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Northern Central Railway Photo Tour


Northern Central Railway
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.


<< Previous (south) | THIS PAGE: Mount Vernon to Woodberry | Next (north) >>

Map 1877
Image courtesy Johns Hopkins University

Map 1877
Mile: Date: 1877
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 34 J 7 Topographic Maps

This tour page picks up at North Avenue found crossing the bottom of this 1877 map, and proceeds generally north to Woodberry's green and pleasant land.


Mount Vernon Yard
Photos courtesy Library of Congress

Mount Vernon Yard
Mile: 1.5 Date: 1974
Ease: View: NW
Area: T6: 242
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

That's NC's yard route at the bottom-left corner where it sneaks under North Avenue. NC's bypass route is right of photo center where a maintenance of way train appears to have paused to pick zoom up track supplies. At photo time catenary had not yet been removed.

The B&O's Belt Line route cuts across bottom right, while the maintenance shop of the former Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad stands at photo right.

NC's Mt. Vernon yard is the large area at the top with resting coal trains.


North Avenue

North Avenue
Mile: 1.6 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: S
Area: C T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

This is a reverse view from Light RailLink's North Avenue Station. Hidden below is Amtrak's B&P Tunnel


North Avenue Station

North Avenue Station
Mile: 1.6 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B View: N
Area: C T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

North Avenue overlooks the light rail station. The blue building at distant center is a Light RailLink repair shop.


Bypass

Bypass
Mile: 1.6 Date: Sep 2016
Ease: C View: N
Area: C T6:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

NC's yard bypass track has seen little use for decades. The proposed B&P Tunnel replacement would emerge on the left.

The original wall on the left held back mounds of coal destined to feed NC engines. The current wall holds back the light rail tracks as they descend toward Mt. Vernon Yard. We're inching closer to the blue building...


Yard in Winter
Photo courtesy FA Wrabel collection

Yard in Winter
Mile: 1.8 Date: ~1910
Ease: B View: NE
Area: C+ T6: 241
Map: Ba 34 K 9 Topographic Maps

An early-20th-century light snow highlights dark rail equipment at Mt. Vernon Yard. The yard derives its name from the Baltimore neighborhood on its south edge.


Light Rail Shop
Photo credit HH Harwood

Light Rail Shop
Mile: 1.8 Date: ~2000
Ease: B View: NE
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

This is a similar view about a century later. Let maintenance devine shine forth on our clouded hills.

Declining demand for freight service along the Jones Falls valley left room in Mt. Vernon Yard for this light rail shop that opened during the 1990s.


Survey 1894
Image courtesy Johns Hopkins University

Survey 1894
Mile: Date: 1894
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

Light rail's shop occupies the site of NC 40-stall roundhouse. North Avenue is at bottom, while at top Cedar Avenue is now Wyman Park Drive.

Northwest of the roundhouse was a Blacksmith shop and Carpenter shop. The larger buildings northwest of those are labeled Repair Shops.

Across the Jones Falls are three quarries, from top to bottom: Old, Schwind's, and Atkinson's. Now, westbound 29th Street descends through Old Quarry as it approaches its bridge across Jones Falls.

Toward bottom right, where now one can find a loop of track adjacent the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, is a small roundhouse of the narrow-gauge Baltimore & Lehigh Railroad. The B&L would soon become part of the standard-gauge Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad.


Aerial 1927
Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University

Aerial 1927
Mile: Date: 1926/1927
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

Here's the same area as the topo map, in aerial photo form.

After NC's roundhouse was consumed by a 1911 fire and not rebuilt, the railroad moved engine repair to shared quarters Orangeville on the east side of Baltimore.


Aerial 1938
Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University

Aerial 1938
Mile: Date: Apr 1938
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

29th Street bridge plaque During 1931 the NC opened a produce terminal at Mt. Vernon.

Over the north end of the yard, a bridge for 29th Street was built during 1937. Farther north, another Depression-era project was the 41st Street bridge across the same valley.


Aerial 1953
Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University

Aerial 1953
Mile: Date: Feb 1953
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

The fifteen years since the prior aerial photo included World War II, a period during which railroading was focused on support of the war effort.


Aerial 1964
Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University

Aerial 1964
Mile: Date: Apr 1964
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

Arrows of desire known as the Jones Falls Expressway (I-83) and the 28th Street bridge are obvious additions since the prior aerial photo.


Retaining Wall

Retaining Wall
Mile: 2.1 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B View: S
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

This retaining wall along the east side of Mt. Vernon yard likely dates to the 1870s construction of the yard.


Join

Join
Mile: 2.1 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B View: S
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

The NC's Bolton Yard (right) and bypass (left) routes approached the camera to join here at Mt. Vernon Yard. Light RailLink now occupies southern end of the yard.


From 28th Street

From 28th Street
Mile: 2.1 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B View: S
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

During the 20th century the yard evolved to handle much of Baltimore's light rail cars incoming produce. The yard saw its last freight railroad use during in the early 2000s as a rail-truck transfer terminal for certain bulk commodities.

At photo time, many Light RaiLink trains at right were idle because this section of the system was closed for track repairs following a water main break in downtown Baltimore.


Flexi-Flo

Flexi-Flo
Mile: 2.1 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B View: E
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

Lined Car courtesy Dave Hiteshew 2008 The ex-NC, ex-Conrail, Norfolk Southern portion of the yard had been active into the 2000s, but now waits for repurposing. The structures on the left were likely part of the Flexi-Flo system Conrail introduced here during November 1981. Flexi-Flo was developed by New York Central to speed the unloading of granular materials via air currents. Photo at left courtesy Dave Hiteshew.

Link: Flexi-Flo hoppers


Aerial 1961
Photo courtesy Baltimore Sun

Aerial 1961
Mile: 2.0 Date: 1961
Ease: View: N
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

When it was "builded" adjacent Mt. Vernon Yard, the tri-level I-83/JFX interchange at 29th Street was the most complex in the city. Upon completion, the formerly bi-directional 29th Street was made westbound only, while the then-new 28th Street bridge handled eastbound traffic.

I-83 view south Below photo center, the sharp, thin triangular projection pointing toward bottom right is a pedestian walkway to nowhere. It leads to a no-mans land between the high-speed traffic of southbound I-83, and the ramp from 29th Street to southbound I-83, but provides views of the traffic like that at right. It might have been intended as a pedestrian accessway to Druid Hill Park.

The thin white line near the upper-right corner traces the segment of the Ma & Pa Railroad that had been abandoned three years earlier. Though its portals have been covered, the railroad's tunnel under Sisson Street at 29th probably still exists.

Link: source photo


From 29th Street

From 29th Street
Mile: 2.2 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B View: S
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

Where not stuck in concrete, most ex-NC/Conrail/NS rails at the yard have been pulled up.


Pumphouse
Photo courtesy Kilduffs.net

Pumphouse
Mile: 2.2 Date: ~1940
Ease: B View: E
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

The fine masonry building in the foreground, built about the same time as the 29th Street bridge, is a pumphouse for Druid Hill Park's reservoir.

Beyond the pumphouse, at right, the bridge shadows an NC shed at the northern end of Mt. Vernon Yard. By 1940, smoke from engines had already left its mark on the masonry. Thirsty steam engines could grab a drink at the water tank trackside at left.

Link: 1912


Sandwich

Sandwich
Mile: 2.2 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B View: N
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

The pumphouse is still there, but lost in the sandwich made by the railroad (off photo right), 29th Street bridge, and I-83.


Converge
Photo credit HH Harwood

Converge
Mile: 2.2 Date: ~2000
Ease: B View: NW
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

Another sandwich, this one of light rail, is made by Norfolk Southern on left and right. Wyman Park Drive is the overpass in the distance.

From left to right: CR/NS lead to Mt. Vernon yard bulk transfer terminal, light rail going from double to single track (as originally built), CR/NS connection to Mt. Vernon yard lead track crossing light rail, CR/NS connection to light rail line for freight operation to Hunt Valley. At photo time the interchange track was still in service, but now sees just light rail maintenance use.


Pulled Up

Pulled Up
Mile: 2.2 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B View: N
Area: C+ T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 8 Topographic Maps

This is a similar view about 20 years later. The NS track to/from Mt. Vernon yard has been pulled up. The Timanus Grist Mill had operated on the right.

Link: Timanus Grist Mill


From Wyman Park Drive

From Wyman Park Drive
Mile: 2.4 Date: Nov 2019
Ease: B+ View: SE
Area: B T6: 240
Map: Ba 34 K 7 Topographic Maps

Light RailLink's ridership of close to 10 million annually sounds impressive until one realizes New York City's subway system tallies more riders than that every two weekdays.

A bridge across the valley here dates to the late 1800s when the renaming of Cedar Avenue to Wyman Park Drive had not yet happened.

Links: Cedar Avenue Bridge, metal arch bridges (PDF)


Single Track

Single Track
Mile: 2.4 Date: May 1999
Ease: B+ View: N
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 7 Topographic Maps

This is also from Wyman Park Drive, but looking north as spring colors peaked. Of the two tracks, only the one on the right is for light rail. During its early years, the system alternated stretches of single and double track, and as of 2020 sections at the system's northern end remain single-tracked. Here the other track was used by Conrail, and later Norfolk Southern.


Double Track

Double Track
Mile: 2.4 Date: Nov 2019
Ease: B+ View: N
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 K 7 Topographic Maps

This similar view about 20 years later shows the second light rail track was added on the east (right) side.

Mount Vernon Mill No. 1 is a former cotton mill that dates to the 1870s. During the 2010s it was repurposed into mixed use.


Clipper Mill
Photo courtesy HH Harwood collection

Clipper Mill
Mile: 3.0 Date: ~1970
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B T6: 243
Map: Ba 34 H 6 Topographic Maps

Clipper Mill tapped the power of the Jones Falls here starting in 1854. Without the VW bus and TV Hill antenna, it would be difficult to date this photo to more than a century later.

The building was recently restored, repurposed, and rechristened Whitehall Mill, its original name. Real estate interests have moved the "Clipper Mill" name north to elsewhere in Woodberry, causing untold confusion for historians.


Double Steam
Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Double Steam
Mile: 3.0 Date: ~1920
Ease: B View: E
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 6 Topographic Maps

A double head of steam lugs mixed freight uphill past Clipper Mill. The grade continued uphill to a local peak at Timonium. Visually below the chimney appears to be a milepost, with a digit of 2 or 3. This location is 2 track miles from Penn Station, and 3 from Calvert Street Station.


With Light Rail
Photo credit HH Harwood

With Light Rail
Mile: 3.0 Date: Apr 1992
Ease: B View: E
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 6 Topographic Maps

Harwood replicated the scene many decades later. He deserves extra thanks for contributing not only photos to this tour, but also his knowledge of area history.

The first mill at this site opened during the 1700s.

Link: Clipper Mill history


Under I-83

Under I-83
Mile: 3.1 Date: Dec 2019
Ease: A- View: W
Area: B- T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 6 Topographic Maps

Before reaching Woodberry, the NC alignment and I-83/JFX switch sides. The road will remain near and east of the railroad for the remainder of their run within Baltimore City.


Woodberry
Photo credit HH Harwood

Woodberry
Mile: 3.4 Date: 1990s
Ease: B+ View: N
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

During light rail's single-track era, many -- but not all -- stations were double-tracked, such as Woodberry's where MTA 5002 is about to stop. On the right is Meadow Mill which was built during 1877.

Link: 1969


MTA 5034

MTA 5034
Mile: 3.5 Date: Dec 2019
Ease: A View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

Since the time of the prior photo, mill buildings have been converted into condos and hip restaurants, but the Woodberry light rail station looks much the same.

Link: condos


CR 8260
Photo credit HH Harwood

CR 8260
Mile: 3.5 Date: ~1990
Ease: A- View: SE
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

With freight traffic on the line dwindling, and light rail installation soon to commence, Harwood captured Conrail 8260 about to cross Union Avenue.

Link: 1985


Meadow Mill

Meadow Mill
Mile: 3.5 Date: Dec 2019
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

This is a similar view from some 30 years later.


Juxtaposition
Photo credit HH Harwood

Juxtaposition
Mile: 3.5 Date: ~2000
Ease: A- View: SE
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

Old mill, new train.

Link: Woodberry's 1906 pandemic


Xing

Xing
Mile: 3.5 Date: Dec 2019
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

Old train, new livery. It's the same Union Avenue grade crossing, but looking the opposite direction as the prior photo. And, it's the same MTA 5034 as seen in the prior photo, but here it's wearing a newer paint scheme.

The tall, brick building behind the train was part of the Poole & Hunt iron mill.


Poole & Hunt
Photo courtesy owner Baltimore County Public Library

Poole & Hunt
Mile: 3.5 Date: ~1915
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B T6: 244
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

In this view from Meadow Mill, Poole & Hunt's tall brick building is at right. NC's Woodberry Station is at lower left where light rail's station now resides. Anyone know if the stone arch bridge at lower right remains extant? During my last Woodberry visit, I had not yet been aware of the bridge so did not know to check.

Links: Poole & Hunt history, similar, higher res photo


Xings

Xings
Mile: 3.5 Date: Dec 2019
Ease: A View: N
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

The next grade crossing leads to various old mill buildings in varying stages of repurposing. The tallest stack is a relic from the Schenuit Rubber factory that departed Woodberry during the 1960s. Prior to Schenuit, it was the site of Woodberry Factory that made textiles, and before that milled flour. When the building was torn down during 2021, it exposed stone walls behind the brick.

In 1855, Park Mill's netting factory began operation in the nearest building on the right.

Link: Woodberry Factory history


Siding

Siding
Mile: 3.6 Date: Nov 2019
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B- T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

A disconnected NC siding, with check rail, remains stuck in the pavement between light rail and the old factories. Much to the chagrin of William Blake, these tracks brought chariots of fire to Woodberry's dark satanic mills.

Links: Woodberry history, dark satanic mills


Aerial 1953
Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University

Aerial 1953
Mile: Date: Feb 1953
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 34 H 5 Topographic Maps

The resolution of this 1953 aerial is insufficient to see that siding, but it shows an entirely different rail siding, more a spur, to the large factory buildings on the east side of Jones Falls. Note rail cars curling adjacent on the north side of the large buildings at photo-right.

Within ten years that spur would be overshadowed by I-83/JFX. The 41st Street bridge cuts across the top half of the photo. The next tour page will resume on the north side of that bridge.


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