The Crossroads of America exhibition, currently under construction on the first floor of Allegany Museum, is slated to open later this year. The Museum is proud that the exhibition will include women and people of color, who are often overlooked in historical displays.  

“Crossroads” will feature movement by water and rail, as well as along roads. Women worked in both the construction and operation of the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad.

Payroll Records from Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, Cumberland Division, April 1873 to July 1874, show Phoebe Neil as Assistant Inspector, three female lock-keepers, and two female laborers.

Women worked at all levels of the B&O Railroad, including designing infrastructure. The railroad needed recurring upgrades to tracks, embankments, and bridges to accommodate increasingly heavy and speedy locomotives.

In 1920, the B & O Railroad hired Olive Dennis, its first female engineer, to design bridges. Olive is best known, however, for her work on innovations that greatly increased passenger comfort, for example reclining seats, ceiling lights that could be dimmed at night, individual window vents (which she patented) that allow passengers to bring in fresh air while trapping dust, and, later, air conditioned compartments. Other rail carriers soon copied her innovations. 

Allegany Museum, 3 Pershing St Cumberland, ph. 301–777-720, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 to 4, and Sundays 1 to 4. Admission is free, and donations to support the Museum and its work are gladly accepted.

Track women, B&O 1943