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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.


Brief Historical Background:


Washington Station
Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Washington Station
Mile: 0.0 Date: 1908
Ease: View: NE?
Area: A 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 the 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 the B&O's surviving station in Frederick, MD.

Locomotives steamed past the Capitol until politicians tired of the 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.


Union Station

Union Station
Mile: 0.5 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: A View: NE
Area: A 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 in the 1990s has given it a new vitality.

Links: Pic group, trolley, Images of Union Station


Immense
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Immense
Mile: 0.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: N
Area: A 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: A IC2:
Map: 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: A 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.


Interior
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Interior
Mile: 0.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: W
Area: A 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: A 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: 0.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: S
Area: A 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: 0.7 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: NW
Area: A 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."


East Side
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

East Side
Mile: 0.7 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: SW
Area: A 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.


View North
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

View North
Mile: 0.7 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: A 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.


H Street
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

H Street
Mile: 0.7 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: A 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


Zoom
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Zoom
Mile: 0.7 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: A 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 Univerity Station. In the distance, Florida Avenue crosses over the tracks.


Amtrak 941

Amtrak 941
Mile: 0.7 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View: S
Area: A IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

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


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, the New York Avenue Metro Station appears surrounded by a web of catenary and signals.

Links: 1917, Railfan Guide to Union Station


2nd Street

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

2nd Street NE parallels the tracks 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.


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 are virtually indistinguishable from each other in their sodium-illuminated grittiness.


Reverse
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Reverse
Mile: 1.4 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: S
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

From Florida Avenue, it's 2 miles back to the Capitol. Metro's station (right) is one of the newest in the system.

Link: station info at Wikipedia


Yards
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

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

Lots of train stuff can be seen from New York Avenue, starting from the left: Metro's Brentwood repair facility, the B&O Metropolitan Branch (notice CPL signals) now CSX Metropolitan Subdivision, Amtrak's Ivy City yards, the B&O's Washington Branch (more CPLs) now CSX Capital Subdivision, and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor ex-Pennsylvania Railroad line.

Technically, I believe CSX's Metropolitan Subdivision does not begin until this area: the track from here back to Union Station is instead part of the Capitol Subdivision. However, since milepost numbering for the Met begins at the B&O's 19th century Washington Station I thought it appropriate to begin this photo tour there as well.


Repair
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

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 - some cars have been in service since the system opened in 1976 - get the spa treatment here.

The ramp at distant left carries Metro's Red Line over the B&O's Metropolitan Branch 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.


Dance
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Dance
Mile: 1.8 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: C View: N
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 11 Topographic Maps

The track on the left comes from Union Station, while those on the right curve around from the Washington Branch, now CSX's Capital Subdivision. 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 the 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

The 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 the B&O, though the Metro keeps it company by paralleling for the next 6 miles.

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

Links: QN Tower, 1977, 1992


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