Aberdeen, MD (ABE)
18 East Bel Air Avenue
Aberdeen, MD 21001
Note: Fiscal year is from
October through September.
The passenger rail station in downtown Aberdeen, which serves the Northeast Regional as well as Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) rail, was designed by architect Lester C. Tichy and constructed in 1943 on the site of an 1898 station.
The brick main building on the southbound side still offers travelers an open-feeling, airy waiting room with large plate-glass windows that affords abundant natural light. The original ticketing windows presented an open counter framed in light wood with lozenge-shaped supports for glass partitions that otherwise took up no visual space. The original wooden benches are built into the walls beneath the windows, with a central low slatted seat that runs the length of the room. Natural wood was used extensively on the inside, with pale green trim on the outside; today, some of the paneling has been replaced with painted wall inside. The traditional hipped roof on the southbound side, however, seems anachronistic in comparison with its modern interior. Its traditional roofline on the parking lot side, however is broken with a single thin decorative buttress, now topped with glass bricks and the name, “Aberdeen,” in fifties-style vertical lettering on its thinnest outward-facing side.
On the northbound side, reachable originally via a pedestrian tunnel under the tracks, an even simpler leaning-roofed enclosed waiting room provides shelter from inclement weather while affording a wide view from triple-windows on the track side and eight more large single panes that opened the view from waist-height to ceiling, wrapping the south trackside corner, where passengers could see their train arriving. The structure’s design mirrors the use of similar large windows and simple forms in the southbound-side station building.
The shelters over the pedestrian tunnel entrances on both sides feature a roof with a shallow inverted pitch, carrying forward the simple geometric lines of the station in a chevron shape typical of the day. Today, pedestrians can also use a more accessible but less aesthetic series of concrete ramps to an uncovered overpass to cross the tracks just south of the station.
Amtrak renovated the station in 1993 at a cost of $400,000. Within the past two years, updated electronic passenger information displays and a new wheelchair lift have been installed as well. Meantime, growth in surrounding Harford County has encouraged state and local authorities, together with Amtrak, to research remaking the station into a multimodal center that would serve not only commuters to the cities of Baltimore and Washington, but to the nearby Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG) as well. Starting in 2005, Maryland gained new military commands, new responsibilities in homeland security and defense and nearly 30,000 Department of Defense military and civilian jobs; APG has continued to grow as a result. As of March, 2010, both Harford County and the city were continuing with plans toward transportation-oriented development surrounding an expanded multi-modal station in the current location. Studies currently propose replacing the waiting rooms and buildings as well as enlarging bus bays and drive-in-drop-off areas.
Aberdeen began as a farming community, but was put on the map by the railroad. Charles Calvert, the fifth Lord Baltimore, granted 1,140 acres of fertile land on the western edge of the Chesapeake to Edward Hall in 1720, and the village that would one day become Aberdeen grew up at that spot on the Old Post Road, the main road between Alexandria and Philadelphia—which still runs directly beside the Aberdeen station today. The village did not become “Aberdeen” until a Harvard-educated and well-connected Baltimorean, Edmund Law Rogers, who was employed by the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, came scouting for a watering station in 1835. Rogers saw potential in the village of Halls Cross Roads for development, and surveyed and drew up a plat which, on that original document, he named Aberdeen. The name is drawn from Rogers’ family connections with Scotland and family acquaintance with the Fourth Earl of Aberdeen, George Hamilton Gordon. Rogers sought partners to buy up the Halls Park estate in 1855, and by 1858, Aberdeen was official; the restored plat still remains in the Aberdeen Room Archive and Museum. Incorporation as a town came in 1892, and in celebration of its centennial, Aberdeen chartered as a city in 1992.
The former PRR line, which Norfolk Southern Railway and Amtrak use, is but one of two rail lines that pass through Aberdeen. The second, a short distance to the west, was the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Blue Line that came through in the 1880s, now owned by its successor, CSX. Thus, only a few blocks from the Amtrak station, the endangered B&O station stands beside its rail line. Built in the Queen Anne style, the wooden structure is one of the few stations by renowned 19th century architect Frank Furness still standing; Wilmington’s Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station is another. The Aberdeen B&O stopped serving passengers in 1958, and began its slide into disrepair. Local historical groups in Aberdeen have been attempting to rescue the B&O station on West Bel Air Road for several years. A 2003 study determined that the station could be moved to a nearby location—a necessity, as it stands so close to the tracks that CSX freight trains have knocked off bits of its wide eaves. CSX has been willing to donate the station to the city if it could be moved. The Historical Society of Harford County and Aberdeen Room Archives and Museum have, with a grant from the Maryland Historical Trust and individual donations, raised $100,000 in 2010 and thus the means to begin the process of moving the station back 50 yards from its present location.
Railroads moved not only passengers in and out of Harford County, but also brought the local produce to market from the beginnings in the 1830s. In 1867, George Washington Baker of Aberdeen—also one of the town’s original commissioners—began working on a method of canning the sweet “shoepeg” corn for which the area is famous. By 1874, he perfected this process—the first time the delicate vegetable could be canned without turning black when preserved. Baker founded a canning empire in Aberdeen that his five sons continued. His and the other canneries that sprang up nearby shipped hundreds of thousands of cases of canned corn per year out of Harford County and onto American dining tables up until the early 20the century. Not only did corn grow well, but peaches and tomatoes also; and by 1882 there were more canneries in Harford County than anywhere in the country. This canning heyday lasted until the Great Depression of 1929, when many were forced to close, and it never quite recovered. The last Aberdeen cannery closed in 1985, and the last in the county closed in 1999.
In 1917, given that corn, tomatoes and peaches as well as oystering and fishing made the area around Aberdeen, on the lower Susquehana River and on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay about $1.5 million a year, the local farmers were reluctant to part with the substantial acreage that the Army requested for a new weapons testing grounds—which, with the war in Europe on, the Army desperately needed. It took an act of Congress and two Presidential Proclamations to persuade the farmers to leave their Aberdeen property—35,000 acres of upland and 34,000 acres of swampy tidal wetlands, which was also perfect for weapons tests, being close to major supply lines and yet away from heavily populated areas. Farmers were compensated for their land, and everything, even family graveyards, was moved.
The Army took possession of the Aberdeen Proving Grounds on October 17, 1917. The installation’s mission between the wars emphasized research and testing of munitions, and it expanded in both personnel and buildings over time, acquiring 7,000 more acres that moved it northward into Aberdeen city, as well as Spesutie Island in the Chesapeake in the 1940s. Technological contributions of Aberdeen Proving Grounds during World War II included two familiar items: the world’s first digital computer, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator, ENIAC, in 1947, and the man-portable antitank weapon, the bazooka. Today the APG remains one of the Army’s foremost test, research, engineering and training installations.
The unstaffed Aberdeen station does not provide ticketing or assistance with baggage, and is served by approximately six daily Amtrak trains as well as MARC trains and transit buses.
Federal law requires compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by 2010. The following is a list of items typically required for transportation and public facilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Please check the regulations for guidance or contact us for more information.
|Train information display system|
|Visual paging system|
|ADA compliant elevator|
|Accessible ticket counter|
|Accessible Customer Service office|
|ADA compliant signage|
|Flashing/audible safety alarm system|