trains to Franklin City turned around at a "wye" on the Maryland border between 1876-1957
Source: US Geological Survey (USGS), Girdletree, MD 1:24,000 topographic quadrangle (1953)
Two railroads have been constructed on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The first, initially named the Worcester Railroad, included less than a mile of track south of the Maryland border in just the northeastern tip of Accomack County and lasted until 1956. The second, the New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk Railroad, is far better known. It was built eight years later for 66 miles down the center of the Delmarva peninsula, and lasted until 2018.
Though technically independent lines, both were dominated by the Pennsylvania Railroad. It controlled their connections to the urban customers who purchased the produce and seafood from the Eastern Shore.
What became the Delaware Division of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad was extended south from Harrington, Delaware in the 1850's. The main line went through the center of the Delmarva peninsula to intercept the agricultural trade, and reached Delmar on the Delaware-Maryland border before the start of the Civil War. The New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk Railroad was later built south from Delmar through Accomack and Northampton counties to Cape Charles.
After the Civil War ended, short branch lines were built on the eastern edges of Delaware and Maryland. One branch line starting at Harrington reached Snow Hill in 1872, 20 miles east of the main line.
In 1876, the Worcester Railroad built new track south from Snow Hill, Maryland to the shoreline at Chincoteague Bay just south of the Maryland/Virginia boundary. Ferries connected Franklin to Chincoteague, and trains shipped oysters from local packing houses to New York and Philadelphia.
Trains arrived at Franklin City with the locomotive in front, facing the seashore. On the return trip to Snow Hill, trains backed up to a "wye" at the state line. The tracks there allowed the trains to turn and have the locomotive in the front for the rest of the trip.
the Worcester Railroad built an extension to Franklin City (in red), and shipped seafood from Chincoteague to customers in Philadelphia and New York
Source: David Rumsey Map Collection, Cram's Railroad & County Map Of Virginia, W. Virginia, Maryland & Delaware (1881)
The new community of Franklin City was developed at the terminus, on the edge of the water. Franklin City was named after John R. Franklin. He was a Maryland judge, stockholder in the railroad - and owner of the property where the railroad ended. That may have been a factor in the decision to extend the track into across the border into Virginia.
The railroad lines on the Delmarva peninsula essentially were subsidiaries of the Pennsylvania Railroad, feeding traffic into the Philadelphia and New York City markets. In 1883, they were consolidated into the Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Railroad.1
Sportsmen used the train to come to Assateague Island for waterfowl hunting, and local residents built hunting camps and served as guides.
However, the oyster business declined and the 1922 causeway to Chincoteague bypassed Franklin. As roads improved, it became easier to drive to Assateague and Chincoteague for recreation and to ship freight by truck. The board of the Pennsylvania Railroad authorized abandoning the track between Snow Hill and Franklin City in 1955 and 1956, and service ceased in 1957.
The 1962 Ash Wednesday storm left Franklin as a ghost town; no new houses were built there until 2008. By 2020, the original train depot had been undermined by shoreline erosion and was a hazard that required its removal.2
parcels subdivided at Franklin City reveal dreams of future development
Source: Accomack County, AccoMap
actual development at Franklin City in Accomack County
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online
the modern railroad map of Delmarva shows how two parallel tracks were built from Delaware towards the south
Source: Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company, System Map