New Permanent Exhibition Now Open!
About the Exhibition
The Underground Railroad: Freedom Seekers on the B&O Railroad examines the role of the physical railroad in the Underground Railroad network and gives an intimate look at the lives and journeys of 27 individuals who sought freedom from slavery along the B&O. The exhibition is located in the museum’s historic Mt. Clare Station – a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site and the exact location through which eight Freedom Seekers, including Henry “Box” Brown and William and Ellen Craft, traveled. The exhibition also examines the Black travel experience during this time as well as the use of railroad terminology as a secret, coded language for Freedom Seekers.
Exhibition highlights include an immersive 180-degree multimedia experience and a new recording of Henry “Box” Brown’s own song produced in collaboration with the Howard University Department of Music. It is likely that many more people’s stories are undocumented or yet to be rediscovered. Research is ongoing and the museum is committed to continuing to document and provide a voice to these harrowing journeys.
The Underground Railroad, organized by the 1830s, was an American network of abolitionists who aided and sheltered enslaved people seeking freedom from slavery prior to emancipation in 1863. During this period, a new technology was born that quickly revolutionized transportation and communication around the world – the railroad. The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad, the first commercial railroad in the United States, was founded in Baltimore at this exact location in 1827. The B&O Railroad, located between the American North and South, opened a vital rail link between Washington, DC and Baltimore in 1835. These two cities were located along the primary Underground Railroad route to Pennsylvania, a key destination as the southernmost northern state where slavery was outlawed.
This exhibition was made possible through the generous support of our sponsors:
The Baltimore Community Foundation
The Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation
The Maryland Historical Trust
*Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
More Underground Railroad Events
The B&O Railroad Museum is proud to host events and activities related to our exhibit, The Underground Railroad: Freedom Seekers on the B&O Railroad throughout 2023 — with live performances, lectures, and more.
Programs include a performance by the historic Union Baptist Church’s choir with an introduction by Reverend Montgomery, scheduled From Slavery to Civil Rights tours, and kid-focused educational activities throughout the weekend.
Join us in celebration of Black History Month for a free, public screening of Underground Railroad: The William Still Story.
Chief curator Jonathan Goldman will be moderating an academic roundtable with advisors who took part in the production of our newest exhibit.
Join us at the Museum for a day of special kids programming and activities.
Experience Howard University’s Afro Blue Ensemble & Department of Music live in the B&O’s historic Roundhouse.
Historian and author Anthony Cohen will be joining us for a lecture on the history of the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad: Freedom Seekers on the B&O Railroad examines the role of the physical railroad in the Underground Railroad network and gives an intimate look at the lives and journeys of 27 individuals who sought freedom from slavery along the B&O.
The Bank of America Model Train Gallery features an exquisitely detailed HO Scale model train layout of Baltimore City as well as an exhibit visually exploring the various North American model train scales (or gauges).
The historic B&O Roundhouse, built in 1884, features the most comprehensive collection of early American locomotives and rolling stock in the world. Known as the Cathedral of Railroading, this grand hall showcases some of the greatest locomotives of the first 100 years of railroading.
This section of the Roundhouse explores the very first locomotives, passenger cars, and freight cars used by America’s first railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. These pieces were used in the Fair of the Iron Horse celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of the B&O in 1927.
As a relatively new technology, the Civil War was the first war in the world to use trains. This exhibition in the Roundhouse displays how the B&O joined the Union war effort, featuring one of the only remaining locomotives to have seen combat in the Civil War, the Memnon.
The North Car Shop is the oldest surviving railroad manufacturing building in the world. Inside, explore a survey of 20th century locomotives and rail cars, from the last examples of steam to some the earliest historic diesels.
The Baltimore-based artists selected for this exhibit were asked to reflect on the concept of connectivity as it relates to the railroad, our community, and our own identities.
This hall features a variety of exquisite model trains from the Smithsonian’s collection covering almost 200 years of railroading history.
This car is preserved its Jim Crow era segregated design. Built for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, it served predominately in Southern states. Visitors can enter the car to view the different sections and learn about the perseverance of African American activists who worked to end segregated rail travel.
By the 1930s, mail was a primary cargo for the railroad industry. Visitors can explore the inside of a mail car and view a mail sorting area that acted like a mobile post office.
The B&O Railroad Museum’s site is the birthplace of American Railroad. This exhibition shares the story of the founding of the B&O Railroad in 1827.
During World War II, the railroads were responsible for moving soldiers and materials for the war effort, while at the same time continuing their passenger services. Explore how the government used railroads in the war effort by exploring the inside of this troop sleeper car.
The dynamometer car was an important part of measuring a locomotive’s performance in several categories, such as speed and tractive effort during a specific type of weather. Explore this fascinating meter on wheels and the accompanying crew quarters.
Don’t miss our train car sized HO scale model train layout. This moving exhibit depicts the early mission of the B&O Railroad – to reach out from Baltimore toward the Ohio River through the Appalachian Mountains.
The interior of this historic dining car boasts an impressive display of B&O Railroad dining china and silver, used to serve food on its premier routes. Learn how B&O staff and Pullman Porters provided a truly “fine dining” experience in their dining cars.
Enter our modern refrigerated car, once used to haul frozen McDonalds fries around the country, and explore the critical role railroads play in shipping American freight.
Railroads played a critical role in the standardization of time in this country, as well as the development and need for precise time keeping instruments. This gallery features clocks and pocket watches from the museum’s collection and explores the history of time and the railroads.