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1928. 5676 S. Hawthorne Ave.
  • default (Photograph by Alexander Heilner)
  • default (Photograph by Alexander Heilner)
  • default (Photograph by Alexander Heilner)
  • default (Photograph by Alexander Heilner)
  • default (Photograph by Alexander Heilner)
  • (Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie)

Operating for nearly a century by the Leary family, this is one of the last remaining fully functioning marine railways in the Chesapeake region. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, marine railways played an essential role in the repair and maintenance of the smaller-scale commercial boats crucial to the regional economy. Once common along the creeks, inland bays, and sheltered harbors, marine railways are quickly vanishing, often replaced by modern lifts. This railway is located in the heart of Rock Hall Harbor, an area rich in commercial fishing and maritime history.

The railway consists of a wheeled cradle that moves along incline rails to carry boats from the water to the yard for repair or storage. Once the boat is secured in the cradle, it is mechanically hoisted by a winch, driven by an engine located at the top of the incline. Beyond is a transfer table and rail spurs used to facilitate movement into one of four adjoining gabled wood buildings forming a continuous saw-tooth-roof structure. The business was started by George Leary, passing through the generations, and is still operated by his descendants.

The story of those who operated these boats and the town’s oystering, crabbing, and fishing history is told at the nearby Rock Hall Waterman’s Museum (20880 Rock Hall Avenue) housed in a period bungalow.

Writing Credits

Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie



  • 1928


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Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie, "ROCK HALL MARINE RAILWAY", [Rock Hall, Maryland], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Maryland, Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2022, 100-101.

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