If you ask people what they know about the town of Thurmont, Maryland, you will be asked the question, “Where is it?”
Thurmont, a town that sits at the eastern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, is not a well-known town to people who do not live in central Maryland. It is only nicknamed the ‘Gateway to the Mountains’ and is known for nearby Camp David, the retreat for the U.S. President, and it is a town many pass through along U.S. 15 while going to famous towns like Frederick to the south and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to the north. It is also a common stop in the fall for hikers to nearby parks to include the Catoctin Mountain National Park and Cunningham Falls State Park where you can see a very spectacular waterfall. You can see that there is much that does happen in Thurmont.
Some of you are saying, “Wow. This is amazing. Now I know about Thurmont. However, this town has nothing to do with railroads.”
There is an active railroad line that passes through the town, and it once had a spectacular train depot (now gone). It was a very busy depot in the heydays of passenger railroads, and it was a common place for hobos to board the train. The line only has freight trains today. However, there is another piece of railroad history in this town.
From 1908 to 1954, the Hagerstown and Frederick Railway (also known as the H&F) ran a trolley line between Frederick and Thurmont. In the 1920’s, the trolley carried nearly four million passengers a year. Like many trolley lines, this line went into decline as other sources of transportation became more popular. The last train arrived in Thurmont in 1954, and the tracks were taken up shortly after.
Today, you can take a walk along the three quarters mile of the original trolley line along what is now the Thurmont Trolley Trail. The Thurmont Lions Club and local volunteers help maintain this piece of railroad history. (You can find out more about their work at www.thurmontlionsclub.com.) The north end of the trail begins at the old power building on East Main Street (Maryland Routes 77 and 550) which has murals depicting the history of Thurmont to include the old depot on the current rail line and a picture of a trolley. The building is easy to find because you will find on display and old trolley that was once used on this very line. From here you can walk south along the same route where passengers rode from the town south to Frederick. The trail follows along and crosses a few streams along the way. Once you get to the south end, you can make your way back to Main Street. Today, the locals maintain this very trail to keep alive a great piece of Thurmont’s history. A current project is underway to connect the Thurmont Trolley Trail to the Chimney Rock Trail in Catoctin Mountain National Park. It will be called the Gateway Trail and will along hikers to hike from the town to the national park.
The town of Thurmont, Maryland is on U.S. 15 north of Frederick and south of Gettysburg. The north terminus of the trail is on Maryland Route 77 east of U.S. 15. Parking is available on the street. The trail starts across the street from the old power building and trolley. The trail is completely level, but it is an all gravel trail. (Wheelchairs may experience some difficulty.) It may not be a long trail, but it is a trail that will take you away from the pressures of the present day. You can also learn more about the town of Thurmont at www.thurmontmainstreet.com.