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B&O Metropolitan Branch Photo Tour


B&O Metropolitan 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.


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Brief Historical Background:


Washington Station
Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Washington Station
Mile: 0.0 Date: 1908
Ease: View: NE?
Area: B IC2: 96, 150, 151
Map: DC Dwn 8 C, PG 17 D 1 Topographic Maps

When the Metropolitan Branch finally in 1873 began operation, Union Station did not yet exist. Instead trains rolled to New Jersey Avenue and C Street where B&O's older, pre-Civil War station found itself in a then-new hole: at the time Washington city was in the midst of raising its swampy streets via 15 feet of landfill. The station, demolished in 1908, exhibited an architectural style similar to B&O's surviving station in Frederick, MD.

Locomotives steamed past the Capitol until politicians tired of B&O and Pennsy invading so deeply into their city, and in 1905 forced those railroads to join at Union Station, about a half mile northeast of the B&O's station.

Link: station pics


Union Station

Union Station
Mile: 0.4 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2: 228
Map: DC Dwn 9 C, PG 17 C 2 Topographic Maps

Before the automobile and airplane made much of an impression, a grand Union Station was constructed to support trains of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and Southern Railway. Though the steam trains of those companies no longer chuff here, Amtrak plus commuter lines of MARC, VRE and the Washington, DC Metro system keep the station busy.

Union Station had declined in parallel with rail passenger traffic post World War II, and by the 1980s was grimy and in disrepair. Fortunately, the station was recognized for its place in history before it could be demolished: a restoration during the 1990s gave it a new vitality.

Links: Pic group, Images of Union Station


Immense
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Immense
Mile: 0.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC Dwn 9 C, PG 17 D 1 Topographic Maps

Union Station is huge, the largest train station on the East Coast; a wide-angle lens helps capture it in one photo, but makes the walls appear to lean inward.


Fountain
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Fountain
Mile: 0.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

This 1912 fountain memorializes Christopher Columbus. Flanking Columbus on the west side is an Indian figure, and on east side is an older man representing Europe (the Old World). The three flags behind represent Columbus' three ships. The stone inscription reads "TO THE MEMORY OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS WHOSE HIGH FAITH AND INDOMITABLE COURAGE GAVE TO MANKIND A NEW WORLD BORN MCDXXXVI DIED MDIV".


The Progress of Railroading
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

The Progress of Railroading
Mile: 0.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

Sculptures designed by Louis St. Gaudens stand guard above the entrance to Union Station. Cut by Andrew E. Bernasconi, the 18-feet tall allegorical figures represent Archimedes - Mechanics, Ceres - Agriculture, Apollo - Imagination or Inspiration, Themis - Freedom or Justice, Thales - Electricity, and Prometheus - Fire. Accompanying aspirational inscriptions by Harvard president Charles William Eliot read with some grandiosity:

  • FIRE - GREATEST OF DISCOVERIES, ENABLING MAN TO LIVE IN VARIOUS CLIMATES, USE MANY FOODS AND COMPEL THE FORCES OF NATURE TO DO HIS WORK.
  • ELECTRICITY - CARRIER OF LIGHT AND POWER, DEVOURER OF TIME AND SPACE, BEARER OF HUMAN SPEECH OVER LAND AND SEA, GREATEST SERVANT OF MAN ITSELF UNKNOWN.
  • THOU HAS PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET. SWEETENER OF HUT AND OF HALL, BRINGER OF LIFE OUT OF NAUGHT, FREEDOM O FAIREST OF ALL, THE DAUGHTERS OF TIME AND THOUGHT.
  • MAN'S IMAGINATION HAS CONCEIVED ALL NUMBERS AND LETTERS - ALL TOOLS VESSELS AND SHELTERS - EVERY ART AND TRADE ALL PHILOSOPHY AND POETRY - AND ALL POLITIES. THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.
  • THE FARM - BEST HOME OF THE FAMILY - MAIN SOURCE OF NATIONAL WEALTH - FOUNDATION OF CIVILIZED SOCIETY - THE NATURAL PROVIDENCE.
  • THE OLD MECHANIC ARTS CONTROLLING NEW FORCES BUILD NEW HIGHWAYS FOR GOODS AND MEN OVERRIDE THE OCEAN AND MAKE THE VERY ETHER CARRY HUMAN THOUGHT.
  • THE DESERT SHALL REJOICE AND BLOSSOM AS THE ROSE.

Link: installing Thales statue 1912


Interior
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Interior
Mile: 0.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B+ View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

No less impressive is the interior immediately inside the main entrance.

Link to older picture: ~1921


Levels
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Levels
Mile: 0.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B+ View:
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

What had been the basement baggage level is now a food court, while the middle level offers ticketing. Shops and other facilities occupy the level above.

In 1953, Pennsylvania RR's runaway "Federal Express" train roared into the station, collapsed the floor and fell to the baggage level, just days before crowds were expected for a Presidential inauguration.

Links: Wreck of the Federal Express, 1986 pic


Capitol
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Capitol
Mile: 0.6 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

As seen from the west side of the building, the station faces the US Capitol, a half mile distant.


Link
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Link
Mile: 0.6 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

Railfans who go bonkers trying to figure out where this rusty link from Union Station across 1st Street leads can step across the street into the American Psychological Association building.

Reader Steve Cross, who was a GPO employee and sometimes opened the doors for the trains, kindly fills in details:

    "The bridge carries now-unused tracks into the Government Printing Office warehouse. The tracks curve to the right upon entering the building and run almost the entire length of the building on the third floor. Very sturdy construction for 1930s era." (Subsequent to that era, the GPO was renamed the Government Publishing Office.)


East Side
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

East Side
Mile: 0.6 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

Behind the station's east side, Amtrak trains have a choice of several platform and passageway styles.


Platforms
NEW! Sep 2020

Platforms
Mile: 0.6 Date: Jul 2019
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

At the platforms, the roofs over the passengers are the century-old station originals.

Link: train christening 1929


View North
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

View North
Mile: 0.6 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

Turning around to look the opposite way yields an excellent view of the tracks leading to/from the station. That's the H Street "Hopscotch Bridge" crossing below.

Prior to Union Station, below was where B&O's Metropolitan Branch had split to the left from the Washington Branch. Next the Met followed what is now First Street to New York Avenue, where it zig zagged briefly along what was Boundary Avenue (now Florida Avenue), and then followed the alignment it currently does.


H Street
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

H Street
Mile: 0.7 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

Beyond the H Street bridge at left we can see a 6-car Metro Red Line train is approaching Union Station. At right-center K Tower oversees operations.

Since the National Children's Museum is nearby, decorations were added to create the Hopscotch Bridge.

Links to older pics: 1920, 1920s


Metro Prep
Photo courtesy District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Library
NEW! Sep 2020

Metro Prep
Mile: 0.7 Date: Aug 1974
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

signage H Street didn't always arch over the yard, it used to pass under. As seen here during the mid-1970s, first the railroad bridge was given a makeover to support DC's then-new Metro system. Soon thereafter, the H Street bridge was built, and the old underpass converted into a storage area.

The multi-font, ransom-note appearance of the sign at right, with upside-down J used for the letter r, adds an implied madman's "or else" message to the basic "keep out" one.

Link: DDOT source photo


Zoom 2008
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Zoom 2008
Mile: 0.7 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

A departing Metro train curls past Washington's bus depot toward another Metro train stopped at the Red Line's New York Ave, Florida Ave, Gallaudet University Station. The station's name was later simplified to NoMa. In the distance, New York Avenue crosses over the tracks.

Links station info at Wikipedia, similar ~1910s


Deep Zoom 2019
NEW! Sep 2020

Deep Zoom 2019
Mile: 0.7 Date: Jul 2019
Ease: B View: N
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

The Union Station area experienced significant growth during the MARC 4912 first two decades of the 2000s. Developers wanted to acquire air rights here so they can also construct office buildings over the tracks, but then covid-19 came along and changed where many people work.

Below the catenary, MARC 4912 rushes in ahead of an approaching train being pushed by Amtrak 657. These two engines are the ones seen in the Platforms photo above which was snapped shortly after this photo.


K Street
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

K Street
Mile: 0.9 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: W
Area: B- IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 13 Topographic Maps

The K, L, and M Street underpasses were virtually indistinguishable from each other in their sodium-illuminated grittiness. Later mods for bike lanes gave each a unique, and more-welcoming, look.


2nd Street

2nd Street
Mile: 1.0 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 13 Topographic Maps

On the east side of the tracks, 2nd Street NE parallels while K, L and M Streets scoot underneath. Since the time of this photo, this area has been spiffed up and the road repaved and restriped.

Link: reverse view 1910s


Trackside
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Trackside
Mile: 1.0 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 10 D 13 Topographic Maps

From trackside, NoMa Metro Station appears surrounded by a web of catenary and signals. The signals are similar to B&O CPLs because B&O was tasked with signal design for the Union Station Terminal joint project it shared with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Part of the station resides on what had been a small B&O yard between M and N Streets, east of First Street NE that saw use into the 1970s.

Links: 1917, Railfan Guide to Union Station


C Tower 1920
Photo courtesy Library of Congress
NEW! Sep 2020

C Tower 1920
Mile: 1.1 Date: ~1920
Ease: B View: N
Area: B T6:
Map: DC 10 E 13 Topographic Maps

The 1920s wins the award for Decade with the Neatest Track Ballast.

Judging by its appearance to the left of C Tower, a new bridge for New York Avenue has not yet opened to traffic.


Deeper Zoom 1977
Photo courtesy Library of Congress
NEW! Sep 2020

Deeper Zoom 1977
Mile: 0.7 Date: 1977
Ease: View: N
Area: T6:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

Prior to the 2000s, where NoMa station now exists at lower left, B&O had a small yard. The railcars at right, on the near side of New York Avenue, occupy a small Pennsylvanis Railroad freight yard. By photo time it was under Conrail control. It was accessed by a single-track route under New York Avenue.

New York Avenue leaps over the tracks at photo middle. Beyond it was Eckington Yards, B&O's primary freight facility in Washington. The largest, the E Yard, extends from photo middle to the left. Even more distant, notice three groups of boxcars. The closest of those three occupied the D Yard, with the more distant ones residing in the C and B Yards.

Link: LoC source photo


Overview
NEW! Sep 2020

Overview
Mile: Date: 1989
Ease: View: N (down)
Area: IC2:
Map: Topographic Maps

The D, C, and B yards, among others, can be found on this roadway map. Note that north, the general direction of this tour, is oriented in the down direction. Despite its upside-downedness for tour purposes, the map can be handy for understanding the complex layout here.

For future reference, the key features are the "Metropolitan Sub-Division" running south-north through the middle, adjacent WMATA's "Metro Shop Tracks" that are far more numerous than depicted. Also note the "No. 1 Main" and "No. 2 Main" curving from/to the east (left); they connect with the ex-B&O Washington Branch, now CSX Cap Sub. All of these are shown in the photos below.

Roadway Maps like this, and lots more cool B&O history materials, are available from The B&O Railroad Historical Society.

The next photo looks down the map from its top from near the word Avenue toward the E Yard.


Below New York Avenue
Photo courtesy District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Library
NEW! Sep 2020

Below New York Avenue
Mile: 1.3 Date: May 1969
Ease: B View: N
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

This was the scene a few years before Metro (WMATA) joined the fray. The photographer is standing on what had been the Met's main track through Eckington Yards. Now Metro occupies this stretch after it displaced the Met's main route to the east (right).

B&O's E Yard can be glimpsed on the left. In the distance, the T Street automobile bridge spans the tracks. It was removed to make room for Metro.

Link: DDOT source photo


Map 1907
Photo courtesy Library of Congress
NEW! Sep 2020

Map 1907
Mile: 1.4 Date: 1907
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

E Yard was home to the main freight station. On this map, it's the building, or set of 3 buildings, at bottom left in the shape of the letter J.

This map suggests that in 1907 New York Avenue passed under the railroad, but I have found no confirming evidence. Eckington Place runs along the left edge of map portion shown.


From Eckington Place
Photo courtesy Library of Congress
NEW! Sep 2020

From Eckington Place
Mile: 1.5 Date: Jun 1923
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B- IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

zoom north zoom east B&O did not forget its Freemason roots, running special trains for the 1923 Masonic Convention in Washington. Eckington's usual freight-only facility has made extra room for passenger trains, including temporary tracks. Waste buckets at the end of each car suggest at least some of these cars also provided berths for sleepy conventioneers.

The railroad even hauled out a few of its museum pieces, a few years before it would also do so for The Fair of the Iron Horse. The big sign hides those pieces, but you can see them in the second 1923 photo linked below.

Links: source photo, 1923, 1923

Change for: Fair of the Iron Horse tour at this site


From New York Avenue
Photo courtesy District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Library
NEW! Sep 2020

From New York Avenue
Mile: 1.5 Date: May 1967
Ease: B View: NE
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

A similar view 40-some years later and one block east shows a New York Avenue overpass widening effort in full swing. E Yard is off photo left, with a corner of its freight station making it into the photo. The tracks with catenary support poles belong to the Pennsylvania Railroad which, at photo time, was less than a year from being merged into Penn Central.

Links: DDOT source photo, ~1950


WMATA Brentwood Yard
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew
Updated Sep 2020

WMATA Brentwood Yard
Mile: 1.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: NE
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

After another 40 years this was the appearance. WMATA's Brentwood Yard, which includes the building at left, largely occupies what has been the Pennsylvania Railroad's main freight yard in Washington.

I am uncertain precisely where Washington Terminal trackage ends and CSX's Metropolitan Subdivision officially begins, but it's in this vicinity.


New York Avenue 1960
Photo courtesy District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Library
NEW! Sep 2020

New York Avenue 1960
Mile: 1.5 Date: 1960
Ease: B View: W
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

Busy New York Avenue has worn out multiple generations of bridges over the tracks here. Pictured might be the second bridge at this location. The Washington Monument is the tallest pointy object at left, and on the right B&O's freight station can be glimpsed through PRR's wires.

Link: DDOT source photo


Freight Station
Photo courtesy District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Library
NEW! Sep 2020

Freight Station
Mile: 1.5 Date: May 1967
Ease: B View: W
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

An abundance of visual clutter is likely one reason relatively few good photos of the freight station exist.

Link: DDOT source photo


Under New York Avenue
Photo courtesy District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Library
NEW! Sep 2020

Under New York Avenue
Mile: 1.5 Date: Jun 1967
Ease: B View: W
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

This view pulls back to show much of E Yard on the distant side of the many foreground tracks to/from Union Station.

Links: DDOT source photo, ~1950


Final Years
Photo courtesy District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Library
NEW! Sep 2020

Final Years
Mile: 1.5 Date: 1968
Ease: B View: NE
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

Looking from where Florida and New York Avenues meet finds the freight station nearing retirement. The buildings endured into the 1980s, and E Yard until about 1990.

Links: DDOT source photo, a few color photos


Repair
Photos courtesy Dave Hiteshew
Updated Sep 2020

Repair
Mile: 1.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

Metro's aging fleet - as of 2020, some cars were in service since the system opened in 1976 - gets the spa treatment here. Eckington's E Yard had been off photo left. The now track-free wide area at extreme left had been home to D and C Yards. Met CPLs

The ramp at distant left carries Metro's Red Line over the Met tracks which in this view scoot from the bottom right, curve around the right (east) side of the main repair building, then swing back left under the aforementioned ramp.

In the zoom at right, CPLs grace both sides of the single-track connection between the Met and Union Station.


CPL
NEW! Sep 2020

CPL
Mile: 1.6 Date: Jul 2019
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 11 Topographic Maps

employee platform Here's a closer view of that same CPL signal. As of 2019, CSX's CPL replacement program had not yet reached here.

Ahead, Metro offers an employee benefit few other organizations can match: a private station, well, a private platform, per the sign shown at right.


Grade Crossing
NEW! Sep 2020

Grade Crossing
Mile: 1.7 Date: Dec 2018
Ease: B View: N
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 11 Topographic Maps

Employees who drive to work access Metro's repair facility via this grade crossing, one guarded by typical gates, and atypical traffic signal. The near track provides a connection between the Met and Amtrak's repair facilities at Ivy City, which is behind the photographer. The next track over connects to the coach yard where passenger cars are stored while waiting for the next rush hour. The elevated line track carries Metro over the Met.

The single Met track runs between the catenary poles and the fence. The Met's connection with the CSX Cap Sub (ex B&O Washington Branch) curves to follow atop the embankment on the right. CSX shares the Met with Amtrak's passenger service between Washington and the midwest.

Before its removal during 1974, the T Street bridge had spanned overhead right about here.

Link: 1974


Curve From Cap Sub
NEW! Sep 2020

Curve From Cap Sub
Mile: 1.8 Date: Jul 2019
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 11 Topographic Maps

This reverse view from Metro's "hill" over the freight lines captures autoracks on the aforementioned curve.


Dance
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Dance
Mile: 1.9 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: C+ View: N
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 11 Topographic Maps

After Metro invited itself into the middle of the yard, freight switching to/from Eckington took place here. The track on the left is the last vestige of Eckington Yard. Those on the right handle Met traffic.

At the north end of the yard, Metro Rail (right) tangos with the Metropolitan Branch, first rising above, then dipping underground only to emerge about a mile ahead between what had been B&O's tracks. The overpass in the distance is for Franklin Street.


Rhode Island Ave
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Rhode Island Ave.
Mile: 2.1 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B- View: N
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 10 Topographic Maps

B&O's bridge across Rhode Island Avenue looks mundane compared to the sweeping, column-supported Metro and passenger walkways. From here north, things are quieter for B&O, though Metro keeps it company by paralleling for the next 6 miles.

In the past, QN Tower had resided at the photographer's location.

Links: 1977, 1992


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