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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.


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Rebel Yell

Rebel Yell
Mile: BAK 94.4 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B View: NW
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

We resume following the B&O Belt Line out of downtown Baltimore, where just north of the Howard Street Tunnel the city's light rail puts on a show.

Beyond its Mount Royal stop the light rail bifurcates into a spur box top (foreground with train) serving Penn Station (off photo-right) and a much longer line that generally follows to Hunt Valley, Maryland what had been the Northern Central Railway's (NCRY's) route into Pennsylvania.

The latter must dip, rise, and twist to negotiate a maze of obstacles, a section dubbed the Rebel Yell after a regional theme park's roller coaster. Here the dual tracks slide under the Howard Street bridge before encountering a "lift hill" over the B&O's Belt Line, as seen in the zoom at right.

Link: Sun report


The Box

The Box
Mile: 94.3 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B View: NW
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

There's no ornate bridge for the Rebel Yell, just this utilitarian box of graffiti collage concrete over the Belt Line that the light rail attacks diagonally.

This and other tour photos have been edited to digitally scour this area's endemic migraine-aura-like graffiti, and for shadow reduction.

Link: more pics (link not browser-friendly)


Train Garden

Train Garden
Mile: 94.3 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B View: NE
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

Though the adjacent art school had no influence on the design of The Box students did install this attractive garden where trains begin their descent. That's the JFX, I-83, behind.

Links: art park 1, art park 2


Camelback

Camelback
Mile: 94.3 Date: Apr 2000
Ease: B View: SE
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

By now passengers to Hunt Valley are no doubt raising their arms and screaming. Though the grade exceeds the manufacturer's specifications for these light rail units, it has proved manageable.

Link: bridge 1934


Headchopper

Headchopper
Mile: 94.3 Date: Apr 2000
Ease: B View: N
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

As the operator pulls hard on the train's steering wheel, passengers inside duck to squeeze under the JFX, purportedly with just 1 inch to spare. There is no truth the rumor Baltimore is considering adding a Raven Turn here.

In the distance note the set of four "tunnels" under North Avenue as they will appear in several tour photos below. Light rail inherited the two on the left from the Northern Central while the CSX received the two on the right from the B&O. A CSX maintenance of way train is working the rightmost.

Link: Raven Turn illustration


Articulated Gondolas

Articulated Gondolas
Mile: 94.3 Date: Apr 2000
Ease: B View: N
Area: C RBL: 89
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The ends of these gondola cars have been removed to create one long, articulated car.

This MoW train is being pulled and pushed by ex-B&O GP40-model unit number 4059 born October 1971. CSX repainted it into this pumpkin livery, renumbered it 9718, then during 2008 rebuilt it into Road Slug number 2372.

Links: B&O 4059 pics, CSX 9718 pics


1917 Aerial
Photo credit Detroit Publishing Company,
via Shorpy

1917 Aerial
Mile: Date: 1917
Ease: View: NW
Area: RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

In this view dating from 1917 you'll find the same four "tunnels" near top center where the B&O's NA Tower once ruled. This wonderful photo captures railroading flourishing in the Jones Falls valley with no fewer than five companies represented, some of which by this time were under control of the powerful Pennsylvania Railroad. That autos outnumber horse-drawn carriages hints that change is brewing.

panorama north These modern panoramas of a century later, though poorly stitched together and snapped from a different spot (over what had been Bolton Freight Yards), illustrate differences wrought by time.

Two large highways did not exist in 1917: the JFX was built over the Jones Falls, and the double-arched Howard Street spans that stream. The 1917 photo looks this direction from near the tall building at the right edge of the east-facing panorama. panorama east

Links: source DPC photo, similar 1952?, JFX under construction 1958


NA Tower (Site)

NA Tower (Site)
Mile: 94.2 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B- View: NW
Area: C- RBL: 89, 149
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Before proceeding under North Avenue (ahead) tracks of the Northern Central and B&O met coldly here in a diamond, up to eight of them to be exact. Until around 1990 B&O's NA Tower oversaw the action from a spot near the center of this photo. That's the JFX casting shadows from the left.

What's a rail diamond? It's where tracks cross without connecting. The photo linked below shows two diamonds.

Link: NA Tower 1980s photo


1977 Aerial
Photo credit HAER

1977 Aerial
Mile: Date: 1977
Ease: View: NW
Area: RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The JFX has been on the left since the 1950s, and NA Tower was still in use in 1977, while at top a pre-Magnum Tom Selleck hawks cigs.

On the right the thumb protruding from North Avenue marks the east portal of the West Baltimore tunnel opened by the Baltimore & Potomac (B&P) Railroad during 1873. The B&P Tunnel has three sections -- this one named for nearby John Street -- all of which were inherited by the Pennsylvania Railroad and are now part of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. On average a train rumbles through every 10 minutes, most of which are Amtrak and MARC passenger trains, plus a few Norfolk Southern freights. The old tunnel has become an operational bottleneck due to limiting height, curves, and grade.

If you look closely at the "thumb" you'll see a smaller stone arch is contained within a larger one. The smaller is the actual B&P tunnel while the larger arch redirects the weight of North Avenue around it.

Like the other railroads, the B&P / Pennsy received two tunnels under North Avenue. The other is now at photo top, its eastern portal buried by JFX construction not far from the Selleck billboard, disused so long it is all but forgotten; you will find no other mention of it online.

Link: LoC source photo


North Avenue

North Avenue
Mile: 94.2 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B- View: N
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

marker The B&O's Belt Line is sandwiched between North Avenue above and one of the two B&P Tunnels that traverse under. Though the NCRY arrived here first -- a precedence inherited and now enjoyed by the light rail -- the B&P Tunnels are the oldest remaining structures (1873), following by the the Belt Line and North Avenue built concurrently during the 1890s.

This uncommon orange-topped pole flags the unusual situation that lies in the shadows ahead...


Bridge Under Bridge

Bridge Under Bridge
Mile: 94.2 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B- View: NE
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Here under the North Avenue bridge, between the wood planks are steel beams of a B&O bridge over the B&P tunnel (!). The tunnel was deemed too weak to support trains so closely above it, hence the need for a bridge across it. On the right once again North Avenue arches over the tunnel so as to not press upon it.

Nowhere is the train height limitations of the B&P Tunnel and the Belt Line as focused as this. The B&P Tunnel's roofline can't be raised because the Belt Line is immediately above. The Belt Line's floor can't be lowered because the B&P Tunnel is immediately below. The Belt Line's roof can't be raised without modifying North Avenue above. Solving the height limitation will be expensive here.

Links: Federal Railroad Administration report, B&P Tunnel project (note: a poorly-designed web site)


Arch Over Arch

Arch Over Arch
Mile: 94.2 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B- View: SE
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

You know you want to see what is between the B&P arch below and North creek Avenue arch above.

The answer is not a whole lot. With this arrangement the lower arch is not actually needed. Its removal might create much-needed additional height for Norfolk Southern freight trains, at least for a brief distance.

Few are aware this is actually a triple arch stack: arch over arch over arch. Hidden below the B&P tunnel is a stone arch (right) for a creek that flows into the Jones Falls. This arch might pre-date North Avenue, having been built to carry the B&P over the creek.


North Portal

North Portal
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: W
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Many drive on North Avenue's bridge across the Jones Falls and never know its sidewalk offers the easiest clear view of a still-active B&P Tunnel portal. Nearby signage describes this as the "John St. Tunnel North Portal".

Link: Todd's B&P Tunnel page


Jones Falls Bridge

Jones Falls Bridge
Mile: 94.2 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B- View: N
Area: C- RBL: 144
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

After North Avenue the Belt Line crosses the Jones Falls via this bridge on a curve that in the past was quadruple-tracked. The concrete base previously supported a CPL signal that had replaced a semaphore signal bridge.


Electric Motors
Photo 2005 St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri St. Louis

Electric Motors
Mile: 94.2 Date: ~1920
Ease: B View: NW
Area: C- RBL: 93
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

One of North Avenue's arches does span actual water. On the bridge beyond note the B&O's electric motors that had pulled trains through the Howard Street Tunnel. The motors escorted most trains a mile or two beyond the tunnel's east portal.

Links: same spot 1967, Ma & Pa photos, old Jones Falls photos


Back to North Avenue

Back to North Avenue
Mile: 94.2 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B- View: S
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Deep zoom across the Jones Falls valley brings this reverse view back to North Avenue.

Link: ~1940 showing semaphore signal bridge at bottom


Streetcar Museum
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Streetcar Museum
Mile: 94.1 Date: Mar 2008
Ease: A- View: SE
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Where the Belt Line bridge over the Jones Falls valley returns to land it finds the Baltimore Streetcar Museum (BSM), here exercising their number 7407 built by the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company during 1944 for the Baltimore Transit Company. At 5 feet 4.5 inches the BSM's track gauge is wider than standard, replicating that required by city law to permit 19th century private wagons to share the rails.

Links: Baltimore Streetcar Museum, Todd's Guide to the BSM


Milepost 94
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Milepost 94
Mile: 94.0 Date: Sep 2009
Ease: B View: NW
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

After heading mostly north from Camden Station the Belt Line in the 1890s finally reached a then-lesser-developed area of Baltimore City where land was less expensive. Here the Belt Line could finally turn east. The cities of Philadelphia and New York are more east than north of Baltimore.

To my knowledge number 94 is CSX's highest posted mile along the ex-B&O Belt Line. It measures from the B&O's passenger station at 24th and Chestnut in Philadelphia.

The extra width on the right originates with a siding that led into a small yard along Howard Street known as Coalmen's Row.


Coalmen's Row
Photo credit HAER

Coalmen's Row
Mile: Date: 1977
Ease: View: NW
Area: RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

In this 1977 view, milepost 94 hugs the closer curve at left, while North Avenue and Howard Street (fomerly Oak Street) intersect at bottom. At photo center the small yard known as called Coalmen's Row saw railroad use into the 1980s before conversion into commercial / industrial property. There are no RR artifacts within. interconnect

On the left various stone quarries had carved into the valley hillside, one of which was owned by stonecutter Hugh Sisson, for which a nearby street is named. This zoom of the top left shows what the B&O called Oak Street Junction, the dark area near the center where steep track had interconnected the Belt Line and the Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad. That's a Ma & Pa maintenance shed at left along Falls Road.

Links: LoC source photo, Baltimore's last coalman


Interconnect

Interconnect
Mile: 93.8 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: B- View: NW
Area: D+ RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The Ma & Pa's operation in Maryland shuttered during 1958, and with it this connection now occupied by homeless. An individual has had designs on reactivating this route, but others are not taking the project seriously (link below).

Link: the new Northern Central


Sisson Street
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Sisson Street
Mile: 93.7 Date: Sep 2009
Ease: B View: NE
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 8 Topographic Maps

Sisson Street is the first of many that cross over the Belt Line. With a look to the future, during the 1890s the B&O constructed the Belt Line in a cut so as to avoid grade crossings. The Howard Street Tunnel and this cut across the entire eastern half of the city were the most expensive parts of the Belt Line.


Grinding

Grinding
Mile: 93.7 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A View: W
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 8 Topographic Maps

And you thought The Daily Grind was merely a coffee shop. Sometimes welds need the finishing touch only a track worker can apply personally.


1953 Aerial
Photo via Johns Hopkins University

1953 Aerial
Mile: Date: 1953
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 8 Topographic Maps

The Sisson Street bridge is found just right of photo center. Sidings arc southeasterly to 24th Street while to the northeast a small yard catered to local businesses between Sisson and Huntingdon Avenue.

The half-donut shape to the west is a roundhouse of the Ma & Pa Railroad

Link: Remington neighborhood pics


From Sisson Street

From Sisson Street
Mile: 93.7 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A View: E
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 8 Topographic Maps

The yard and adjacent area, home of Anderson Chevrolet since 1919, was slated for redevelopment as part of the "25th Street Station" project that was to include big box stores. Local opposition slowed progress to fits and starts, leaving an uncertain future and an underutilized parking lot where previously trains had rested.

One reason Anderson endured is they had a reputation for honest, reasonably-priced repairs, something all too uncommon from dealerships. I repair my own car mostly but once took it to Anderson for a difficult job, which they did correctly and without shortcuts.

Links: 25th Street Station, Sun report


Supports

Supports
Mile: 93.6 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A View: W
Area: C+ RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 8 Topographic Maps

last rails These support pads and others like it are the remains of five bridges that carried sidings from the Belt Line over 24th Street into industry on the south side (left). The bridges appear in 1927 and 1964 aerial photos, but not one from 1972.

On the right the last vestiges of the sidings remain embedded in the tarmac. As relative photo-position reference, note the distant tall cell tower in both photos.


Huntingdon Avenue

Huntingdon Avenue
Mile: 93.7 Date: Sep 2004
Ease: A View: NE
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 8 Topographic Maps

Back at the Sisson Street bridge, before redevelopment one found these cpl courtesy Dave Hiteshew stranded dregs of the yard between Sisson and Huntingdon Avenue (distance). They and the CPLs would be gone within a few years. An 8-lamp assembly like this weighs roughly 200 pounds.

The B&O's HU Tower had stood on left near the equipment box. During the initial six years of Belt Line operation, those revolutionary B&O electric motors that hauled trains up through the Howard Street tunnel disconnected here for the return to Camden. The city grew so rapidly that in 1901 the B&O extended the electric operation another mile east.

Double track necks down to single so as to be centered under the upcoming bridges where the maximum clearance is found.


Pipeline
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Pipeline
Mile: 93.5 Date: Sep 2009
Ease: B- View: ?
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 8 Topographic Maps

Increasing the clearance under bridges is complicated by old modifications like this of the roof of the bridge for Huntingdon Avenue, probably for a pipe under the street.

In 1885 Huntingdon Avenue hosted the world's first electric streetcar line, inspiring the Belt Line's own electrification by the B&O a decade later. A few blocks north the long, spindly Huntingdon Avenue Viaduct carried the streetcars over Stony Run until 1949.

Links: Daft's electric streetcars, Huntingdon Avenue Viaduct


Howard Street
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Howard Street
Mile: 93.5 Date: Sep 2009
Ease: B- View: E
Area: C+ RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 8 Topographic Maps

After Huntingdon, the Belt Line tucks under Howard Street again via the Charles & Oak Street Tunnel. This time the tracks run perpendicular to Howard, formerly known as Oak Street north of the Jones Falls.


Elevated Dwarf
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Elevated Dwarf
Mile: 93.3 Date: Sep 2009
Ease: B- View: E
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 8 Topographic Maps

cpl courtesy Dave Hiteshew Deep zoom dating before 2010 finds this uncommon elevated mount of a dwarf CPL signalled westbound trains at Charles Street.

The cut was made extra wide between Charles and Saint Paul Streets for a planned B&O station that never materialized.

Link: more pics (link not browser-friendly)


Saint Paul Street
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Saint Paul Street
Mile: 93.3 Date: Sep 2009
Ease: B- View: E
Area: B RBL: 90
Map: Ba 35 B 8 Topographic Maps

The extra width encouraged children to slide down the hill from 26th Street (above left) until in 1912 residents requested a wall. That retaining wall endured graffiti-free for a century until...


Wall Collapse
Photo credit Karl Ferron

Wall Collapse
Mile: 93.3 Date: Apr 2014
Ease: B+ View: E
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 8 Topographic Maps

... one spring excessive rains did it in. "Hello, Geico? The railroad ate my new car."

Who was responsible for maintaining the wall? CSX and Baltimore City pointed fingers at each other, and both ended up contributing money to a settlement fund for impacted residents.

Links: collapse pics and video, cleanup videos, settlement


Wall Repaired

Wall Repaired
Mile: 93.3 Date: Aug 2016
Ease: A- View: E
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 8 Topographic Maps

CSX reopened the track within days but a new wall took about a year and a half. Graffiti arrived 27 seconds later... and was photoshopped over in about the same amount of time.

Charles Street marks Baltimore's dividing line between east and west sides, thus is a good place to pause until the next Belt Line tour update...

Link: ~1912 pic


This tour will continue in a future update.

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