about an 1860's undertaker who had practiced his trade from his home in Parkton.

At a couple of places en route to our destination we stopped & removed trees from the trail which had fallen during the previous night's storm.

Milepost 15 was our northerly terminus & Lee gave a brief talk about the ecology & habitat of the area from a Use Plan that had been developed in the 1980's for construction of the NCR Trail.

We returned to White Hall on time.

Participants on this ride included Nancy, Steve, John, Allen, David, Marvin and Lee.

JULY 26 -

Here is the report on our bike ride Wednesday, 7-26-06, from Bentley Springs.. There were 13 folks in attendance including three staffers.

We left at 630PM and headed south to MP-15 where we had introductions, and then Nancy (a regular participant from Ashland) read to us an account of a Confederate raid upon the town of Ashland when the town was spared by the generosity of one of its citizens who raised the ransom demanded by the Confederates.

We then returned to Bentley Springs where Doris (who grew up in Bentley Springs) told us some remembrances of the place, & then Richard gave us a superb show & tell about beavers which included a mounted adult beaver on display (photo).

Leaving Bentley Springs we stopped en route north at two beaver ponds, & then we stopped briefly at the Bee Tree Preserve to read the sign & learn about a Union encampment on the hill overlooking two railroad bridges, & then we stopped at yet another beaver pond (inactive) just north of Freeland.

When we got to the state line (our northern terminus) a newspaper article about the state line & how it's survey deviated by as much as 900 feet from its intended latitude was read.

We got back to Bentley Springs & were off the trail at 840PM.

The 13 participants were Mary, Michelle, Pam, Doris, Diane, Jerry, Mud, Steve, Nancy, Richard, David, Marvin and Allen.


Our final Bike Through History for 2006 on August 2 was attended by six participants.

They were Steve, Daryl, Nancy, David, Marvin & Allen.

Daryl was a first-time rider with us.

It was an extremely hot day with temp reported to be 99 or higher in the Baltimore area earlier in the day & it was not that much cooler in Freeland where our bike ride originated, & this no doubt impacted our attendance.

We were also met at Freeland by another Nancy who is a member of the NCR/Hereford Volunteers who joined us in our opening demonstration but did not ride with us.

Meanwhile, the Nancy who did participate in the ride, who is from Ashland & has been a regular rider with us, brought a chocolate cake decorated with the words ' Thank you Allen' and some sodas for us to enjoy following the ride.. This was a real treat!

Our opening demonstration involved the historical method of delivering train orders & messages through use of a train-order stick.. Volunteers ran along the trail with their fist outward to snag the looped string affixed to the stick, much as a locomotive engineer would do before other means of communication were implemented.. There is a train-order stick on display at Monkton station, but the stick provided on this occasion was from my own collection.

We then biked northward, stopping briefly at the state line so we could remove the 2006 Bike Through History posters, & then we stopped again a short distance north of this point for us to look for date and milling locations imprinted upon the rails.

Next we biked north to Railroad where we stopped briefly to read info about the Jackson House, etc., & then we returned south once again.

Two stops were made on the return trip - first to discuss the signal aspects at the restored signal pole in New Freedom, and second to ponder the enormous effort with mostly hand tools to clear the massive railroad cut at Summit Grove & remove that earth to another location for use as a fill.

Biking in the heat is not so uncomfortable as one may imagine because we are mostly in the shade & with the breeze generated by biking we stay cooler than we would by standing around.

We arrived back at Freeland at 825PM where we dwelled for awhile enjoying Nancy's goodies & reminiscing about the 2006 Bike Through History program that had just ended.

For the record there were 148 participants this year - an average of about 15 per ride - not including the two unofficial rides which were attended by five and six respectively.. Participants who attended multiple rides are included in the above total by the number of rides they attended.

All rides were conducted & there were no cancellations due to the weather.

I believe the program was a success & appreciate the great support & participation of the other members of the Bike Ride Committee of the NCR/Hereford Volunteers.

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Click Here for Program Notes from 2005

Click Here for Program Notes from 2004

Click Here for Program Notes from 2003

Click Here for Program Notes from 2002