The phone numbers for this Washington County community are only in the Frederick County phone book. The mailing address is Knoxville, also in neighboring Frederick County.

The tiny town of 51 houses strung between a mountain and the Potomac River is the forgotten corner of Washington County, residents say.

"If you have a phone, it's an 834, Brunswick Md. exchange, so everybody thinks it's in Frederick County," said grocer Charlie Diehl, 57, who owns the only store in town. "And until two years ago, mail on this side of the river came from Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Now, it's through Knoxville."

Between the town and the river are railroad tracks, over which commuter and freight trains periodically rumble, and the remnants of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, which hasn't seen any commercial traffic since it closed in 1924.

Sandy Hookers traditionally have worked in the Brunswick railroad yards or in West Virginia rather than travel the 25 miles to Hagerstown, the hub of this mostly rural county, said Ron Bowers, president of the Washington County Commissioners.

"They're a long way from the county seat," he said. "There are times they feel the county doesn't pay any attention to them. I take issue. You have schools, transportation, a road system."

Recently, Bowers said, "we worked with the National Park Service to make sure the road wouldn't cave in along the canal, and we put in a guardrail to ensure safety for the children."

The Sandy Hook Road is visible but not directly accessible from the spot where Rte. 340 bridges the Potomac, just down river from Harpers Ferry.

The road curves around the base of Maryland Heights, scene of Civil War battles and encampments, crosses the train tracks and, opposite Harpers Ferry, passes the ruins of the Salty Dog Tavern, on which is scrawled the graffito "John Brown lives."

The town came into being with the arrival of the canal in 1832. Originally called Keep Tryst, its present name stems from some quicksand in which a long-ago teamster was said to have lost his horses.

Before Brunswick became a railroad center, Sandy Hook had repair shops and its own train station.

"This town is historical, too," said Helen Louise Bartlett, a lifelong resident. "A war was fought here on these hills. You can find bullets up here. I saw the canal boat going through here, real slow. The woman would wave her handkerchief, but" -- she turned to speak to her husband -- "you didn't live here then."

Raymond Bartlett, 73, who came here from Brunswick after he married, said his grandfather was captain of a canal boat, hauling coal to Georgetown. Bartlett's father worked for the railroad, and Bartlett followed in his footsteps.

Before he retired in 1975, Bartlett put in 45 years with the railroad, including 39 years as a yard conductor for the Washington Terminal Co. at Union Station, about 60 miles away. But he's never lived anywhere but here as an adult.

Sandy Hook's hillside is dotted with outhouses, for no sewage system serves the town.

The residents get their water from wells or from mountain springs in nearby Virginia and West Virginia, Bartlett said.

A 1978 study urged the county commissioners to extend public water to the community after two outbreaks of intestinal disorders in five months among construction workers at the Rte. 340 bridge. But locals remain unpersuaded.

"A man who lived up the road was still drinking the water down here, and he was 92 when he died," said grocer Diehl.

"I got a deep well in the back and a sewage holding tank inside," said Bartlett, who pays $465 a year to have the tank pumped periodically. "Mine's legal, but a lot of 'em don't have any indoor toilets . They got outhouses. . . .

"I got it pretty good here," Bartlett said. "I've got baths and electric heat. It's right comfortable. I like it pretty good, anyhow."

The image of a downtrodden community whose households lack indoor plumbing and, in some cases, telephones is one the prideful residents of Sandy Hook deeply resent. Some were angered by a recent Hagerstown newspaper article that portrayed the community in less than flattering terms.

"Sure we got outhouses, but outhouses have been in this town for 100 years," said Gene Wentzell, a 38-year-old carpenter. "And one thing I don't need is a phone. I don't need to call nobody. I got a pump out back. I been drinking this water all my life. I live fine."

So do most Sandy Hook residents, social services officials in Hagerstown contend. Few people here are on food stamps or welfare, they said.

"Sandy Hook is a community that just isn't in a corporate limit," said County Commissioner Bowers. "You can't identify it with a fire company or a special church or Ruritan Club. It kind of runs along and parallels the railroad. It's just a little community."

Sandy Hook is a quiet place, except when the trains rumble through.

"But you get used to it," Diehl said. "I don't hear it anymore."

Some people actually move here for the quiet between trains.

"It's quieter" than Brunswick, said Pauline Strite, who moved into a trailer here six years ago from that railroad town, which has a reputation, rightly or wrongly, for rowdiness. "Except for the trains. We can hear them worse up here than in Brunswick."

Maude Piper, 65, also moved out of Brunswick, where she said she could not live in peace. She was visiting Strite recently from up the mountain where, she said, she has no phone and no "floor under my feet; the beds are going down through the floor." She had come to make a phone call.

The town's oldest lifelong resident is Garland Shumaker, 84, also a retired railroader. Sandy Hook, he maintains, "could stand a whole lot" of improvement. "Just like the old gray mare, it ain't what it used to be."

Sandy Hook does seem to have more than its share of signs that say "No Trespassing." There are, to be sure, a lot of urban canoers who park their cars along the narrow road in summer, using the town as a launching site. But the signs don't mean that most Sandy Hookers are unfriendly.

Sandy Cooper, Washington County's eligibility supervisor for public assistance and a metropolitan New Yorker by background, fondly recalls her one and only visit to the community on a spring day 15 years ago.

Within five minutes of her arrival to interview a family that had requested furniture, she had the feeling everyone in town "knew the welfare worker was here. My impression was it was the kind of small community where they take care of their own and kind of resented an outsider."

But she said they were friendly to her, plying her with coffee and apples.

She can't recall whether or not she granted the request, but she does remember the time she had getting to the place.

"They gave me a state car and said 'Go,' " she said. "I saw Sandy Hook under the bridge, but no road to get there. I got lost three times looking for the road and finally found a dirt path. There were no signs, no nothing. This to me, coming from the big city, was rural America at its finest."