Baltimore, MD— A construction crew renovating a sidewalk at Oriole Park at Camden Yards made an amazing discovery this week: a locomotive that experts believe was part of the famous Underground Railroad. Operating in the early 1800s, the Underground Railroad transported escaped slaves from southern states to the North and Canada.
Foreman Joe Klosky was supervising a group of workers digging to install piping under the sidewalk when a backhoe hit something metallic. “At first we thought it was an old car,” Kosky stated, “but when we dug more, we saw the smokestack, and I called out to the boys, ‘Guys we got a doggone train down here!’”
The Underground Railroad operated from Georgia to Pennsylvania. No one knows how extensive the tunnel system, built by both freed blacks and white laborers, was, but scholars estimate the amount of track laid to be in excess of 2,000 miles. Entrances to the railroad remained a closely-held secret for obvious reasons, and only a few have been discovered. Confederates did discover some parts of the system and captured some of the trains, but the rest were sold off to railroad companies after the Civil War ended. Until the discovery at Camden Yards, none of the locomotives used in the Underground Railroad was thought to still exist.
“This is a major find,” historian Martha Brockenhorn of the Underground Railroad Museum in Frederick, Maryland told Poor Richard’s History. “Until now, the Underground Railroad was something ephemeral, and the public rarely had a chance to touch an actual part of it. But now, they will be able to.” The State of Maryland has already announced that it will restore the rusty locomotive. Brockenhorn hopes that it will one day soon occupy an honored place in her museum.