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B&O Photo Tour

B&O Curtis Bay Branch
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: Curtis Bay Branch

Map

Map
Mile: Date: (Apr 1964)
Ease: View:
Area: IC2:
Map: Ba 42 Topographic Maps

The tour follows the B&O, now CSX, route from West Baltimore, to Curtis Bay Junction, then east to Curtis Bay. By the time of this aerial photo most of the key rails and roads were already in place.

Downtown Baltimore city is a mile or two past the upper-right corner.


Patapsco Avenue

Patapsco Avenue
Mile: 3.8 Date: Feb 2000
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 42 E 6 Topographic Maps

During 2011 CSX exported 14 million tons of coal via Curtis Bay. Hauling that much coal down from the hills of Appalachia requires about 600 coal cars in and out of both the mines and the port each and every work day.

Curtis Bay is not the only port, nor the only place, that demands coal: the coal cars seen here are destined not for Curtis Bay but rather a location further north. To get to Curtis Bay, this train would instead have ridden the track 2nd from left. The leftmost tracks are part of the Old Main Line, the B&O's original route west from Baltimore, and though they appear to be rising with distance, actually the closer tracks are descending toward the stream named Gwynn's Falls.

Since the time of this photo, CSX has replaced the CPL signals here with the in-line color-light signal variety.


Gable Avenue

Gable Avenue
Mile: 3.6 Date: Dec 2003
Ease: A View: N
Area: B- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 F 6 Topographic Maps

Unlike the coal train above, this colorful trio is on the correct track to head for Curtis Bay. Into the 1960s Gable Avenue made a full grade crossing here, but now is limited to accessing Mt. Winans Yard which is served by the middle 4 tracks in this photo.


Gable Avenue

Gable Avenue
Mile: 3.6 Date: Feb 2011
Ease: A View: E
Area: B- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 F 6 Topographic Maps

In this view from the grade crossing, the leftmost track leads to Mt. Clare Yard and the right can access both the Curtis Bay Branch as well as the B&O Museum.

An uncommon unit is parked at right in the yard... let's have a closer look.


Loram LRV-11

Loram LRV-11
Mile: 3.6 Date: Feb 2011
Ease: A View: E
Area: B- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 F 6 Topographic Maps

It's a Loram RAILVAC maintenance of way unit that Loram describes as follows,

    "RAILVAC™ is a unique excavation machine that conveys material through vacuum and airflow. The machine is rail mounted and designed to travel at track speeds while towing up to four fully loaded ballast cars. The combination of a powerful digging arm with twin engines and vacuum pumps makes it capable of excavating compacted ballast, clay, mud, water, sand, and soil. The digging arm can work at distances up to 15 feet from track centerline.

    "Material is extracted through the suction hose and deposited in the main hopper. The finer dust then runs through a filtration system, removing the dust from the air stream. The filter elements are cleaned automatically by the air counterflow during the routine unloading of the system. A rear swing conveyor, or optional side dumping doors unload material."

Link: Loram's site


Eight Lamps

Eight Lamps
Mile: 3.6 Date: Feb 2011
Ease: A View: E
Area: B- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 F 6 Topographic Maps

Most CPL signals had six lamps, but this one was equipped with eight. The extra two lamps were used to display a Restricting aspect sometimes needed when approaching rail yards. Indeed Mt. Clare Yard lies just beyond the bend.


Curtis Bay Junction

Curtis Bay Junction
Mile: 3.2 Date: Apr 2001
Ease: C View: E
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: Ba 42 G 5 Topographic Maps

Prior to reaching Mt. Clare Yard trains encounter this wye of track marking Curtis Bay Junction. Seen beyond is Zepp's bridge over Mt. Winans Yard.

Link: more Curtis Bay Junction photos


Zepp's Bridge
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Zepp's Bridge
Mile: 3.1 Date: Sep 2009
Ease: B- View: NE
Area: B- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 G 6 Topographic Maps

Beyond Zepp's bridge, over a mile distant, you can glimpse I-95 and even further away some of Baltimore's taller buildings.

Tour: Camden Cutoff at this location


Mt. Winans Yard

Mt. Winans Yard
Mile: 3.1 Date: Feb 2011
Ease: A View: SW
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: Ba 42 H 4 Topographic Maps

This is the view back to the bridge from the Hollins Ferry Road grade crossing. A derailment on December 9, 1978 that heavily damaged the structure may explain dissimilarities among the bridge segments.


Map East

Map East
Mile: Date: (Apr 1964)
Ease: View:
Area: IC2:
Map: Ba 42 Topographic Maps

This map extends coverage as we proceed east (right) from Zepps.

Link: Todd's Railfan Guide around Zepp's Bridge


Zepps

Zepps
Mile: 3.1 Date: Apr 2001
Ease: C View: E
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: Ba 42 G 5 Topographic Maps

Now the bridge is at the photographer's back. The Zepp's name originates from a 19th century landowner but only the railroad continues to use it to refer to this area.

The CPL signal has been changed to in-line signals.


Hollins Ferry Road

Hollins Ferry Road
Mile: 2.8 Date: Jan 2015
Ease: A View: E
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: Ba 42 H 5 Topographic Maps

The Hollins Ferry Road grade crossing -the oldest on the branch- yields a surprise. Is that a railroad signal over there?


Unique Signals

Unique Signals
Mile: 2.8 Date: Jan 2015
Ease: A- View: W
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: Ba 42 H 5 Topographic Maps

It is a railroad signal, and the only one if its kind in the region. This unique signal references rule CI (or is it C1?) that "copies" the stop aspect of the signal at Zepps. Trains greater than certain length are to stop here rather than at the actual signal so as to avoid blocking Hollins Ferry Road for an extended time period.

During past years a siding peeled from the left to serve the white building across the road.


Modern Industries

Modern Industries
Mile: 2.8 Date: Jan 2015
Ease: A- View:
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: Ba 42 H 5 Topographic Maps
closeup

The B&O repurposed a pair of standard grade crossing flashers made by Modern Industries by swapping in white lenses. I assume the pointed ends at the highest spots direct and divert lightning strikes.

Several other quirky signals, though none quite like this, are found on the way to Curtis Bay and will be illustrated later.


Annapolis Road

Annapolis Road
Mile: 2.4 Date: Aug 2010
Ease: A View: S
Area: B- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 J 6 Topographic Maps

Before MD 2, 3 or 295, or I-97 existed, Annapolis Road was the main thoroughfare between Baltimore and Maryland's capital of Annapolis thus I would guess it has been grade separated since Day 1 of the Curtis Bay Branch. If correct, that makes at least the masonry portion of bridge 1D the oldest on the line.


MD 295

MD 295
Mile: 2.3 Date: Aug 2013
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 J 7 Topographic Maps

Maryland 295, the BW Parkway, arrived on the scene during the 1950s. This coal train arrived later.

Located behind the trees on the right had been Westport Stadium, home of the Baltimore Elite Giants, a Negro League Baseball team that played into the 1950s. Later the site served as a NASCAR race track. The aerial photo above from 1964 shows the remains of a pitcher's mound encircled by a dirt race track.

Link: Westport Stadium, NASCAR era


Urban Lane

Urban Lane
Mile: 2.1 Date: Feb 2015
Ease: B View: SE
Area: C IC2:
Map: Ba 42 J 7 Topographic Maps

Though this light rail train has just crossed under the Curtis Bay Branch, it is a relative newcomer. The bridge dates to 1914 when the B&O declined to allow the Maryland Electric Railways Company to continue to operate the latter's trains upon B&O track from here into the city. The electric trains were rerouted onto their own right-of-way parallel to what was then the B&O's South Baltimore Branch.

The electric train companies struggled to compete, and went through several reorganizations and names such as the Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad, the Annapolis and Baltimore Short Line, and the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Electric Railway.

The B&A's passenger service ended in 1950, and part of the right of way morphed into a semi-public road known as Urban Lane. For decades it was possible for autos to drive under the bridge here, but now the unpaved Urban Lane ends near the photographer's location. Around 1990 the Baltimore Light Rail system revived the B&A's old route to provide passenger train service between BWI Airport and Baltimore, plus many local stops.

Link to older picture: Auto-Railer 1935


Cliffords

Cliffords
Mile: 1.7 Date: Jan 2015
Ease: B View: NW
Area: C- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 J 8 Topographic Maps

Prior to the bridge and their own alignment into the city, not one but two separate passenger electric railways glommed onto the B&O tracks here at Cliffords and shared the B&O route into Baltimore. Like Zepps, Cliffords is a location name only the railroad continues to use.

The foreground tracks are those of CSX's South Baltimore Industrial Track (B&O South Baltimore Branch), while the next two over are the Curtis Bay Branch tracks we've been following.

Tour: this site's South Baltimore Branch tour


Weights

Weights
Mile: 1.7 Date: Jan 2015
Ease: B View: S
Area: C- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 K 8 Topographic Maps

The light rail catenary wires lengthen and shorten with changes in temperature. In order to keep them taut, at various intervals weights tug on the wires, and serve as a thermometer of sorts. Since the weights are high off the ground you know the temperature at photo time was... think about it... the answer is next... relatively low.


Interchange

Interchange
Mile: 1.7 Date: Jan 2015
Ease: B View: SE
Area: C- IC2:
Map: Ba 42 J 8 Topographic Maps

In the tangle of switches near the signals, CSX and the Light Rail maintain a rail connection, their only one in the region. At the signal the South Baltimore Industrial Track (foreground) splits/joins, and accordingly its milepost 0 stands nearby.

From here, Light Rail trains turn south (right) to BWI Airport while CSX dual tracks bend left on their route to Curtis Bay...


Continue to the eastern part of Curtis Bay Branch tour

Return to main page for other tours

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