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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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Mile 26 Markers

Mile 26 Markers
Mile: 26.0 Date: Aug 2002
Ease: C View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 H 6, Ho 5 H 7 Topographic Maps

Three generations of mile markers are seen here. The oldest is the rusting piece of rail on the right with the fading "26" painted on. In the middle is a rusty, but newer signpost. On the left, despite being the newest, the current marker is already tired and leaning.


Looking West

Looking West
Mile: 26.1 Date: Aug 2002
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 H 5, Ho 5 H 6 Topographic Maps

This is typical summer scenery along the OML. This remote area of Patapsco State Park requires a long hike to reach. It's quiet and undisturbed here.

The CPL signals in the distance are dark; since this photo was snapped, CSX has replaced all the CPL signals along the OML.

Reader Joe Moltz contributed the following information:

    "Most CSX signals along the OML and other lines are approach lighted. This means that the signal is dark till a train enters the block on either side of it. If the train is approaching from the front side of the signal it will light and give the Engineer his signal. If a train is approaching from behind the signal it will light red. Once the trains clear the block in front of the signal, it will go dark again till needed.

    "There are some signals along the OML that are always lit. The ones that come to mind are at Woodstock, Rt 97 and Morgan Station Road. There may be others but these are the ones I know of. The ones I mentioned protect sidings so that may be why they are always lit."


Stringer

Stringer
Mile: 26.2 Date: Aug 2002
Ease: C View: SW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 G 6, Ho 5 G 7 Topographic Maps

Another stone stringer (the OML's first track base) basks in the sun alongside the tracks. This one has an odd set of iron strap rivet holes: note how they are paired. I surmise the first set of holes was drilled incorrectly, then the stone turned a bit and a new set drilled.


Bridge 26

Bridge 26
Mile: 26.2 Date: Aug 2002
Ease: C View: NW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 G 5, Ho 5 G 6 Topographic Maps

This one is a large (a person can easily walk under it), oddly constructed amalgam of stone, rails, I-beams and concrete, unlike any other I've seen along the OML. It looks like it might have been an arched stone bridge at one time, but hastily (sloppily) reconstructed circa 1900 after a washout. It might also have been a Loree-era realignment project, but the nearby brush was too overgrown for me to find an older alignment.

Also note the decorative finials atop both signal posts. Like all the OML's CPLs, since the time of this photo CSX has replaced these with its newer signal design.


Bridge 27

Bridge 27
Mile: 26.9 Date: Aug 2002
Ease: C+ View: NE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 E 5, Ho 5 E 6 Topographic Maps

Bridge 27 is a small, unphotogenic thing, but it does have the always-helpful painted-on number. This view looks back east as the winding OML bends around yet another hill. As of 2019 the inlet side of this bridge was found to have broken away from the rest, but it has not yet blocked water from flowing under the tracks.

Gorsuch bridge remains Jun 2019 Access to this spot is via Gorsuch Switch Road. The road ends about a half mile from the tracks, but there is a rocky hiking path that leads you right to the orange and white cable marker seen here in the upper left. Until at least the 1940s, Gorsuch Switch Road had spanned the Patapsco River via a bridge. As of 2019 parts of the bridge (photo, right) were still downstream of its stone abutments.

H. Branch Warfield, who had lived in this vicinity on the south (Howard County) side of the river, kindly shared memories:

    "You have taken me on your tour, now let me take you on one.

    "Route 32 runs through Howard County across the South Branch of the Patapsco towards Westminster in Carroll County. For your tour go south through Sykesville, past the Railroad Station, now Baldwin's Restaurant, cross the R.R.and bridge over the river. Take the next left (east), River Road. It follows the river closely, crosses a small stream, goes by what used to be a mining villlage Elba, with the Elba Furnace showing through the trees across the river. Gradually River Road veers away from the river, over several hills, and just as it turns sharpley to the south, to intersect Route 32 (again), you find a restored home with a sign in front: 'Solopia'. It sits on the northwest corner of what used to be a 335 acre farm. We always spelled it 'Solopha' even though the 1741 Land Grant patented by John Johnson, a recent arrival from county Salop in England, shows the spelling to be 'Salopia'. My ancestors bought the property in 1832.

    Gorsuch bridge abutment Jun 2019 "At this corner you intercept, to the left, Gorsuch Switch Road, once county-owned and maintained, now hardly a pathway down hill through woods and brush. After about a mile down hill, you cross a stream and then you come to what was once a bridge, but now large-stoned abutments on either side of the river. (Pause there, and envision us swimming and wading in the shallow water on summer days, or, in the winter, cuttting ice from the river, hauling it away with a four-horse team, back up the hill to the ice house near the main house. There, covered with straw, the ice lasted through the summer, cooling many a glass of iced-tea).

    "Now walk towards the railroad. On the left was a barn-red station for waiting passengers, and a sign 'Gorsuch'. On the right, was a barn-red milk stand, at a height level with the on-coming refrigerated B&O car door. Imagine a one-horse milk wagon, at 7:15 AM, unloading 5 and 7 gallon milk cans onto the stand and then sliding the cans aboard. (Once they picked me up, slid me aboard, the engineer released his brakes so as to drift slowly away, just to scare me). None of the buildings probably exist today. You notice that there are then two tracks, and (what we called) a 'spare' where sometimes box cars were parked. The west bound 'half-past two' train brought afternoon visitors to Solopha from Ellicott City and sometimes a fiddler or two from Baltimore to enliven gay-nineties evening dancing in the Solopha parlor and living room. Sometimes train tracks had to be replaced. A burley crew, led by the rhythmic chant of the crew-chief, and the echoing reply of the crew, lifted and replaced the heavy track, all lifting in unison with with the beat of the chant."


Gorsuch

Gorsuch
Mile: 26.9 Date: Aug 2002
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 E 5, Ho 5 E 6 Topographic Maps

Gorsuch was probably named for a nearby landowner. In the past, it was a B&O stop with a short siding. The station was located between the tracks and the river (left side in this photo).

Reader Andy Anderson wrote:

    "My mother also told me that years ago at Gorsuch Switch, the trains would come up from Baltimore and then change tracks, or get off the tracks to let another engine pass on the main line, etc. (I'm not sure). I don't think there is much left there now, but there is a road called Gorsuch Switch road. It is right off of Raincliffe Road, past Slacks road if you are going east. The 'switch' was in that hollow near the river."
Link: Likely origin of Gorsuch name (PDF)


CSX 5303

CSX 5303
Mile: 26.9 Date: Jun 2019
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 E 5, Ho 5 E 6 Topographic Maps

CSX 5303 and CSX 755 team up.

B&O historian and author Herb Harwood wrote:

    "I forget whether I had mentioned this earlier, but a couple of months ago I got involved in trying to track down the B&O's so-called Patapsco & Susquehanna branch. This was a projected cutoff line around Baltimore which left the OML between Sykesville and Gorsuch and ran roughly NE, vaguely following the course of Old Court Rd. and a portion of I-695, and joining the Philadelphia line at Van Bibber, MD (west of Edgewood). The line apparently was one of those Loree projects that never got anywhere, and, although some property apparently was acquired, little or no actual work was done on it.

    "The idea was to bypass the congestion around the Baltimore terminal (especially the Howard St. tunnel) and reduce mileage for OML freight traffic going to/from points north of Baltimore. There also may have been vague plans to join this with the Washington branch. From what I've been told, some grading work was started at Gorsuch, but obviously not much was ever done with the plan.

    "And about the time of WWI the PRR had a plan to use this route jointly with the B&O. The PRR line (going from south to north) would leave its Washington line near Landover, swing NW north of Laurel, and follow the Little Patuxent north to meet the 'new' B&O cutoff line at Granite."


Bridge 27 1/16 (!)

Bridge 27 1/16 (!)
Mile: 27.2 Date: Jul 2001
Ease: C+ View: SE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 D 4, Ho 5 D 5 Topographic Maps

Near the Freedom Water Treatment Plant east of Sykesville is where you'll find the only OML bridge with a fractional number: 27 1/16. This is very odd. The closeness of the number to the distance from Baltimore makes me suspicious. But, the numbers painted on other OML bridges are indeed consecutive, not mileage based.


Tiny Cut

Tiny Cut
Mile: 27.6 Date: Jul 2001
Ease: C+ View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 C 5, Ho 5 C 6 Topographic Maps

Hillside cuts, even small ones like this, are surprisingly rare along the OML. Here the hill dips sharply into the Patapsco River, so there was no room to go around, and no reason enough to build a tunnel. This one was informally named Long Girls' Cut.

Just beyond this cut, on August 25, 1940 a derailment tumbled B&O engine 4449 into the river and killed three of the crew. A picture of the engine is on page 120 of Joetta Cramm's book Howard County: A Pictorial History.


Want Fries with That?

Want Fries with That?
Mile: 27.8 Date: Oct 2003
Ease: C View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 C 5, Ho 5 C 6 Topographic Maps

Eastbound trains are about to enter a winding section of the OML so this is a good place for an automatic grease applicator. It will put some grease on the wheels to reduce friction and wear as trains negotiate the upcoming curves.

To reduce the cost of supplying electricity to this relatively remote area, the applicator instead employs the mechanical action of wheels passing over an actuator attached to the rails to pump out some grease. From the appearance, I'd say it's working. Subsequently, this unit was upgraded to a solar powered one.


Elba Furnace
Photo courtesy Steve Schuler

Elba Furnace
Mile: 28.1 Date: Jan 2004
Ease: B View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 5 C 6, Ca 35 C 5 Topographic Maps

Easily missed during leaf season are the trackside remains of Elba Furnace. Reader Steve Schuler located them and kindly contributed this picture. He writes:

    "My wife and I discovered the remains of the Elba Iron Furnace next to the OML just east of Sykesville. We though you might be interested if you weren't already aware of its presence. We noticed at least one stone stringer near the very top of the furnace.

    "A quick search on Google revealed this: '1847 - James W. Tyson erects Elba Furnace and produces 1500 tons per year of car wheel iron for the railroad.'

    "Attached is a photo taken today, January 17th. The photo was taken from the south bank of the Patapsco (along River Road) - I was facing north when I took the photo. The furnace is on the opposite bank. Feel free to use the photo on your site if you wish.

    "Thanks again for authoring such a great web site. We enjoy following your frequent adventures along the OML."

Further research indicates Elba Furnace remained active until damaged beyond repair by the flood of 1868. Wonderful find and contribution. Thanks, Steve.


Elba Stones

Elba Stones
Mile: 28.1 Date: Nov 2015
Ease: B- View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 C 5, Ho 5 C 6 Topographic Maps

Harwood coll. 1960 In addition to a stone track stringer, attached to one of these stones long ago was a strap rail joint plate (~1960 photo at left courtesy HH Harwood collection). More recently, I could find neither. The Old Main Line appears in the background.

Link: MHP's Elba info (PDF)


How Tomorrow Moves
NEW! late-Feb 2021

How Tomorrow Moves
Mile: 28.2 Date: Nov 2015
Ease: B- View: S
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 35 C 5, Ho 5 C 6 Topographic Maps

CSX's "How Tomorrow Moves" slogan began showing up on rolling stock around the year 2010. Maybe covered hoppers so emblazoned spend more time in other parts of the country, because I have seen relatively few in this region.


Sykesville Bypass Bridges
NEW! late-Feb 2021

Sykesville Bypass Bridges
Mile: 28.5 Date: Nov 2015
Ease: B View: W
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ca 35 A 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

panel As a town and grade crossing bypass, during 1963 Sykesville received the closer of these two bridges. It is the world's longest aluminum triangular box beam girder bridge.

Unfortunately, other metals were also employed in this bridge, leading to galvanic action that slowly eroded the aluminum. After 40 years in service, a new, non-aluminum bridge was built adjacent. Though it no longer sees use, the original bridge has been left standing in an act of historical preservation. Cliff swallows find it an excellent nesting location.


Sykesville Approach

Sykesville Approach
Mile: 28.6 Date: Mar 2003
Ease: B+ View: W
Area: B+ IC2: 205
Map: Ca 35 A 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

After a few more river-tracing bobs and weaves, the rails approach Sykesville. Originally, the OML curved to the right to leave room for the Sykes Hotel on the left. Parts of that alignment remain extant, and have their own tour page.

The red brick building ahead on the left is Sykesville's beautiful 19th century B&O station.

Links: ~1940, 1985


Sykesville Station 1970s
Photo courtesy Library of Congress
NEW! late-Feb 2021

Sykesville Station 1970s
Mile: 28.7 Date: 1970s
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B+ IC2: 88, 133, 391
Map: Ca 35 A 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

Sykesville is home to the only surviving Baldwin-designed railroad station exclusively on the OML (there's another at Point of Rocks that is shared with the Metropolitan Branch). Passengers used the station from its 1883 opening until the B&O ended such service along the line about 1950. Freight use continued into 1981.

Links: 1970s, 1985


Sykesville Station 1999

Sykesville Station 1999
Mile: 28.7 Date: May 1999
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B+ IC2: 88, 133, 391
Map: Ca 35 A 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

The station building now houses a restaurant. During the warm months, you can enjoy a meal on the covered patio (former passemger platform) and, if you're lucky, see some CSX traffic roll past.

Links: station restaurant, plaque


Butter Factory

Butter Factory
Mile: 28.7 Date: May 2005
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ho 5 A 5, Ca 35 A 4 Topographic Maps

Across the river from the station sits a former apple butter factory of the A. H. Renehan family, who had purchased the facilites from the B. F. Shriver Canning Company. The main building dates to 1917 and its angle relative to the railroad suggests service by a B&O spur in the past, but reader Joe Moltz writes:

    "If you're referring to the brick building with the curved roof, that is an old Apple Butter factory. It never had a rail connection although there is a railroad looking water tower behind it. That was water for the factory. The small wooden building next to the road was the scale shack for weighing trucks. Surprisingly enough there were other buildings there that did not survive the floods but that one did. A rail connection would have required a bridge over the river, something that was just not economically feasible for the amount of traffic the factory might have provided."

Link: Sykesville history project


CSX 6

CSX 6
Mile: 28.7 Date: Nov 2015
Ease: A- View: E
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ca 35 A 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

CSX 6 and CSX 7369 tow autoracks across Main Street for the fun of it. This is the lowest-numbered lead unit I have seen. When I last saw CSX 1, which is named the Spirit of West Virginia, it was not the lead engine.

Links: more pics of CSX 6, bridge 1962


The Blue Caboose
NEW! late-Feb 2021

The Blue Caboose
Mile: 28.7 Date: Nov 2015
Ease: A- View: W
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ca 35 A 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

Sykesville's blue caboose arrived via donation during the early 1990s. It began life with Reading Railroad, then spent time with Conrail, and finally Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation (SEPTA), hence its SPAX-8102 numbering. The caboose appears in several photos below.

Links: RDG 94003, SPAX-8102


MoW Equipment

MoW Equipment
Mile: 28.8 Date: May 1999
Ease: B+ View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

The siding just west of Sykesville station sometimes hosts assorted CSX Maintenance of Way equipment, such as that seen here.

MT 9546 is a tamper that measures the height of the track relative to nearby stretches, then vibrates the stone ballast around it to enable raising or lowering the rails as needed.


MoW Equipment 2

MoW Equipment 2
Mile: 28.8 Date: May 1999
Ease: B+ View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

Parked behind is a ballast regulator. These machines operate as a team, and make quite a racket when they do.


MoW Equipment 3

MoW Equipment 3
Mile: 28.8 Date: Nov 2015
Ease: B+ View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

Many years later you would have found a Gradall model XL 4100 Boom that CSX has numbered EX200701.

Link: Gradall RR Equipment


From River

From River
Mile: 28.8 Date: Nov 2015
Ease: B View: E
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

Mixed in with these erosion control stones are a few track stringers. The culvert barely seen at left is now fed by drains in the parking lot next to the station; previously, toilets of nearby buildings had emptied directly into the stream.

Link: Sykesville's checkered history


West

West
Mile: 28.8 Date: Mar 2003
Ease: B View: W
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 4 K 5 Topographic Maps

West of Sykesville, the OML re-enters rural terrain.


Stop
NEW! late-Feb 2021

Stop
Mile: 28.9 Date: Sep 2019
Ease: B- View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

An ordinary Stop sign designates the end of the siding often used by MoW equipment.


Departing Sykesville

Departing Sykesville
Mile: 28.9 Date: Mar 2003
Ease: B View: E
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 5 A 5 Topographic Maps

Here is the view looking back toward Sykesville as we continue our westbound tour. The original route joins with the old, infrequently used siding that parallels the present day track. For reference, the B&P tower can be seen in the distance at left center, and Sykesville Station is obscured by trees on the right.


>>> Detour to follow the disused original route through Sykesville <<<

From Above

From Above
Mile: 28.9 Date: Jul 2001
Ease: A View: E
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 4 K 5 Topographic Maps

This is another view looking back east from a hill along Oklahoma Avenue. Sykesville Station plus a rusting, blue caboose on the siding can be seen through the trees.

Before it was named Sykesville, the B&O called this location "Horse Train Stop" presumably because the horses that pulled the trains along the OML in pre-steam engine era were changed here. William Patterson, one of the early directors of the B&O, owned several thousand acres of land in this vicinity. He named his estate Springfield and made it his country home.


Tight Squeeze

Tight Squeeze
Mile: 29.0 Date: Mar 2003
Ease: B View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 4 K 5 Topographic Maps

Just west of town, I was surprised by the lack of clearance between the rock face and the siding tracks. As I learned later, and as you will see on the next tour page, there's a reason for the tight squeeze.

Link: 1983


CSX 8755

CSX 8755
Mile: 29.2 Date: Mar 2003
Ease: B- View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ca 34 K 4, Ho 4 K 5 Topographic Maps

Around the bend from the tight squeeze, colorful auto racks do their best to imitate a roll of Life Saver candies as they follow CSX 8755 eastbound through the Sykesville Tunnel. CSX inherited this unit from Conrail where is had been numbered 5654. Such units can be identified by a change of engine number digits on their sides from white to yellow. Full CSX paint would come in 2004.

Here the engine, the last manufactured of the SD60M series, has passed the siding switch, and is about to pull adjacent to the disused switch for the Springfield Hospital Spur.

That spur is the subject of the next tour page.



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