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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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Ilchester - Brief Historical Background:

Map

Map
Mile: Date: Jul 2006
Ease: View:
Area: IC2:
Map: Ba 41 A 7, Ho 13 B 13 Topographic Maps

This map depicts the area around Ilchester Tunnel (black) and the now disused original Old Main Line alignment (green) it bypassed. Ellicott City is off the map to the left and Relay to the right. The Patapsco River winds through the valley, with Howard County on the south and Baltimore County on the north.

The dashed red line represents River Road before the floods of Tropical Storm Agnes washed it away in 1972. The road has not been rebuilt. The gray line is a hiking path from South Hilltop Road (where the power lines cross overhead) to the rocks above Ilchester Tunnel, down to Bloede Dam.


Ilchester Tunnel

Ilchester Tunnel
Mile: 10.3 Date: Oct 2001
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2: 204
Map: Ba 41 A 8, Ho 13 C 13 Topographic Maps

Instead of going through this hill as does the Ilchester Tunnel seen in the distance, the original alignment curved around it, roughly as marked by the green line.


Stone Stringers

Stone Stringers
Mile: 10.4 Date: Nov 1999
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2: 202
Map: Ba 41 A 8, Ho 13 B 13 Topographic Maps

Despite the passage of over 100 years, the ballast left behind has prevented new tree growth along the old right of way. And, in at least one spot, you can see one of the most curious railroading artifacts anywhere in the world: the B&O's original stone stringers.

For some of its earliest tracks, the railroad employed stone parallel to thin rails instead of wood cross ties because it was deemed more durable and long lasting. Indeed, this photo is evidence of that, but the B&O quickly discovered that the stiff granite was also less forgiving on the rolling stock.

All but one contractor employed by the B&O to build the OML was bankrupted by the unexpectedly high cost of building the stone track. Work progressed too slowly as well, and eventually the company relented, and allowed the second track along this route to be constructed with wood ties, similar to those used today. They learned the wood-style track construction could be completed 10 times faster, and that sealed the fate of the stone.


Stringer Switch
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Stringer Switch
Mile: 10.4 Date: Mar 2008
Ease: C View: NW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 41 A 8, Ho 13 B 13 Topographic Maps

The holes indicate where iron strap rail (the B&O called it plate rail) was affixed. This stringer exhibits two rows of holes, leading to the belief it had been part of a switch. You can still see the grooves left behind by the strips of rail.

Strap Rail Strap rail was employed because it used less iron than other designs; iron was in short supply and had to be imported from mother England. The strap rail had the frightening reputation of peeling off the granite, then curling up and piercing the cars that rolled above; these were called "snakeheads". Still, the B&O stuck with strap rail for about 20 years, then frugually reused it on sidings and in yards into the 1860s. (picture at right courtesy Dave Hiteshew)


Bypassed Culvert

Bypassed Culvert
Mile: 10.4 Date: Nov 1999
Ease: C View: SW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 40 K 8, Ho 13 B 13 Topographic Maps

This culvert is good for comparisons to others. This one is located along the abandoned right of way, not far from the stone stringers above. This hasn't seen any maintenance for about 100 years, but, except for plant overgrowth, appears in good shape.


Path

Path
Mile: 10.5 Date: Jul 2004
Ease: C View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 40 K 8, Ho 13 B 13 Topographic Maps

Looking backward, the Grist Mill Trail Extension constructed in 2003 climbs to join the original right-of-way. The present day trackage is inside Ilchester Tunnel bored through the hill on the left.

At the path intersection, the stringers were torn out and now serve as a curb of sorts. Behind us, on the way to the Patterson Viaduct, the stringers were simply paved over, preserving them for future archeologists who will someday marvel over our "stone age" of railroading.

In preparation for the removal of Bloede Dam, the Maryland Dept. Of Natural Resources plans to reroute sewer lines in the vicinity from their current location to underneath Grist Mill Trail. This is one of few surviving locations that preserves the original history of such construction techniques. The sewer work will cause excavation in this area, see: Bloede Dam removal.


Bloede Dam

Bloede Dam
Mile: 10.5 Date: Nov 1999
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 40 K 8, Ho 13 B 13 Topographic Maps

Easily heard from the path is the crash of water over Bloede Dam. Bloede is pronounced "Bler-dah" according to a friend of that family. The dam officially opened November 28, 1907, the date upon which its internal generators began cranking out electricity for the area, enough that during 1913 the Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) Co. acquired it. According to BGE, the dam's construction was unique in that it was hollow with the water wheels and generators housed inside. The dam was upgraded in the 1990s to add fish ramps; I am not sure when it stopped generating power. The concrete pipe on the right is a storm or sanitary sewer. Bonus points if you spotted the turtle lounging on the rock.

This dam is slated for removal during 2018. With the push to "go green" wouldn't that effort be better spent restoring the dam's capability to generate hydroelectric power? With Daniels Dam unlikely to be removed, removing Bloede's accomplishes little.

Courtesy JD Hiteshew below are other views dating from 1973 (the spring after Agnes floods, note the scoured valley and remains of River Road on left), plus two from 1975 (more flooding, probably due to the remains of Hurricane Eloise in late September that year):

Bloede Dam 1973 Bloede Dam 1975 Bloede Dam 1975

Links to older pictures: 1907, 1912, 1930s, ~1940


Patterson Viaduct

Patterson Viaduct
Mile: 10.7 Date: Nov 1999
Ease: C View: NW
Area: A IC2: 115, 390
Map: Ba 40 K 7, Ho 13 A 13 Topographic Maps

This photo is one of my favorites. I'm standing on the east bridge abutment of the remains of the Patterson Viaduct at Ilchester. Some reports say the Patterson Viaduct was the first railroad bridge in the world, having been completed a few months before the B&O's Carrollton Viaduct. Across the Patapsco River on the Howard County side is the west bridge abutment. Flood 1975

The bridge had consisted of four granite arches, with the ones at both shores spanning roads. A flood in 1866 or 1868 (sources vary) managed to remove all but one of the arches. The Patterson is the only early B&O multi-arched stone viaduct to suffer such a fate. Now the railroad spans the river by means of the bridge seen upstream on the right.

The picture at right courtesy JD Hiteshew illustrates another flooding event in 1975 as seen from the same spot.

Link to older picture: 1972


Footbridge
Photo courtesy Patrick O'Donnell
Updated Dec 2010

Footbridge
Mile: 10.7 Date: Oct 2006
Ease: B View: NW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 40 K 7, Ho 13 A 13 Topographic Maps

For the first time in about a century, the Patterson Viaduct is once again carrying traffic. The footbridge seen here nearing completion opened on October 18, 2006.

Patrick O'Donnell kindly contributed this photo, and wrote:

    "I had the opportunity to work on that new footbridge and have found the history of the area fascinating - thanks to your website. The plans of the new cable-stayed footbridge show that there's (less than an inch) variance between the elevations of the opposing abutments. Quite remarkable for abutments built in the late 1820s, 164 feet apart from each other, and their excellent condition as well. No modification was needed to accompany the new bridge - other than placing additional tower pedestals atop each abutment.

    "I was contacted by the company putting in the footbridge for pictures of the existing suspension footbridge about a mile down river. The plan was to do something like the suspension bridge. When the owner found out that a Bollman Truss once existed at the Patterson Viaduct it became clear that only a cable-stayed bridge with a stiffening truss will do. The diagonal cable stays are to emulate the diagonal members of the Bollman Truss. The beauty of cable bridges in general is that they appear light and airy and unobtrusive."

That the design recalls that of a Bollman bridge is a nice touch. The small height variance of the abutments relative to each other seems remarkable, but we do not know what the original design called for. To maintain the OML's upstream/uphill grade in this area, the western abutment should be about 5 inches higher than the eastern.

Link to other pictures: lots more photos of this by Patrick


River Road

River Road
Mile: 10.7 Date: Feb 2008
Ease: C View: N
Area: A IC2: 390
Map: Ho 13 A 13, Ba 40 K 7 Topographic Maps

The yellow stripe at bottom left designates the middle of River Road, or rather what remains of it more than 35 years after Tropical Storm Agnes had her way with the Patapsco Valley. The disused B&O ROW we're following rides the opposite bank of the river (right), and through the trees you can spy the Patterson Viaduct footbridge and further upstream the active steel railroad bridge. River Road 1973

Frequent contributor Dave Hiteshew shares with us the photo at right captured from roughly the same location in April 1973. It illustrates the ferocity with which during the prior June Agnes tore asunder what both nature and man had assembled. This section of River Road has not been rebuilt. In the distance at center left appears to be the remaining stone walls of George Ellicott's Ilchester tavern. A note about the road striping: prior to the early-1970s a single yellow line, rather than double, had been the USA standard to separate lanes of opposing traffic.

Link to older picture: ~1868
The circa 1868 picture is particularly interesting because it was also snapped from roughly the same location and appears to show the viaduct with an iron Bollman bridge under construction shortly after most of the Patterson's stonework had been washed away. At the far end of the bridge are posts matching the Bollman design, while the center appears to be a temporary wooden structure. Compare this image to the engraving shown on page 390 of Impossible Challenge II.


Ilchester Bollman
Photo courtesy Jeremy "Kipp" Clark

Ilchester Bollman
Mile: 10.7 Date: 1880s
Ease: View: NW
Area: A IC2: 115, 390
Map: Ba 40 K 7, Ho 13 A 13 Topographic Maps

The B&O replaced the collapsed stone bridge first with a temporary wooden structure, and then an iron Bollman bridge, as seen here. My eye reads the date on the bridge as 1869. This view is almost the same as that of the year 1999 picture further above, yet this one appears crowded with buildings.

Immediately to the left of the bridge is the side of the first B&O Ilchester station. To the left of that is George Ellicott's house and tavern. Further above are buildings of St. Mary's College. Most of these structures are now completely gone, or survived by little more than crumbling walls and foundations.

Special thanks to Jeremy "Kipp" Clark for sharing this historic photo and the one below. You can visit his Ellicott City web site.


Ilchester Station
Photo courtesy Jeremy "Kipp" Clark

Ilchester Station
Mile: 10.7 Date: 1890s
Ease: View: SW
Area: A IC2: 115, 390
Map: Ba 40 K 7, Ho 13 B 12 Topographic Maps

When viewed from the side and above, the area appears less congested. This photo from the hillside above Ilchester Tunnel shows the original Ilchester Station, plus the riverside road that passed under the Patterson Viaduct's surviving stone arch, and George Ellicott's tavern on the right. The road was later moved higher up the embankment and today crosses where the station had been.

Also note at the shadowy extreme left edge of the photo that a steel girder bridge has supplanted the Bollman design. Such an upgrade has also been found at the OML's Monocacy River crossing near Frederick, suggesting the Bollman design proved unacceptable for heavy use. Its iron bars had a reputation for loosening and requiring frequent readjustment.

Link: station close-up


Sign

Sign
Mile: 10.7 Date: ~1870 (Feb 2008)
Ease: B+ View: S (N)
Area: A IC2: 115
Map: Ba 40 K 7, Ho 13 B 13 Topographic Maps

Installed at the east end of the Patterson Viaduct is a sign describing the importance of the B&O to Baltimore. It includes a circa 1870 picture that looks downstream to the then new Bollman bridge, and the stone arch that survived the floods of the 1860s.


Patterson Arch

Patterson Arch
Mile: 10.8 Date: Jul 1999
Ease: B View: SE
Area: B+ IC2: 38
Map: Ho 13 A 13 Topographic Maps

The surviving arch, pre-footbridge, was looking a bit weary by 1999.

It is here the railroad leaves Baltimore County for the first time and enters Howard County. It does so in order to switch to the opposite bank of the Patapsco. The next few miles of the river were (and still are) lined with various mills originally sited to take advantage of free water power.

Prior to the construction of the railroad, all the mills were on the Baltimore County side of the river. They were situated so as to facilitate the transportation of their products to the port of Baltimore: by being on the Baltimore side to begin with, they would not have to haul the finished goods across the river.

Since the mill buildings occupied the Baltimore bank of the Patapsco, the B&O decided to cross the river and build on the opposite bank. One consequence was that to connect a mill to the railroad, a bridge would need to be built across the river.

The Ellicott brothers immediately recognized the importance of the railroad, and in exchange for land, convinced the B&O to build a bridge to their mill first. Records indicate the bridge was in place when the railroad began service in May 1830. A bridge (of newer construction) still exists at the site, and is pictured later in this tour.

Links to older pictures: ~1900, 1936, ~1970, 1975


More Stringers

More Stringers
Mile: 10.8 Date: Sep 2003
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 13 A 13 Topographic Maps

I brushed away leaves damp from Hurricane Isabel to reveal one of several more stone stringers in this area. Note how the original trackbed is parallel to Ilchester Road and almost perpendicular to the religned right of way (the bridge over the road in the distance).

Ilchester Station had originally been positioned a short distance behind me.


St. Mary's College

St. Mary's College
Mile: 10.8 Date: Mar 2004
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 13 A 12 Topographic Maps

These precarious walls were some of the remains of St. Mary's College in 2004. This structure was built in the 1860s, served for decades as a seminary before being disused in the 1970s, sold to a foreigner in the 1980s who left it vacant, torched by vandals in 1997, and finally leveled in 2006. After being disused, it became a favored place for local teenagers looking for haunted-house type adventures.

St. Mary's got its start when George Ellicott sold them the property after he failed to convince the B&O to make Ilchester (and the tavern he had constructed) a significant stop on the railroad.

Links to more about St. Mary's: site 1, site 2


Cross River

Cross River
Mile: 10.7 Date: Dec 1999
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2: 203
Map: Ba 40 K 7, Ho 13 B 13 Topographic Maps

Looking from the top of Ilchester Tunnel, across the Patapsco River into Howard County, the 1902 bridge is in the foreground. The green line marks the path of the original alignment. In the center-right distance, steam from Thistle Mill rises.


Ilchester Bridge
Photo courtesy Herb Harwood collection

Ilchester Bridge
Mile: 10.7 Date: 1941
Ease: View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 40 K 7, Ho 13 B 13 Topographic Maps

This is a similar view in 1941, when Ilchester Station in its second incarnation was still standing. Upon the hill on the left, the maintained lawn of St. Mary's College can be seen, and at the left edge of the photo the base of the steps leading up to it from the station.

Link to older picture: 1870s


rejoining

Rejoining
Mile: 10.8 Date: Sep 2003
Ease: B+ View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 40 K 7, Ho 13 B 12 Topographic Maps

Ilchester Station's concrete slab foundation is hidden within the brush on the left. The green line illustrates how the OML's original alignment had curved and where the current alignment rejoins.



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