The town of Relay has always been closely linked to the B&O Railroad. The name was derived from the changing of teams of horses that pulled a wooden wagon/carriage on rails between Baltimore and Ellicott Mills. By the Civil War, Relay had become a key railroad location for east-west train passengers to transfer to north-south trains.
Relay was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War to help protect the Viaduct which was a vital link between our nation’s capital and the rest of the Union. In 1873, the Viaduct Hotel Station was built by the B&O Railroad for the comfort and convenience of its passengers. Despite the demolition of the Hotel, Relay continued to be a popular railroad excursion destination for day trips to the Patapsco Valley State Park in the early 1900s. Heavily laden freight trains still pass through picturesque Relay on a daily basis.
The Thomas Viaduct
The Thomas Viaduct was the largest bridge in the Nation when it was completed in 1835. Today it is still the world’s oldest multi-arched stone railroad bridge.
Role in the Civil War
During the Civil War, our Nation’s capital was virtually on the line that separated the North from the South during that conflict. All of the railroad links to the south had been severed when the South seceded. The B&O Railroad with its Thomas Viaduct crossing the Patapsco River provided that only railroad supply and troop transport link.
In 1872, the B&O built the Viaduct Hotel, a showcase combination hotel, and station at Relay overlooking the Patapsco River. It was surrounded by gardens, graveled walkways, flowers, hedges, and evergreens. It was the first hotel station in the nation built for the comfort of railway passengers.