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B&O Photo Tour

B&O Baltimore Belt Line
Modern day photo tour

Accompanying each photo below are:

Click a photo to see a larger view. Please send your comments and corrections to Steve.


Brief Historical Background:

<< Previous (index) | THIS PAGE: Camden to Mount Royal | Next (east) >>

PSINet Stadium

PSINet Stadium
Mile: (BAK 96.5) BAA 0.5 Date: Mar 2001
Ease: B View: S
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 43 A 2 Topographic Maps

We begin the Baltimore Belt Line tour at the spot the B&O did, just south of its Camden Station where CSX 746 powers a coal drag past PSINet Stadium, still decorated to celebrate the 2001 Superbowl Championship of the Baltimore Ravens. To avoid sun glare, the best photo time here is during morning or a cloudy day.

PSINet was a flash-in-the-pan Internet Service Provider who grew too fast, and spent too freely on acquisitions -- and stadium naming rights. The year before this photo PSINet's stock price had topped $60 per share, but by the time CSX 746 arrived here that price had cratered to just 18 cents, followed a few months later by the company filing for bankruptcy. The stadium is now named for M&T Bank.


Looking North

Looking North
Mile: (96.5) Date: Mar 2001
Ease: B View: N
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 43 A 2 Topographic Maps

The tracks divide here so on the left commuter trains can still serve Camden Station while eastbound freights like this one head for the Howard Street Tunnel. Despite massive construction expense a tunnel was the B&O's only viable option in 1890 for connecting Camden Station with points northeast.

This is the same spot as the prior photo -- the light rail stop serving the football stadium -- but looking the opposite direction. By now, CSX 746 is deep in the Howard Street Tunnel while the final coal car follows along. Baseball is nearby too: that's Oriole Park at left beyond the Ostend Street bridge.

Declining need for the B&O's extensive Camden complex, what had been its primary facility in downtown Baltimore, led to change. Starting in the 1980s much of the excess was torn down or repurposed while the I-395 spur into the city from I-95 was built over part of the old rail yards.

Links: 1991, 1991


Then/Now
Photo (top) courtesy Bill Manzke
via rr-fallenflags.org

Then/Now
Mile: (96.5) Date: 1977 / Oct 2016
Ease: B View: N
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 43 A 2 Topographic Maps

The Chessie Steam Special operated during 1977 and 1978 to celebrate less zoom the 150th anniversary of the B&O Railroad. The spot where Reading 2101 was captured during 1977 has changed so much as to be virtually unrecognizable. The B&O's brick warehouse and Bromo Seltzer Tower survive to anchor the comparison.

The lower-half of this photo mashup was snapped from the light rail stop at M&T Stadium. To further illustrate how much this area has changed, at right is another photo from the stop, with less zoom.

Link: Chessie Steam Special


Howard Street Tunnel

Howard Street Tunnel
Mile: (96.5) Date: Mar 2001
Ease: B View: N
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 43 A 2 Topographic Maps

To create space for roads and rails over it, the B&O's Howard Street Tunnel was extended southward, toward the camera, by about a quarter mile, with the new portal seen at distant left.

The Howard Street Tunnel, a key component of the B&O's route to the northeastern cities of Phildelphia and New York, was exceedingly expensive in part because the company had instead directed its earlier expansion efforts toward the midwest. During those mid-1800s decades Baltimore grew into the second most populous United States city, one that left little room for a new surface railroad route. The B&O's chose to tunnel under the city, first northward from Camden, then east, as will be illustrated by this tour. The costly project drove the B&O into bankruptcy.

Link: Sun Newspaper on tunnel history


New Portal

New Portal
Mile: (96.5) Date: Mar 2001
Ease: B View: N
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 43 A 2 Topographic Maps

Engines working to haul coal uphill expel enough heat to distort this image. Heat was not the main concern in the 1890s, smoke was.

When the tunnel first opened, there were no diesel locomotives, of course, bur rather steam-powered ones. The B&O's engineers knew steam locomotives put out too much smoke for use in a mile-long tunnel, so they contracted with General Electric for then-new electric locomotives, powerhouse equipment, and an electrical distribution system. Revolutionary at the time, it was also prescient as diesel-electrics are now the norm both inside tunnels and out.


From Ramp

From Ramp
Mile: (96.5) Date: Oct 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 43 A 2 Topographic Maps

The ramp from I-395 to Russell Street yields this view of the portal and downtown. Light rail tracks (right) skirt the portal then ride atop the Howard Street Tunnel extension.

Link: security cameras make the following less likely now 1983


MARC Platforms

MARC Platforms
Mile: (96.5) Date: Oct 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 43 A 2 Topographic Maps

Looking slightly left (west) of the prior view brings the B&O's Camden Station into view at distant left. You didn't see this polished image of Baltimore in The Wire. Camden is a terminal for MARC (Maryland Area Rail Commuter) trains, hence the long platforms that occupy the space the B&O's had decades ago.

Link: LoC 1970s


Original Portal
Photo credit HAER

Original Portal
Mile: (96.3) Date: 1971
Ease: B View: N
Area: B RBL: 148
Map: Ba 43 A 2 Topographic Maps

Those B&O platforms are on the left. The view to the original south portal (prior to the tunnel's extension) shows the width of the cut leading down into the tunnel: it provided room on the sides for the electric locomotives to wait to tie on. The electric locomotives used here were the first employed by a mainline railroad.

The spot from which this photo was taken now resides a short distance inside the tunnel extension. I do not know if this full width was preserved along the extension. If so that would permit easy conversion back to double track.

Links: 1937, 1976, LoC source photo


Camden Station 2002

Camden Station 2002
Mile: (96.2) Date: Jun 2002
Ease: A View: N
Area: B+ RBL:
Map: Ba 43 A 1 Topographic Maps

Here's the south face of Camden Station as seen from I-395. The right end of the light rail train is over the Howard Street Tunnel's now-buried original south portal.

With Camden at it southern end, Howard Street has long been a main thoroughfare, beginning with horse drawn carriages and streetcars, as well as cable cars, trolleys, buses, plus light rail, and of course the B&O below.

Links: Baltimore's cable cars, 1983, then-now views from Bromo Seltzer tower


Camden Station

Camden Station
Mile: (96.2) Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: B+ RBL:
Map: Ba 42 A 1 Topographic Maps

A more recent photo shows a hotel has sprung up nearby. The station underwent extensive restoration while Oriole Park was being built.

Link: 1982 Camden Station photos


South Portal
Photo credit HAER

South Portal
Mile: (96.1) Date: Mar 1971
Ease: B View: N
Area: B RBL: 91
Map: Ba 43 A 1 Topographic Maps

The Howard Street Tunnel opened equipped with double track. A gauntlet track was added in the middle for use by taller trains. Once taller trains became the norm the track was reduced to single, and centered for greatest headroom. Currently autoracks 19 feet 2 inches in height can squeeze through.

Modern "double stack" container trains are even taller, 20 feet 2 inches, too tall to pass through the single-tracked tunnel. The double stacks are so popular this tunnel has become a significant freight traffic hindrance for CSX. Since alternate routes are much lengthier, much study has been done to find a solution. No inexpensive ones have been found.

Links about the problem: enlarge the tunnel, 2011 MDOT report (PDF), B&P Tunnel, LoC source photo


Inside
Photo credit HAER

Inside
Mile: (96.0) Date: 1971
Ease: B View: S
Area: B- RBL:
Map: Ba 43 A 1 Topographic Maps

This old photo was snapped from where Camden Street now crosses overhead. The new portal is located at the curve just beyond the distant Lee Street bridge over the tracks.

Unseen in the darkness on the right is a platform that links with Camden Station. I would guess it has not been used by passengers since the 1940s. When this tunnel opened at 1.4 miles in length it was the longest soft-earth tunnel in the country.

Link to Library of Congress: source photo


2001 Fire
Photo credit unknown

2001 Fire
Mile: (95.9?) Date: Jul 2001
Ease: B- View: N?
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 13 Topographic Maps

A derailment and fire during 2001 called attention to the bottleneck represented by the aging tunnel. As of this writing the top plan under consideration is to lower the floor of the tunnel by about 18 inches, a project that, while one of the cheaper options, is expected to cost approximately $500 million because similar work will be needed to the route in the Remington and Charles Village sections of Baltimore.

My suggestion: if double-stack trains are expected to be a less than half the traffic, put them on a central gauntlet track, and double-track the tunnel to permit two standard-height trains to concurrently traverse.

Link: report on 2001 fire


Lombard Street

Lombard Street
Mile: (95.9) Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 13 Topographic Maps

This intersection of Howard and Lombard Streets marks the location of the worst of the derailment and fire. Adding to the woes, the heat ruptured a 40-inch water main. Light rail not only complicated the fire-fighting efforts but also expansion options of the B&O tunnel below.

That the old tunnel suffered minimal damage in the event suggests with basic maintenance it is sturdy enough to soldier on into the 22nd century, and worth modifying to permit double-stack trains. Now hidden beneath this pavement is an expanse carved by the B&O for an underground station, a project that was not completed.

Links: 2001 photo, 1983,


Madison Street

Madison Street
Mile: (95.1) Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 11 Topographic Maps

It was thought the light rail would revitalize the area, a casualty of riots during the 1960s, but progress has been very slow. Fifty years later there remain many unoccupied buildings and storefronts.

As the city's prime shopping district, the Howard Street corridor centered at Lexington Street had attracted sign all the popular department stores of the era as well as many family-owned shops. After the riots many shoppers moved away -- the city's population declined by more than 13% (over 100,000) between 1970 and 1980 -- eroding the tax base, and leaving Baltimore financially strapped ever since, with the expected decline in city services and quality of life.

Light rail and autos awkwardly share Howard Street. Just past Madison Street the one-of-a-kind sign at right warns drivers a complex intersection lies ahead. The tunnel is 49 feet below the surface here, the deepest it gets.

Links: 1961, 1968 riots, 1968 photos


Station Then
Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Station Then
Mile: 94.6 Date: Mar 1960
Ease: A- View: NW
Area: C RBL: 94
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

At the northern end of the Howard Street Tunnel one finds Mount Royal Station, in 1896 a relative latecomer to the area that was, and still is, dominated by Pennsylvania Station.

Mount Royal Station was, according to the Baltimore Sun Newspaper, "the most splendid station in the country built and used by only one railroad." As luxurious as it was it could not prevent the transition from rails to roads, and saw its last passenger in 1961.

Links: assorted pics, 1993


Station Now

Station Now
Mile: 94.6 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: NW
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

In 1964 the B&O sold the station to the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) who has done a fine job of repurposing the building for educational use while preserving its architecture. Also preserved is the station's landmarked adjacent trainshed.

To my knowledge officially by CSX this is where the Philadelphia Subdivision's milepost numbering (code BAK) ends, or begins from the point of view of this tour.

Links: Wikipedia entry, photos


Opening Year
Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Opening Year
Mile: 94.6 Date: 1896
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: C RBL: 92
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

The trainshed was new and clean for this photo. On the right one of the B&O's two electric locomotives described earlier on this page assists an eastbound steam train.

This new station in the upscale Bolton Hill neighborhood was intended, among other things, to address complaints such as those at the link below that the B&O's old route into the city, an awkward one before Mount Royal Station, rode past "dirty streets with shabby little one and two story dwellings".

Link: a Londoner complains


North Portal 1971
Photo credit HAER

North Portal 1971
Mile: 94.6 Date: 1971
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: C RBL: 96
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

Though passengers had ceased arriving at Mount Royal Station ten years prior to this photo, B&O trains continued to employ the route. CSX still does today because it is a key part of the US east coast freight network. Note the 4-lamp CPL signals. RM Tower had stood on the right.

Link to Library of Congress: source photo


North Portal

North Portal
Mile: 94.6 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: C RBL: 96
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

Diesel fumes waft from the tunnel for several minutes following the passage of an eastbound train.


Signs

Signs
Mile: 94.6 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: S
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

Vistors are briefed by these informational signs installed by MICA.


Station History

Station History
Mile: 94.6 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: W
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

This sign reviews the history:

    MOUNT ROYAL STATION
    ICON FOR THE INDUSTRIAL AGE
    A monument to the golden era of rail travel, the Mount Royal Station enjoys a special place in the history of Baltimore and the nation - the home of the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad and birthplace of American railroading. The history of the B&O and one of its most luxurious passenger stations is also intertwined with that of Maryland Institute College of Art. MICA's preservation of the station, an ongoing process which began in the mid-1960s, sparked the movement to save other threatened icons of the most important industry of the nineteenth century.

View the sign's complete text

Links: sign art 1 (PDF), sign art 2 (PDF)


Mount Royal Avenue

Mount Royal Avenue
Mile: 94.6 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B+ View: N
Area: C RBL: 71
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

Where the trainshed ends Mount Royal Avenue spans. Those electrically-powered helper engines may have paused upon the now-disused rightmost track.


1927 Aerial
Photo via Johns Hopkins University

1927 Aerial
Mile: Date: 1927
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

American railroading reached its zenith during the "roaring twenties" one moment of which was here captured via airplane, the irony of which would not become apparent for a few decades.

Sprawled north of Mount Royal Station were yards of the Northern Central Railway, one of the B&O's many competitors that eventually fell under control of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Penn Station has remained the main passenger depot active in Baltimore, albeit now for Amtrak.

The Jones Falls river meanders from upper left to lower right, now sequestered or hidden beneath I-83.

Link: JFX under construction here in 1958


Overhead Then
Photo credit HAER

Overhead Then
Mile: 94.4 Date: 1977
Ease: View: S
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

A later aerial photo illustrates how the B&O had excavated a bowl for Mount Royal Station in order to bring its platforms to tunnel level. Mount Royal is not the first railroad station at this spot: the Baltimore & Susquehanna's Bolton Depot was erected here during the 1830s, with service to Camden Station via trains running on Howard Street's surface. The B&S merged with other lines to form the Northern Central Railway. In 1873 the Northern Central began to shift operations east from Bolton to its then-new Charles Street station, where now you'll find Penn Station. When that move completed during 1886 the Bolton site became available.

The Northern Central yard (foreground) was repurposed into automobile parking and servicing. The parking lot endured into the 2000s, currently replaced by condos and a multi-level parking deck.

Links: Bolton Depot drawing, article


Overhead Now

Overhead Now
Mile: 94.5 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B View: S
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

The parking deck provides excellent views of all current rail operation in the vicinity, including the light rail that arrived during the 1990s. This light rail train is crossing Mount Royal Avenue.


Yard Then
Photo credit HAER

Yard Then
Mile: 94.4 Date: 1977
Ease: View: S
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Here's different cropping of the 1977 photo to facilitate a then/now comparison.


Yard Now

Yard Now
Mile: 94.4 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B View: S
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

Now one can get a good view of the University of Baltimore / Mount Royal light rail stop.

I have seen the adjacent stone arches described as the Howard Street Tunnel, but remember the actual portal is on the far side of the trainshed. Instead these arches support Mount Royal Avenue over the B&O's Belt Line tracks, now CSX's Baltimore Terminal Subdivision.


From Light Rail

From Light Rail
Mile: 94.4 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: A- View: S
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

This is what an operator sees while pulling into the stop. Yes, that's the Mount Royal Station's clock tower straight ahead.

What is the purpose of the push-button controls atop the curved pole at right? Anyone know?


Onward

Onward
Mile: 94.5 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: N
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

When this tour resumes we'll see what's known as the Rebel Yell where the light rail must curve and dip like a rollercoaster in order to squeeze to the other (left) side of the B&O tracks, and we'll follow the B&O into and across the Jones Falls valley.


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