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B&P Tunnel Photo Tour

PRR / Amtrak in Maryland
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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Brief Historical Background:

Map
Map credit Federal Railroad Administration

Map
Mile: Date: May 2014
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Topographic Maps

Studies of the B&P Tunnel replacement options have produced many maps, such as this, that highlight the course of the existing tunnel's three segments through Baltimore City, north of downtown. Much more is online about B&P Tunnel than Union Tunnel (east of Penn Station).

This tour page will begin at Pennsylvania Station (right center of map) and proceed generally westward (left) to and through these B&P Tunnel's segments.

Link: compressed PDF


1917 Aerial
Photo credit Detroit Publishing Company,
via Shorpy

1917 Aerial
Mile: 95.5 Date: 1917
Ease: View: NW
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

Long before Amtrak, as horse-drawn carriages were giving way to automobiles, the B&P, PW&B, Northern Central, B&O, Western Maryland, and Maryland and Pennsylvania all had trains zoom rolling in this vicinity. A series of smaller stations gave way in 1911 to the Union Station seen here.

On the main photo, the "Now Penn Station" label marks what is considered the front of the building. During 1917 most trains pulled out from behind the station under the power of steam, as seen near center of the zoom view at right. Trains then followed a Z-shaped route into the B&P Tunnel near the top left.

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


departure
Updated late-Dec 2018

Departure
Mile: 95.7 Date: Nov 2018
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

Jun 1999 A century later trains were still departing from behind the same structure and using the same route. During 2018 instead of steam locomotives it's Amtrak's Acela units, such as number 2006. Note the cantilvered, high mounted pedestal signal. Such mounting is uncommon outside Maryland.

Commuter trains, such as the light rail at left, originally arrived at the front of the building, but now join the others in the back.


Amtrak 2016
Updated late-Dec 2018

Amtrak 2016
Mile: 95.8 Date: Oct 2010
Ease: A View: W
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

AMTK 2016 makes like a caboose as it rolls away from the camera bound for Washington, DC. Though Washington is southwest of here, the trip begins in a northwesterly direction, still following the B&P's 1870s route that curves around what was the B&O's stronghold in downtown Baltimore. B+P Tower B+P Tower

AMTK 2016 is passing a location on the left known as B&P Junction, site of a Baltimore & Potomac RR interlocking tower (photo at left courtesy Library of Congress) that closed during 1987. The following year it was disassembled and transported to Sykesville, Maryland where it was reassembled (photo at right).

The golden arches in the distance of the main photo do not belong to McDonalds but rather carry Howard Street over the Jones Falls Valley.

Links: LoC source photo, more about the tower's move


From Howard Street
NEW! late-Dec 2018

From Howard Street
Mile: 95.9 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

Looking back to Penn Station from the Howard Street Bridge one finds the tracks merge down into two. Howard Street north of the Jones Falls had been known as Oak Street prior to the opening of the Howard Street Bridge.


Howard Street

Howard Street
Mile: 96.0 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: S
Area: C- T6: 320
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Penn Station is off photo left.

Before trains can reach the B&P Tunnel they must find their way over a largely-sequestered Jones Falls and under the colorful Howard Street Bridge. The original 1873 rail bridge here over Jones Falls was an iron truss that was later moved and reused by the Stewartstown RR in York County, Pennsylvania where as of 2018 it remains extant. plaque

Originally called the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, the agency responsible for building the Howard Street bridge over the Jones Falls Valley was renamed the Public Works Administration in 1935 (not to be confused with the Works Progress Administration). It also performed the electrification of the Pennsy line between New York and Washington. Plaques supply details:

Howard Street Bridge,
Approaches and Mt. Royal Overpass
Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works
Project No. Md. 1008-R-14

City Of Baltimore
Department of Public Works
Bureau of Highways
Howard Street Bridge
Approaches And
Mt. Royal Avenue Overpass
Howard W. Jackson
Mayor
Bernard L. Grozier       George Cobb         Herman F. Lucke, Jr.
Chief Engineer         Highways Engineer     Associate Engineer
J.E Greiner Company             Kaufman Construction Co.
Consulting Engineers                         Contractor            
1938

Link: PWA Wikipedia entry


Lights

Lights
Mile: 96.0 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: C- T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The route between Penn Station and the tunnel is illuminated by heat lamps for deicing switches and even the catenary. Ice jams switches while icicles and electrified catenary do not go well together. These lamps are found near many switches, especially those close to bodies of water.


Portal

Portal
Mile: 96.0 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: NW
Area: C T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

At North Avenue southbound trains duck into the B&P Tunnel segment known as the John Street Tunnel (left). The tunnel opened for operation less than a month before Union Tunnel did. That tunnel combination gave the PRR a conntinuous route from the Northeast US to Washington, DC, thus breaking the B&O's monopoly on such service.

Views of the John Street Tunnel portal from the Howard Street bridge are a bit obstructed but let you compare and contrast the portal with North Avenue's arch over the ex-Northern Central right of way (right). By virtue of its greater height and width, the latter is likely to become part of a B&P Tunnel replacement route, should one get built.

Link: similar with train


North Portal

North Portal
Mile: 96.0 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: W
Area: C- T6:
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 the portal.

Despite its B&P name, the tunnel construction was funded by the PRR and Northern Central.


John Street Segment

John Street Segment
Mile: 96.0 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B- View: NW
Area: C T6: 327, 387
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

sign I was surprised to see nearby signage describing this as the "John St. Tunnel North Portal". Not east portal? That's a carryover from when the Pennsylvania RR considered its east coast route to run north-south.

The adjacent sign reports this is Amtrak B&P Tunnel Zone E. The zones are labelled A to E from south to north (west to east on a map). Zone F includes Penn Station, and Zone G covers the Union Tunnels east of that station.

Some sources report that to facilitate ventilation the B&P Tunnel was originally built in two segments, with the John Street Tunnel later becoming a third segment.

Link: similar 1978


Building

Building
Mile: 96.0 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: E
Area: C- T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Across the tracks from the portal is this deteriorating building. Anyone know its former purpose?


South Portals

South Portals
Mile: 96.2 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: SE
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The John Street Tunnel curves under North Avenue and soon reopens to daylight at Mount Royal, making it the shortest of the three B&P Tunnel segments. The opening may originate with a tunnel collapse in this vicinity during the 1800s.

A surprise is there are two portals, the closer one unused and the other in use but cloistered by brick walls. The unused tunnel was to be part of a Washington,-DC-to-west route that bypassed Penn Station. It could yet see use as a future expansion of commuter rail.

You will find online no mention of the unused tunnel other than at this B&O photo tours site. It does not show on a detailed 1896 topographic map, meaning it may have been added later, though in his The Pennsylvania Railroad tome, author Albert Churella writes that the unused tunnel was built concurrently.


1927 Aerial
Photo via Johns Hopkins University

1927 Aerial
Mile: 96.1 Date: 1927
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The unused tunnel never quite connected to what in 1927 was Mt. Vernon Yard, even though this photo shows grading and track in the vicinity. Now Baltimore's Light RailLink and Norfolk Southern share that yard, The yard was inherited from the PRR, which in turn had acquired it from the Northern Central.

At the opening note the operational John Street Tunnel segment was later enclosed within a sort of masonry box that prevented engine smoke from wafting at ground level into what had been a tony neighborhood. Since the box does not appear on detailed maps from the late 1800s it was probably added during the early 1900s.


Seventies Scene
Photo credit HH Harwood

Seventies Scene
Mile: 96.3 Date: Dec 1978
Ease: C+ View: NE
Area: C T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 9 Topographic Maps

The box enclosure endured into the 1930s but when diesel engines relegated their smoke-belching steam predecessors to history, the roof was removed, leaving the walls plus support beams across the top.

The stairway at the left had led from the street down to the tracks.


Masonry

Masonry
Mile: 96.3 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: C+ View: NE
Area: C T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 9 Topographic Maps

Some 40 years later the scene remained much the same, but with fewer accessible stairways and more fences.


Open Roof

Open Roof
Mile: 96.3 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: NW
Area: C T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

From this angle one can glimpse into the tunnel, but not deeply enough to see the trains. One can hear them though.

Links: collapse mention, 2013 artist walking tour


Opposite Portal

Opposite Portal
Mile: 96.3 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: C T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The opposite end of the cut at John Street shows just one portal, that of the next segment, known as the Wilson Street Tunnel.


Wilson Street Segment
Photo credit Federal Railroad Administration

Wilson Street Segment
Mile: 96.3 Date: ~2010
Ease: View: SW
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

From here the Wilson Street Tunnel segment rises at a 1.3% grade to its western portal at the Pennsylvania Avenue Opening.

Link: 2013 derailment


Ventilation Tower
Photo credit HH Harwood

Ventilation Tower
Mile: 96.7 Date: Oct 1965
Ease: A View: E
Area: C T6: 321
Map: Ba 34 K 10 Topographic Maps

What had been an upscale Bolton neighborhood would never have seen fit to have locomotive smoke blown its way, so along the tunnel route the Pennsy built two tall ventilation towers like this one that stood where Tiffany Alley meets Wilson Street. The tower was dismantled shortly after this photo. A school's playground now occupies the site.

Within the nearby Marlboro Apartments, the local residents known as the Cone Sisters had amassed a collection of 500 Matisse paintings and numerous other circa 1900 art pieces, a collection now worth over $1 billion, much of which they donated to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Link: BMA Cone Wing


Opening

Opening
Mile: 97.0 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: E
Area: F RBL: 87
Map: Ba 34 J 11 Topographic Maps

After the B&P Tunnel runs southwestward under Wilson Street it emerges here at the Pennsylvania Avenue Opening. Baltimore's Metro Subway passes underneath the Wilson Street Tunnel less than 200 feet east of this portal.

Certain passenger trains stopped here, hence the stairways. Certain freights did too, but not intentionally: on rainy days the exposed rails at this opening would become slippery, causing locomotives to become unable to pull heavy trains up through the incline and curves. Even when dry the sharp curve west of here has long been a speed-limiting factor for trains.

Link: trains stuck during rainy days


Amtrak 968
Photo credit HH Harwood

Amtrak 968
Mile: 97.0 Date: Mar 1977
Ease: D (now) View: NE
Area: F T6: 322
Map: Ba 34 J 11 Topographic Maps

GE model E60s like this were common Amtrak power during the 1970s. With the old station here closed long ago, your easiest view of this stretch will come from the end of an Amtrak or MARC train. The Wilson Street Tunnel segment makes a straight run: the distant bright spot within is its opposite (east) portal. The Pennsylvania Railroad had operated large ventilation fans in the brick building above the portal.

Links: stills from ride through, Amtrak 968 pics


Gilmor Street Segment

Gilmor Street Segment
Mile: 97.0 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: F T6:
Map: Ba 34 J 11 Topographic Maps

Trains soon go back underground via the Gilmor Street Tunnel segment; extensive fencing makes an unobstructed photo difficult. Gunshots, such as those heard while obtaining this photo, might discourage one from seeking better views.

Views are a problem for train operators too, hence these dwarf or pedestal signals stand in for their more common, larger counterparts. Small signals can be mounted lower to make them visible from a greater distance within the tunnel.

Gilmor Street Tunnel Milepost 97, visible in the 1977 photo above, seems to no longer be extant, a victim of what appear to be subsequently-installed cable runways.

Few recent photos of this portal are online because 1) the opening is very much fenced in, and 2) it is located adjacent to what by at least one metric (2015, linked below) was the most likely place in the United States to experience a violent crime.

Links: 2015's most violent neighborhoods, less obscured pic


Westernmost Portal
Photo credit HAER

Westernmost Portal
Mile: 97.6 Date: 1977
Ease: View: SE
Area: F T6:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

The Gilmor Street Tunnel segment opens to light near the southbound bus riding Gilmor Street at top left. Mount Street is at bottom right. from Vincent Street 2018

Since 1977 trees and vines have grown to block easy clear views of the portal such as the one at left from Vincent Street, and more fencing has been added. Every decade or two Amtrak trims back the overgrowth. Vincent Street is one of many alleys, interrupted pieces of which extend from downtown north to University Parkway.

Links: LoC source photo, as seen from train when emerging from tunnel


Amtrak 2028

Amtrak 2028
Mile: 97.6 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: C View: E
Area: D T6:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

Northbound AMTK 2007 leads the way into the stone arch west portal at Gilmor Street. Nearer are the concrete-lined arch of Vincent Street, and unseen steel beams of Mount Street. The nose of AMTK 2028, trailing at the end, is about to pass into the shadow of Fulton Avenue.

Link: 1980


Fulton Junction
Photo credit HH Harwood

Fulton Junction
Mile: 97.6 Date: Sep 1978
Ease: C View: E
Area: D T6: 387
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

This Washington-bound train will follow the wires and turn to the southwest. The tracks on the left, the northeast leg of the Fulton Junction wye, were pulled up during the 1980s, but at photo time they still connected to the Western Maryland Railway.

During the 2000s plans for bringing MARC service to the ex-WM line called for restoration of the connection here. Such a connection is not possible with the new tunnel due to placement of its portal farther south. The old tunnel could be kept in service for MARC trains.

This marks the south (west) end of the B&P Tunnel plus adjacent stone arch grade separation bridges that date from the 1870s.

Change for: this site's Western Maryland tour from here


Zone A

Zone A
Mile: 97.6 Date: Sep 2015
Ease: C View: W
Area: D T6:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

Shrouded by Zone A's fence is the Monroe Street bridge. Amtrak divides the B&P Tunnel into five zones:

    Pennsylvania Ave Opening 2018
  • Zone A: western B&P Tunnel approach
  • Zone B: Gilmor Street Tunnel
  • Zone C: Pennsylvania Avenue Opening
  • Zone D: Wilson Street Tunnel
  • Zone E: John Street Opening, Tunnel and approach
The chosen route of a replacement tunnel bypasses all five zones.

Link: NIMBYism makes a new route difficult (2014)


Tunnel Alternatives
Map credit Federal Railroad Administration

Tunnel Alternatives
Mile: Date: 2014
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6: 324
Map: Ba 34 Topographic Maps

Studies have considered many alternative routes for a new tunnel. The 2014 report linked below eliminated for further consideration all but routes 2, 3, and 11. Route 2, which involves rehabbing the existing tunnel, is the only one that can preserve a connection with the ex-WM at Fulton Junction. Route 4 mimics the PRR's 1928 never-executed plan for a new tunnel.

Rehabbing this tunnel as well as the B&O's Howard Street Tunnel is likely less expensive than building any new route. As a temporary bypass while the rehabbing effort is underway one tube of either the I-895 Harbor Tunnel Thruway or I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel could be adapted for trains. Extensive rail infrastructure already exists near the portals of both tunnels. alt 3b

During December 2016 the Federal Railroad Administration announced 3B, a tweaked version of alternate 3, as its recommended route. Such a recommendation does not mean construction is imminent since first a few billion dollars will need to be found.

Alternative number 5 along US 40 was too quickly dismissed because it does not serve Penn Station. Disused ex-Nothern Central trackage already exists parallel to I-83 that could easily be rejuvinated as a short spur to Penn Station, though trains lacking an engine at both ends would need to be turned to exit.

Links: 2014 B&P Report (huge 100m PDF), FRA 2016 decision


New Portal (Site)
Updated late-Dec 2018

New Portal (Site)
Mile: 98.0 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: D T6:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

#bmorepositive A site near this intersection of Payson and Mosher Streets has been chosen for a new tunnel's south/west portal, should it get built. At photo time roughly half the houses here were abandoned -- owned by Baltimore City -- and many others unoccupied, hence the paucity of parked vehicles. Photo at right courtesy Google, Lafayette at McKean, November 2017.

The catenary beyond marks the existing Northeast Corridor route originally laid down by the B&P during the 1800s. The distant, tall broadcasting tower stands about 2.5 miles away atop TV Hill.

Link: revising the route (2016)


Proceed or Stop

Proceed or Stop
Mile: 97.9 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: D T6: 327
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

The need for an expensive repair or replacement of the B&P Tunnel comes at a time when Amtrak lacks excess funds. Can we afford to lose the use of the tunnel? Can we afford to spend so much on a project that, without huge fare increases, will not return it? The debate continues...

Link: B&P Tunnel Project site


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Related info you may enjoy: Todd's B&P page, or this site's Penn Line overview tour.

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