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Aberdeen’s AMTRAK/MARC Train Station, Future Home Of The Preview Center, Has Interesting Backstory

Aberdeen’s AMTRAK/MARC Train Station, future home of the Preview Center, has interesting backstory

Photo Caption: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-G612- 45195 [P&P;])

In 2019, the APG Discovery Center will open its Preview Center in the Aberdeen AMTRAK/MARC Train Station in Aberdeen. The Preview Center will feature several full-size exhibits, similar to those that will be found in the permanent Discovery Center. It also will have meeting space, areas for artifact storage, and serve as the hub for volunteers and planners of the Discovery Center. Renovation of the Train Station is possible because of the support of APG Discovery Center sponsors and a grant from the State of Maryland.

The station, which opened in 1944, has some very interesting history of its own.

Back in 1944, Army Captain Herman Goldstine (supervisor of the ENIAC project) and Professor John von Neumann (father of the modern-day computer) actually met on the train platform at Aberdeen and developed the relationship that led to the ENIAC being used for the Manhattan project. If you’d like to read more about computing and the Manhattan Project, follow this link.

In a British website featuring Goldstine’s biography (http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Goldstine.html ) the following quote appears: “…Goldstine left the army and returned to his university position. However, a chance meeting with von Neumann on a railway platform in Aberdeen, Maryland, in the summer of 1944 proved highly significant to his future career. Goldstine started to tell von Neumann about the computing project he was working, in particular that ENIAC could carry out 333 multiplications per second, and then (quoting Goldstine)… “the whole atmosphere of our conversation changed from one of relaxed good humour to one more like the oral examination for the doctor’s degree in mathematics.”

If you’d like to see a collection of black and white pictures taken in April 1944 of the Pennsylvania Railroad Station at Aberdeen, Maryland, follow this link. The photos are part of the Library of Congress (LOC) “Gottscho-Schleisner” photograph collection. To quote the Library’s summary, the “…Gottscho-Schleisner collection provides a detailed look at architectural styles and trends throughout the nation from the perspective of the architect as well as the client.” According to the LOC website, the pictures of Aberdeen’s Pennsylvania R.R. Station were commissioned by the architect of the station, Lester C. Tichy.

A little more history about the station: In the 27 August 1943 issue of the Harford Democrat (p. 8), a local contractor, Paul Jaeger, was identified as the construction lead of the new Pennsylvania Rail Road station project in Aberdeen. The article also describes the status of the construction project of the two stations and some of their planned features. The article also states that “thousands of people are using this station each week, particularly on weekends when many servicemen are on leave from A.P.G.”

Both the Aegis (from Bel Air) and the Harford Democrat/Aberdeen Enterprise from Aberdeen describe the opening of the underpass in the second week of September 1943. Both papers relate that the underpass “greatly relieved the congestion” at the grade crossing on Bel Air Avenue in Aberdeen.

The 1 October edition of the Harford Democrat (p. 1), entitled “Aberdeen has new growing pains,” described a meeting of officials of the Pennsylvania Rail Road and the Town Commissioners in Aberdeen on “…the final plans for the new station.”  The article includes details regarding how bus and taxi service were to be modified at the new station,   and described the plans for parking spaces for up to 90 cars. Finally, the front page of the 14 January 1944 Harford Democrat included a small notice that read, “The new (southbound) Pennsylvania Rail Road station was completed this week and is now in use.”

The southbound station still stands and next year will mark its 75th Anniversary.