Train Time at Harpers Ferry

Amtrak's westbound Capitol Limited arrives at Harpers Ferry about 15 minutes late.

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited arrives at Harpers Ferry about 15 minutes late.

Harpers Ferry, W.Va., is quaint and historic little town that sits astride the ex-Baltimore & Ohio mainline between Cumberland, Md., and Washington/Baltimore. Given its location on the Potomac River where the Shenandoah River branches off, Harpers Ferry had strategic significance during the Civil War era.

The town is perhaps best known, historically, as the site of an ill-fated October 1859 raid by abolitionist John Brown upon the federal arsenal there. The raid was eventually quelled by federal troops led by Col. Robert E. Lee and Lt. J.E.B. Stuart, both of whom became key military leaders in the Confederate Army.

Brown was captured and hung after being convicted by the State of Virginia, of which Harpers Ferry was a part of at the time of the raid. He was hung in nearby Charles Town, now part of West Virginia.

Today, the National Park Service maintains a park dedicated to the history of the Brown raid along with the town’s significance during the Civil War.

The B&O station is part of the Park and has been restored. Although not initially part of the Amtrak system when it began in 1971, Harpers Ferry has been a stop for many Amtrak trains including the Potomac Special, Shenandoah and, now, the Capitol Limited.

The B&O’s commuter service to Martinsburg, W.Va., was not incorporated into Amtrak and today is operated by MARC, which operates three roundtrips on weekdays between Martinsburg and Washington, D.C.

On a late Wednesday afternoon, I was able to photograph the arrival and departure of Amtrak No. 29 from the deck of a private home with the permission of the homeowner.

The train arrived at 5:33 p.m., 17 minutes late, behind Amtrak Phase IV heritage unit No. 184. That was a pleasant surprise. Otherwise, the Capitol was its usual self with three coaches, Sightseer lounge, dining car, three sleepers (one of which houses the crew), baggage car and two P42 locomotives.

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Some sleeper passengers can be seen looking over the town.

Some sleeper passengers can be seen looking over the town.

Taking in the sights from the Sightseer Lounge.

Taking in the sights from the Sightseer Lounge.

 

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