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B&P Tunnel Photo Tour

B&P Tunnel 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.


Brief Historical Background:

Map
Map credit Federal Railroad Administration

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

Studies of the B&P Tunnel replacement options have produced many maps, such as this, that highlight the course of the tunnel's three segments through Baltimore City, north of downtown.

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

Links: compressed PDF, source PDF (larger)


Penn Station

Penn Station
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B View: E
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

Baltimore's Penn Station began as Union Station, a replacement for the Northern Central Railway's Charles Street Station. That's Charles Street right-to-left in the foreground. As the quantity of taxis suggests, this remains a busy rail passenger station served by Amtrak, MARC (Maryland Area Rail Commuter), and the city's light rail.

Links: 1977, 1977, 1977


Interior

Interior
Mile: Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

The main waiting area had this appearance during the late 20th Century. When a gate opened ticket holders would walk down stairs to platforms below.

Link: exterior and interior photos


Amtrak 946

Amtrak 946
Mile: Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View: E
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

At photo time the platforms were being remodeled. You might have boarded this DC-bound train led by Amtrak 946.

Link: more AEM-7 model photos


Departure

Departure
Mile: Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

Your DC-bound train would depart along the near tracks while a light rail train arrived at left.


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
zoom

The "Now Penn Station" label marks what is considered the front of the building. During 1917 your train could have been pulled out from behind the station (then named Union Station) by the steam locomotive near center of the zoom view at right, then followed a Z-shaped route into the B&P Tunnel near the top left.

Links: source DPC photo, similar 1952?


Portal

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

At North Avenue your train would duck into the B&P Tunnel segment known as the John Street Tunnel. Views of its portal from the Howard Street bridge are a bit obstructed but let you compare and contrast the portal (left) with one of the North Avenue's arches (right). By virtue of its greater height, the latter is likely to become part of a B&P Tunnel replacement route, should one get built. plaque

Originally called the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, the agency responsible for building the Howard Street bridge over the Jones Falls 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

Links: PWA Wikipedia entry, similar with train


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 the portal.


John Street Tunnel

John Street Tunnel
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B- View: NW
Area: C RBL:
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?

The adjacent sign reports this is Amtrak B&P Tunnel Zone E. The zones are labelled A to E from west to east. To facilitate ventilation the B&P Tunnel was built in three segments, the John Street Tunnel being the easternmost.


Lights

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

The route between Penn Station and the tunnel is illuminated by these lamps that may also be heat lamps for deicing the catenary and tracks. Icicles and catenary do not go well together.


Building

Building
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: E
Area: C- RBL:
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: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: SE
Area: C+ RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

At the other end of the John Street tunnel are two portals, the closer one disused and visible from North Avenue at Mount Royal, the other in use but behind brick walls.

You will find online no mention of the disused tunnel other than at this B&O photo tours site. It does not show on a detailed 1896 topographic map, meaning the now-disused tunnel may have been added later.


1927 Aerial
Photo via Johns Hopkins University

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

The now-disused tunnel likely connected to what is now a Norfolk Southern yard, inherited from the Pennsylvania Railroad which in turn acquired it from the Northern Central. I have not found the other (northeastern) portal of this tunnel and suspect it was closed off during construction of the JFX (I-83) that carved a \ diagonal route here starting during the 1950s.

Link: JFX under construction 1958


Masonry

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

The old aerial photo above shows the in-use tunnel with a closed roof that was later removed. Maps from the late 1800s show the tracks open to the sky, so I suspect the roof was added around 1900 to reduce steam engine smoke wafting from the tunnel into what was then a tony neighborhood.

The remaining brick structure provides a glimpse into the masonry style of this double-tracked tunnel.


Open Roof

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

Into the 1930s the roof had been covered presumably to facilitate ventilation from the John Street North Portal all the way to fans sucking air west of here at the original other end of the tunnel. Once smoke-belching engines became history, the roof was removed, leaving support beams across the top.

Links: collapse mention, 2013 artist walking tour


Opposite Portal(s)

Opposite Portal(s)
Mile: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: C RBL:
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.

This means either the tracks from the NCRY Yard and those from Penn Station had joined along this stretch, or the other portal has been covered over.


Inside Tunnel
Photo credit Federal Railroad Administration

Inside Tunnel
Mile: Date: ~2010
Ease: View: SW
Area: RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

If the tracks had met here one would expect to find either an opening in the brick wall on the right, or different-looking masonry where such had opening had been patched closed. Neither are seen, which suggests the tracks had merged further west, underground.

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

Link: 2013 derailment


Ventilation

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

After the B&P Tunnel runs westward under Wilson Street it emerges here at the Pennsylvania Avenue Opening, where the Pennsylvania Railroad had operated large ventilation fans in a brick building above the portal. 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.

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

Link: 2015's most violent neighborhoods, trains stuck during rainy days


Gilmor Street Tunnel

Gilmor Street Tunnel
Mile: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: F RBL:
Map: Ba 34 J 11 Topographic Maps

The B&P Tunnel resumes travelling westward underground via the Gilmor Street Tunnel whose eastern portal is difficult to view clearly without climbing over or around extensive fencing.

A sharp curve of the Gilmor Street Tunnel, another B&P Tunnel segment, just west of here has long been a speed-limiting factor for trains.

Link: better pic


Westernmost Portal
Photo credit HAER

Westernmost Portal
Mile: Date: 1977
Ease: View: SE
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

Gilmor Street Tunnel opens to light on the west side of Fulton Avenue, near the bus at top left. Since the time of this photo trees and vines have grown to block easy clear views of the portal.

Link: LoC source photo


Zone A

Zone A
Mile: Date: Sep 2015
Ease: A- View: W
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

I have not found online exact definitions of Amtrak's Zones, but surmise they resemble:

  • Zone A: western B&P Tunnel approach
  • Zone B: Gimor Street Tunnel
  • Zone C: Pennsylvania Avenue Opening
  • Zone D: Wilson Street Tunnel
  • Zone E: John Street Opening, Tunnel and approach
That's the Monroe Street bridge beyond the fence.

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: RBL:
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.

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.

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.

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


New Portal (Site)

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

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.

The catenary beyond marks the existing Northeast Corridor route originally laid down by the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad during the 1800s. Ahead and left is Fulton Junction where the B&P and Western Maryland had met in a wye. 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: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: D RBL:
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 site


The B&P Tunnel tour ends here. Thanks for following along!

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

For other tours here now, select from the map: clickable map

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