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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.



Looking Back
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Looking Back
Mile: 2.3 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: S
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 9 Topographic Maps

Last call to see the US Capitol comes from the Metropolitan Branch Trail that parallels the tracks. The bridge carries Metro's Red Line over the ex-B&O, now CSX, tracks while the CPL signal advises Rule 286: "Proceed at medium speed, preparing to stop at next signal and be governed by the indication displayed by that signal."

Prior to its closure in 1992, you would have found QN Tower on the left.

Links: 1992, 1992, Trail


8th Street
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

8th Street
Mile: 2.4 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: NE
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 9 Topographic Maps

The shape of these warehouses along 8th Street just north of Franklin Street, and their proximity to the Met tracks (right), suggest they once had sidings. Please chime if you know what these buildings had housed. The number of customers served directly from the Metropolitan Branch has dwindled to but a few.


Center
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Center
Mile: 2.9 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: S
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 8 Topographic Maps

The view back from the Monroe Street bridge shows Metro's electric trains, which can dip and rise more easily than heavy freights, scoot underneath the latter to emerge in the middle. Presumably operating in the middle of the CSX tracks, rather than along side, offers an advantage. If instead the alignments had been side-by-side, then not only Metro but also CSX could switch trains between their tracks, but CSX would have trouble reaching customers on the Metro side.

This is where the Metropolitan Branch tracks finally curve west from their north and even northeast heading out of DC.


Brookland
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Brookland
Mile: 3.0 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: NW
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 8 Topographic Maps

Shortly after its tracks squeeze between those of CSX, Metro's Brookland-CUA station further sandwiches itself between Monroe Street and Michigan Avenue. This is one of only a few Metro stations built on a curve. Station canopies never extend the full length of the platform, presumably to accomodate those who prefer to stand in the sun.

Prior to the Metro, the B&O's University Station had been located in this vicinity. CUA and University refer to The Catholic University of America.

Found on the CUA campus is the Thomas W. Pangborn building; to my knowledge Thomas is not related to B&O promoter Joseph Pangborn.


Four Trains
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Four Trains
Mile: 3.1 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: N
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 7 Topographic Maps

At 4 pm the afternoon commuter rush is underway. Overpasses like Michigan Avenue provide an easy view of the action as Metro leads CSX by 4 trains to 0.


CSX 885
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

CSX 885
Mile: 3.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: S
Area: B- IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 6 Topographic Maps

At first glance from the Taylor Street overpass it seems CSX has avoided being shut out, but actually this photo was snapped during a bright morning a week later. Note the disused siding in the shadows at bottom left.


Taylor St
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Taylor St
Mile: 3.6 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B- IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 6 Topographic Maps

Patterned concrete is the hallmark of a recently updated bridge.


CPL
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

CPL
Mile: 4.0 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 5 Topographic Maps

Since the time of this photo, most (all?) B&O-era CPL signals along the Met have been replaced by CSX in-line color-light signals. The Fort Totten Metro station lurks up ahead.


New Hampshire Ave
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

New Hampshire Ave
Mile: 4.9 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 D 3 Topographic Maps

The bridge that carries New Hampshire Avenue has also received a recent facelift. The original grade crossing here dates to 1934 and has been dedicated the Charles A. Langley bridge.

Immediately ahead is where Metro in June 2009 experienced its deadliest accident, one that occured when a DC bound Metro train struck another that had stopped. Anticlimbers were insuffient to prevent one car from plowing into and above another.

Links: NTSB accident photo, accident info


Kansas Ave
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Kansas Ave
Mile: 5.3 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 10 D 2 Topographic Maps

By contrast, the Kansas Avenue bridge has not yet received the 21st Century makeover. I assume these bridges were widened in the 1970s for Metro, but they have an older appearance that leaves me confused. Perhaps they date to grade separation sometime around 1940 or 1950. Someone in the know please speak up.

Before a whitewash, the metal sign at center displayed CSX; behind it may lurk a B&O herald. The other side of this bridge has neither CSX sign nor herald.


Aspen St
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Aspen St
Mile: 6.0 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 C 1 Topographic Maps

Yes, DC does have some streets not named for States, such as Aspen Street at milepost 6. That's Metro's Takoma Park station in the distance, with tall buildings of Silver Spring rising behind.


Takoma Station
Photo courtesy Takoma Park Historical Society
NEW! Oct 2013

Takoma Station
Mile: 6.1 Date: ~1920?
Ease: A View: W
Area: B+ IC2: 221
Map: DC 4 B 13 Topographic Maps

A population of civil servants during the first half of the 20th century made Takoma Park DC's "first suburb". Many commuted to their government jobs via this B&O station that had stood at the intersection of Cedar, 4th and Blair since 1886. It appears some arrived by bicycle.

Link: Takoma Park history (PDF)


Takoma
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Takoma
Mile: 6.2 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: DC 4 B 13 Topographic Maps

The Red Line's Takoma Metro Station sits adjacent to Cedar Street. The four tracks diverge to make room for the station within their center, and that means these bridges date to the 1970s when Metro was constructed here.

The B&O's Takoma station had been on the opposite side of the tracks at the left side of this photo.


DC Line
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

DC Line
Mile: 6.6 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: DC 4 B 12, Mo 37 B 12 Topographic Maps

Before Metro barged in, a distingished marker announced the boundary between Maryland and the District of Columbia, as illustrated by the photo linked below. Now this rail post makes a poor substitute. When rails like this are employed as mile markers, the flat surface (bottom of the rail) is turned to face the tracks.

Link to older picture: entering DC


B&O 1426
Photo credit Bruce Fales
NEW! Oct 2013

B&O 1426
Mile: 6.x Date: Jun 1932
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Mo 37 B 12 Topographic Maps

DC-bound passengers roll from Silver Spring to Tacoma Park on a sunny summer morning.


Red Line
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Red Line
Mile: 6.8 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Mo 37 B 12 Topographic Maps

A six-car Red Line passenger train scoots under Montgomery College's pedestrian overpass. The addition of Metro removed and/or obscured B&O artifacts that would have lingered along this stretch.


View South
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

View South
Mile: 6.9 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: S
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Mo 37 B 11 Topographic Maps

The pedestrian overpass is a nice spot from which to look both back...


View North
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

View North
Mile: 6.9 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Mo 37 B 11 Topographic Maps

...and ahead. Note two different styles of milepost 7 markers outside the tracks at left and right.


Next Stop Silver Spring
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Next Stop Silver Spring
Mile: 7.2 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: N
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Mo 37 A 11 Topographic Maps

Put a Metro stop just outside the height restrictions of DC and you get buildings that grow tall. Most of those seen here were raised up after 1990, but not the tiny brick structure at center, that's the restored B&O Silver Spring station.

There is much to see here, so let's explore.


Georgia Avenue Then
Photo credit B&O Museum

Georgia Avenue Then
Mile: 7.3 Date: 1919
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B IC2: 222
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

In 1873, the B&O marked its arrival in Silver Spring with laying of tracks across Brookeville Road, later Brookeville Turnpike and now Georgia Avenue (MD 97). This photo dates from the sleepy and bucolic half century before in 1922 the Woodside Development Corporation purchased adjacent Alton Farm and divided it into 1-acre residential sites. That initiated almost non-stop development and re-development that transformed Silver Spring into a bustling economic, business and transportation hub. semaphore signal

The B&O's original Silver Spring station is at distant right; more about it later. The pole is topped by a semaphore-type signal (magnified at right) the shape and lenses of which no doubt inspired the design of color-position light signals that would follow. At right is an octagonal concrete phone shack, very few of which survive. One is extant at Avalon on the Old Main Line.

Note the crossing is with a dirt road, a sharp contrast to the multi-lane, busy road that exists today.


Georgia Avenue Now
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Georgia Avenue Now
Mile: 7.3 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B IC2: 222
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

The photographer's location and view here are very close to that of the prior photo, but the area's appearance has changed so drastically as to be unrecognizable as the same spot.

A B&O Silver Spring station remains at the distant right; though now in a 1940s "modernized" form, it sits upon the same foundation as the original station of the prior photo. Georgia Avenue, grade separated in 1926, is now 6 lanes that speed -or traffic jam- under the bridge.


Dirt Road
Photo credit B&O Museum

Dirt Road
Mile: 7.3 Date: 1920
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2: 222
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

The road has not yet been paved, but at least the place is not deserted: one person walks at left. With the B&O station unseen on the left, presumably more people strolled about when trains arrived. The tracks on right belong to the Washington, Woodside and Forest Glen Railway Power Company, aka the Forest Glen trolley. From 1895 to 1924 the line operated along Georgia Avenue from Eastern Avenue to the National Park Seminary in Forest Glen (seen later in this tour).

Various accounts list the trolley as having its own Silver Spring station, which could be the substantial brick structure at center right, but since trolleys were never especially well-funded, might just as well be the shack at center. Anyone know? Near the shack note what appears to be a stop/go signal for the trolley.


1926 Bridge
Photo courtesy Richard Pearlman

1926 Bridge
Mile: 7.3 Date: ~1947
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

With development came more people, as well as more of that then-recent invention known as the automobile. Two years of grading crossing elimination effort brought the first bridge to this location in 1926. Operation of Georgia Avenue's Forest Glen trolley had been halted by bridge construction, and was slated to resume under the east side (left) but never did.

Growth was such that within 20 years this bridge proved a bottleneck for Georgia Avenue traffic...


Construction
Photo courtesy Richard Pearlman

Construction
Mile: 7.3 Date: ~1947
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

...so around 1947 work began on a new, longer bridge. Behind a B&O train clatters over the old one to give passengers a glimpse of the future.


More Construction
Photo courtesy Richard Pearlman

More Construction
Mile: 7.3 Date: ~1947
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

Passengers saw views like this captured by photographer Ira W. Pearlman.

Longtime DC area residents may recall Gifford's Ice Cream. Gifford's first shop opened in 1938 in the brightly painted building with awnings seen right of center.

Link: Gifford's


Removal
Photo courtesy Richard Pearlman

Removal
Mile: 7.3 Date: ~1948
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

When the new bridge opened in 1948, the original was quickly torn down.

In this view back to DC, the source of some of the new automobiles, a Sid Wellborn Chrysler Plymouth dealership, is on the right.


Same in 1920
Photo credit B&O Museum

Same in 1920
Mile: 7.3 Date: 1920
Ease: A View: S
Area: B IC2: 222
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

Incredibly, this is the same view as the prior, merely 28 years earlier, before grade separation. World War II, and its demand for additional workers in Washington, DC, helped fuel Silver Spring's rapid growth.

Of historical note is the Rail Crossing Warning signpost at left, a somewhat different style from current versions.


Completed
Photo courtesy Richard Pearlman

Completed
Mile: 7.3 Date: ~1948
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

The old, original bridge has been dismantled and its new, longer replacement is open for business. Georgia Avenue, though, needs finishing touches as a B&O steamer surveys from above.

The locals called the new bridge underpass "The Tunnel" possibly because of the style of adjacent pedestrian passageways. Perpendicular to the passageways is a pedestrian walkway spanning the bridge on its north side, lit by lampposts still in service today.

At upper left is Silver Spring's second B&O station, then only a few years old.


1976 Bridge
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

1976 Bridge
Mile: 7.3 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

Though the 1948 bridge was longer, less than 30 years later it was not wide enough for the arrival of the DC Metro. So, in the mid-1970s a separate but similarly-styled bridge was added on the south side, basically at the location spanned by the 1926 original. This effectively doubled the width creating room for not only two B&O tracks but also two Metro Red Line tracks.


Silver Pass
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Silver Pass
Mile: 7.4 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Mo 37 A 10 Topographic Maps

2006's colorful Silver Pass mosaic by G. Byron Peck decorates a bridge wall.


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