Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), first U.S. public railroad, chartered in 1827 by a group of Baltimore businessmen to regain trans-Allegheny traffic lost to the newly opened Erie Canal. Construction began in 1828, and the first division opened in May, 1830, between Baltimore and Ellicott's Mills, Md. Horses were the first source of power, but the successful trial run of Peter Cooper's Tom Thumb in Aug., 1830, brought the change to steam locomotives. The B&O expanded steadily and reached St. Louis in 1857. During the Civil War the railroad moved Union troops and supplies. By the end of the 19th cent. the B&O had achieved almost 5,800 mi (9,334 km) of track and connected with Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City. By the mid-1900s it had become mainly a freight carrier. Faced with financial difficulties, the B&O was acquired by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in 1963 and merged with it in 1965. In 1980 the combined company became part of the CSX Corporation. The B&O was the first railroad to publish a timetable, to use electric locomotives and specialty cars (e.g., dining and baggage), and to run fully air-conditioned trains.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.