The Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad (PW&B) was an American railroad that operated from 1836 to 1881. Formed as a result of the merger of four small lines dating from the earliest days of American railroading in the late 1820s and early 1830s, it was purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in 1881, becoming part of their main line in 1902.
Founded in 1831 as the Philadelphia and Delaware County Rail-Road Company, the PW&B had within six years changed its name and merged with three other state-chartered railroads in three Middle Atlantic states to create a single line between Philadelphia and Baltimore. In 1881, the PW&B came under the control of the PRR, the largest railroad in the Northeast United States.
An 1895 historian of the PRR had this to say about the significance of the PW&B, which it had acquired and gained control of fourteen years before:
An important constituent of a great North and South line of transportation, it challenges ocean competition and carries on its rails not only statesmen and tourists but a valuable interchange of products between different lines of latitude. As a military highway, it is of the greatest strategic importance to the national, industrial, and commercial capitals – Washington, Philadelphia and New York. It presents some of the very best transportation facilities to the commerce of the cities after which it is named and could not be obliterated from the railroad map of the United States without materially disturbing its harmony.
The Northern Central Railway (NCRY) was a Class I Railroad connecting Baltimore, Maryland with Sunbury, Pennsylvania, along the Susquehanna River. Completed in 1858, the line came under the control of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in 1861, when the PRR acquired a controlling interest in the Northern Central's stock to compete with the rival Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O). For eleven decades the Northern Central operated as a subsidiary of the PRR until much of its Maryland trackage was washed out by Hurricane Agnes in 1972; after which most of its operations ceased as the Penn Central declined to repair sections. It is now a fallen flag railway, having come under the control of the later Penn Central (merger of the PRR and the New York Central), Conrail, and then broken apart and disestablished. The southern part in Pennsylvania is now the York County Heritage Rail Trail which connects to a similar hike/bike trail in Northern Maryland down to Baltimore, named the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail. Only the trackage around Baltimore remains in rail service.