Road Trips

Abandoned 1930s National Road pavement

The automobile created demand for good roads in the early 20th century. Dirt and gravel were upgraded to brick, concrete, and asphalt. Hills were leveled, valleys were filled, and curves were straightened.

Not quite two miles past the Wilson bridge west of Hagerstown, MD, lies this example of state-of-the-art roadbuilding circa 1930. A straightened and widened US 40 (at left in the photo) left it behind, obsolete. Compare this photo to this one, this one, and this one, all of which show this style of road when freshly built.

Abandoned alignment

This road is probably 24 feet wide, including the concrete shoulders. Oncoming semis would find this a tight squeeze, but that wasn’t an issue in the 1930s as railroads still moved most goods around the country. Modern highway lanes are 12 feet wide, not including shoulders, to make room for semis.

It’s hard telling why this section of road was not torn out when the new road was built, but it’s cool to see it now.

ReadMore Do you like to follow an abandoned road? Then check out this abandoned section of a highway from Indianapolis to Bloomington.

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17 thoughts on “Abandoned 1930s National Road pavement

  1. There are several sections in Maryland that were seemingly abandonned but not torn out. What surprises me most about this one is that, if I recall correctly, it’s in someone’s front yard – you’d think that the owner would want the area to be something other than pavement. On the other hand, I’m unclear as to how such bits of land would revert back to private ownership.

    The other abandoned sections are all in areas where the road has become more overgrown. One is about 1300 feet west of Huyett, Maryland. On both sides of Sideling Hill, west of Hancock, sections remain. A section also remains west fo Flintstone, Maryland.

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    • I tellya, I so much want to go back and spend a whole week on the road in Maryland. There’s so much I didn’t have time to see. I decided before the trip not to seek the abandoned alignments, but this one was right out there and thus irresistable. IIRC, this strip is in front of a cemetery.

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    • Lone Primate says:

      In my experience, the municipality usually sells it off to the adjoining property (or properties) for the minimal legal considerations (usually a dollar). If it’s very close to the new course of the road, though, they might retain ownership with an eye to widening the road.

      Hard to believe that was what used to pass as a two-lane road. :)

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      • I’ve seen that kind of thing done. Once I went out on an abandoned segment that turned out to be private property, and the owners called the cops on me for trespassing! Oops.

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  2. Nice report and picture of a preserved segment I’ve somehow missed in the past. (I’ll get it next time though:-) The not-so-abandoned road fragment in front of the La Vale tollhouse looks to be of about the same vintage.
    There’s a photo of it here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11781758@N06/sets/72157618384478787/ That set also includes some photos of the Puzzley Run Bridge. All were taken in 2006.
    This bridge is shown, with freshly constructed bypass, in the third of the photos you’ve linked to in this post. In his description of that photo, Christopher Busta-Peck uses “deteriorated considerably” to describe the bridge’s current condition and the 2006 photos definitely show this. One of the 2006 photos was taken from the same general direction as the 1932 photo and the bypass, now much paved over, can be seen in the background.

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    • I don’t know how, but I missed the toll house in LaVale entirely.

      Thanks for sharing your photos of the Puzzley Run bridge. Interesting how a faint two-track still comes out of one end of the bridge. The “End State Maintenance” sign made me chuckle… as if anyone would think such a forlorn bridge got any maintenance!

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  3. I’d love to tour the National Road at a nice, comfortable pace, in a 1910s or 1920s touring car – something that I’d be able to get away with crawling along the road at a snail’s pace.

    Heck, I’d even be game to take the road by bicycle, or on foot, but I doubt time constraints would allow that.

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  4. Tonya says:

    This part of old 40 for a long time didn’t have guardrails & carpoolers would park there “for safety reasons that changed.” National Pike Days is 5-18-18 to the 19th wagon train leaves Plum Grove here in Clear Spring & ends in Boonsboro, one yr they open the old Wilson Bridge for just the wagon train to go across. Do you have any photos of Fairview Mountain part of 40 before they redid the grade? There’s still 2 parts of the old 40 still there that I can think of.

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    • Fascinating to know this segment wasn’t always guardrailed off!

      Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of 40 on Fairview Mountain. Someone else I know who explored the old road extensively did take this photograph there of an old alignment alongside current 40.

      Old alignment, Fairview Mountain, west of Clear Spring, Maryland

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  5. Tonya Cline says:

    And I find it odd that they blocked people from using it. I keep saying I’m going up to Pecktonville & going for a walk on old 40. Wonder how old that photo is not sure it still looks like that, I kinda of forgot about that one since someone lives there I think I was told it was once a restaurant/convenient store. I’ll have to go take a couple of pictures of the ones I was thinking about. I’ll have to ask my aunt if she has any pictures of Fairview she lived there since 68. I can remember my older cousins telling me to go sit in the middle of the road & I did. Lol again thank you so much I drive everyone around me crazy about the past.

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