The Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Electric Railway (WB&A) was an Americanrailroad of central Maryland and Washington, D.C., built in the 19th and 20th century. The WB&A absorbed two older railroads, the Annapolis and Elk Ridge Railroad and the Baltimore & Annapolis Short Line, and added its own electric streetcar line between Baltimore and Washington. It was built by a group of Cleveland, Ohio, electric railway entrepreneurs to serve as a high-speed, showpiece line using the most advanced technology of the time. It served Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis, Maryland, for 27 years before the “Great Depression” and the rise of the automobile forced an end to passenger service during the economic pressures of the 1930s “Depression” southwest to Washington from Baltimore & west from Annapolis in 1935. Only the Baltimore & Annapolis portion between the state’s largest city and its state capital continued to operate electric rail cars for another two decades, replaced by a bus service during the late 1950s into 1968. Today, parts of the right-of-way are used for the light rail line (from Cromwell Station / north Glen Burnie going north to downtown Baltimore and further north through city to Hunt Valley in Baltimore County), rail trail for hiking – biking trails, and roads through Anne Arundel County.
The WB&A was originally incorporated in 1899 as The Potomac and Severn Electric Railway. On April 10, 1900, it changed its name to the Washington and Annapolis Electric Railway and finally, on April 8, 1902, to the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Electric Railway.
In 1903, the WB&A purchased the Annapolis, Washington & Baltimore Railroad (AW&B) — formerly the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad — which was closed, electrified and reopened. At the same time, it laid an almost straight double-track route parallel to the B&O and Pennsylvania railroads, but slightly to the east in less populated territory. On February 7, 1908, service began from Liberty Street in Baltimore to its Washington terminal at 15th and H Streets NE. After 1910, the line reached the heart of downtown on 15th Street near the Treasury. Another single track began at the B&O main line at Annapolis Junction, crossed the WB&A main line just east of Odenton, and headed east via Millersville and Crownsville to Annapolis.
The line built by the WB&A, later called the Main Line, ran from Baltimore to Washington through Bowie, Glenn Dale Hospital, and Glenarden to Fairmont Heights where it met with the Chesapeake Beach Railway just outside Washington at Chesapeake Junction. From there, it continued to Deanwood on the Washington Railway and Electric Company‘s Seat Pleasant Line, running parallel to the Chesapeake Beach Railroad tracks and across the Benning Road Bridge into downtown Washington.
Once onto their own right-of-way, the WB&A’s expresses regularly hit 60 mph, but street running in the terminal cities slowed their overall time. A typical B&O express made the trip in 50 minutes, but the best the WB&A could do was an hour and 20 minutes. Offsetting these handicaps were its cleanliness, lower fares, half-hourly express service, and better-located downtown terminals.