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Old Main Line Photo Tour


B&O Old Main Line
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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Baltimore Terminal

Baltimore Terminal
Mile: 5.6 Date: May 2009
Ease: B+ View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 42 B 11 Topographic Maps

CSX's Baltimore Terminal Subdivision encompasses all the trackage this tour had followed southwest out of downtown Baltimore, plus its yards and operations, as well as the portions northeast to the Philadelphia Subdivision. It's a nice touch that the Subdivision has echoed for their symbol the B&O's Capitol herald.

Initially I was mistaken that the metal rod attached to the utility pole was somehow related to a nearby Cab Signal Test Slip station. Reader Dave Witty kindly clued me in:

    "The telescoping metal rod attached to the utility pole is called a brake stick. We use it to apply and release handbrakes on freight cars per recent operating rules. It has nothing to do with Cab signal test slips. Cab signal test slips are carried by engineers in their 'grip'. Once a cab signal test has been completed, the engineer puts the completed form into a cab signal box (which looks like a mailbox) located at many places along the right of way."
Cab Signals are part of a safety system that displays on-board to the engineer the state (stop, proceed, etc.) of trackside train signals. The system is tested periodically.

Detour: Philadelphia Branch tour at this site


Halethorpe

Halethorpe
Mile: 5.8 Date: Feb 2000
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B IC2: 245, 386, 387
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

Before the centralization era (train control from one headquarters), HX Tower did the controlling here, switching south and west bound traffic between the OML and the Washington Branch. Trains still switch tracks in this vicinity, but switch settings are controlled remotely from CSX operations in Jacksonville, Florida.

The B&O erected HX Tower in 1917, and closed it Oct. 1, 1985; this tower remains the last active along the OML. Presently this area is industrial and very busy. During the 2010s people broke into the tower and homeless took up residence. With its torn windows letting in moisture, the tower's days are numbered.

Links: 1976 interior, 1978, CSX 118 in 1989


Bridge 8A
NEW! late-Jan 2018

Bridge 8A
Mile: 5.8 Date: Jan 2018
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

Here is that newer, circa 1950, Halethorpe Farms Road bridge. On its right, where the utility lines still follow their original route, the old stone arch might be hiding under soil and brush. Yes, that's shuttered HX Tower at right on the other side of the tracks, and yes, there's a B&O herald under the bridge's faded CSX sign as can be seen in the 1987 photo linked below.

Link: 1987


Milepost 6

Milepost 6
Mile: 5.9 Date: Apr 2009
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

Between the siding that serves factories along Halethorpe Farms Road and the main line tracks is a concrete foundation, a remant of the signal bridge that stood at this location for the better part of a century. It was obviated by the newer signals beyond milepost 6, here haloed by the lights of approaching CSX 7926. Beyond the signals are bridges of US 1, and I-195.

This spot is perhaps more notable for what does not appear. Beginning in the 1870s and lasting for a century, the B&O planned to build on the left an alternate alignment to bypass the Thomas Viaduct's curves. The alignment would have remained on the south side of US 1 and joined the Washington Branch near Paradise Avenue in Elkridge. The railroad acquired the necessary property, and graded both ends using material excavated from the Howard Street tunnel in Baltimore. Financial trouble in 1896 halted the work, and ultimately the plan was never fulfilled. A portion of the route adjacent to the Calvert Distillery was sold in 1972 to Seagram, but much of the land remains in possession of CSX even now.


Offloading
NEW! late-Jan 2018

Offloading
Mile: 5.8 Date: Apr 2009
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

On the siding, plastic pellets are vacuumed off hoppers and sucked into a nearby building where presumably they go into injection molding machines. During the 1950s additional sidings peeled off to the right from this one.

When I was age 10 my dad took me to where he worked and demonstrated the pneumatic tube message transport system there. I was fascinated! If Elon Musk has his way, similar technology will be employed in a Hyperloop along the Northeast Corridor.

Transport of people via underground pneumatic tube was demonstrated by Beach Pneumatic Transit in New York City around 1870, long before the city had subways.

Link: Beach Pneumatic Transit


Gadsby's Run

Gadsby's Run
Mile: 6.0 Date: Feb 2000
Ease: B+ View: N
Area: B IC2: 37
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

The B&O's early engineers were overly concerned about keeping their railroad level. They feared the steam engines would not be able to pull loads on steep grades, so they restricted the OML to a mere 0.7% grade. To keep things flat, substantial fills were needed at certain locations, such as Gadsby's Run (also known as Herbert's Run). Here a 57-foot fill was built over a small arched bridge. As at the Deep Cut, all this work was done by hand.

This is the only B&O stone bridge to display 3 construction dates, the oldest 1828, the next 1875 when it was widened to support more tracks, and the third 19??. The final date is embossed in concrete that has not survived as well as the adjacent granite, leaving its last two digits tough to decipher. In an act of preservation, for the 1875 widening the new portion was built inside, and the original stone arch retained and moved outward. It's easy to see this by walking part way into the tunnel. In the foreground, an inexplicably odd assortment of rocks embedded in concrete litters the streambed. This is one of the easiest OML arched stone bridges to access. Simply drive to the end of Hollins Ferry Road, and walk a short distance toward the stream.


Pennsylvania Crossing

Pennsylvania Crossing
Mile: 6.1 Date: Apr 2000
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

The electric catenary indicates these are not B&O tracks. This is the view from the B&O bridge over the ex-Pennsylvania tracks, the Penn Line, as a high-speed commuter train zooms toward Washington on Easter Sunday. The B&O and Pennsy were fierce competitors when Pennsy muscled into the region. It would be interesting to hear what must have been tense negotiations for the construction of this crossing. The original bridge, a stone arch structure, lasted until replaced by the current, quite ordinary bridge in 1934 by the McClintic-Marshall Corporation.

During the 20th Century this location was considered as a connection point between the two rail systems, which would lead to a mix of passenger and freight on the same lines. Such a mix is not conducive to the high speed passenger service Amtrak envisions. It could be accommodated by widening the Penn Line corridor to 5 or 6 tracks, an expensive undertaking.

Change for: Penn Line tour at this site


B&O 4611
Photo courtesy Herb Harwood collection

B&O 4611
Mile: 6.1? Date: 1941
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 41 K 11 Topographic Maps

This eastbound steamer's location is uncertain, but it appears to be between the Pennsy line and US 1.


Signals
NEW! late-Jan 2018

Signals
Mile: 6.3 Date: Dec 2017
Ease: B+ View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 41 K 11 Topographic Maps

This CSX signal bridge regulates westbound traffic and guards the switches ahead. Trains bound for Washington, DC will employ the left two tracks, while those headed directly for points west will ride the rightmost tracks, the Old Main Line.

At photo time the equipment box at left was labelled Contee Road, having been recycled from a spot about 16 miles southwest. Behind it the 1929-built and scheduled-for-replacement Vinegar Hill Bridge that carries US Route 1 is at least the second generation bridge at this location. Originally the B&O and turnpike had met at grade here. The bridge provides an excellent vantage point for east-looking photos, such as the next few.


From US 1
Photo credit B&O RR
NEW! late-Jan 2018

From US 1
Mile: 6.3 Date: ~1920
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 41 K 11 Topographic Maps

This view looks back toward Halethorpe circa 1920 before either CSX or B&O signal bridges.

A new bridge over the tracks is scheduled to open during 2021 but it is not yet known if the new bridge will permit pedestrian access for modern views of the trains.


CSX 8528

CSX 8528
Mile: 6.3 Date: Oct 2000
Ease: C View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 41 K 11 Topographic Maps

Despite its unmaintained appearance, the leftmost track remains in active use to serve industry at Halethorpe. That track is a leftover from the first half of the 20th century when the Old Main Line was double tracked its entire length.

In 2008 CSX reconnected the leftmost track with the one adjacent as part of a track and signal upgrade in this vicinity.

Links to older pictures: 1981, 1983


MARC

MARC
Mile: 6.3 Date: Oct 2000
Ease: C View: E
Area: B IC2: 245
Map: Ba 41 K 11 Topographic Maps

It's not only CSX that employs this route, MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter) trains do as well. This train is actually heading toward the camera on a trip from Baltimore to Washington, DC. The locomotive pushing at the rear is being remotely controlled from end/lead car 7852.


Coal
Updated late-Jan 2018

Coal
Mile: 6.3 Date: Dec 2003
Ease: C View: NE
Area: B IC2: 245
Map: Ba 41 K 11 Topographic Maps

Track 3 hosts a mile-long eastbound coal drag, its dual engines CSX 216 in the lead working to pull the heavy load up the small incline. Heat distortion from the engines' exhaust obscures part of the B&O's CPL signal bridge as well as HX tower back at Halethorpe. In the view above the engines are crossing over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor lines.

The siding curving on the right marks where the Thomas Viaduct bypass mentioned earlier would have connected.

Links to older pictures: (Railfan.net ABPR Archive) 1977, 1982


Arched Bridge

Arched Bridge
Mile: 6.6 Date: Apr 2000
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B IC2: 299
Map: Ba 41 J 12 Topographic Maps

This small, circa 1830 arched bridge is almost lost in the shadow of I-195 (seen in the background), but does have a claim to fame: it is the oldest original railroad bridge still in mainline use anywhere in the world (!).

Link to older picture: 1978



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