The struggle between Charles Village residents, the city, and the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad over the 26th Street cut dates to at least 1912.
Paul McCardell, our intrepid Baltimore Sun researcher, while conducting background research in the wake of last week’s landslide that dumped part of 26th Street between St. Paul and Charles streets onto railroad tracks below, discovered a 1912 article in The Sun calling for the installation of a retaining wall “to hold up the bed of Twenty-Sixth Street.”
Residents of Peabody Heights, as Charles Village was then known, through its neighborhood association, the Peabody Heights Improvement Association, had asked that a wall be built to “prevent children from sliding down the embankment and playing about the tunnel,” reported the newspaper.
The work was completed by 1914.
Smoke and noise from passing steam-powered trains was another persistent problem for residents.
In a 1912 letter to the editor of The Sun that was signed by “Calvert Street,” the writer, who lived three doors from the tracks, wrote, “Scarcely a train passes but smoke, gases and cinders are thrown out in such volumes as to make breathing difficult, and to keep the house and its contents dirty.”
In 1922, a delegation from the Peabody Heights Improvement Association called on Mayor William F. Broening and asked that all trains passing through the cut be pulled by electric motors, in the interest of smoke abatement. They also suggested that the cuts stretching along 26th Street from Oak Street to Guilford Avenue be closed over.
The Sun reported that the delegation complained that a 1902 agreement between the city and the B&O was being violated because not all trains were pulled by electric motors between Camden and Mount Royal stations to Waverly, where they were cut off and trains began moving under their own power.
The arrival of diesel engines rendered the practice unnecessary, and electrification ended in 1952.