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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.


Daniels - Brief Historical Background:

Map
Updated Jul 2014

Map
Mile: 17.5 to 20.3 Date: Jul 2014
Ease: View:
Area: IC2:
Map:

This map depicts the area from Daniels west to Davis. The Patapsco River weaves through the middle, separating Baltimore and Howard counties. Green marks the 1830 alignment, magenta 1838, and black the current.


New Signals

New Signals
Mile: 17.8 Date: Aug 2005
Ease: B View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

At new signals, an S-curve leads us west into the old town of Daniels. The track here still follows the original 1830 alignment.


From Hillside
Photo courtesy owner Baltimore County Public Library

From Hillside
Mile: 17.6 Date: 1880s
Ease: B View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 E 1 Topographic Maps

This is the same S-curve (left bank of the Patapsco River) as viewed from the hillside above during the 1880s.

From this vantage point, we can see the Alberton mill complex at center, and employee homes along the north bank of the river. For future reference, the bell tower roof of St. Albans church is marked in orange, the cupola of the mill in blue, and a smokestack in red. The unmarked cupola at the distant left belongs to the manager's house.

The bridge at center is sometimes misattributed as a railroad bridge, but it is actually a road bridge that connects Alberton Road and the mill. A later version of the bridge was washed away in the 1972 Tropical Storm Agnes flood. Debris from that flood, such as a tanker truck, can still be found downstream.

Link to older picture: similar view in summer ~1900


St. Albans Then
Photo courtesy owner Baltimore County Public Library

St. Albans Then
Mile: 17.9 Date: early 20th century
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B+ IC2: 87
Map: Ho 12 D 0 Topographic Maps

In this early 20th century photo, B&O sidings curve around St. Albans church. The main mill building was located across these sidings (left).


St. Albans Now

St. Albans Now
Mile: 17.9 Date: Mar 2000
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B+ IC2: 87
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

The distinctive roofline of the church's bell tower survives to provide a reference point. The mill's smokestack is also readily visible. The mill building's tall cupola was reportedly airlifted while the 1972 flood was in progress, and is sketched in blue to mark its former location. Does anyone know where it is preserved?

The green line at the bottom depicts the B&O's original circa 1830 alignment in this area.


Curving

Curving
Mile: 17.9 Date: Mar 2000
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B+ IC2: 87
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

Turning left and looking from the same vantage point as the prior photo, the B&O's original 1830 alignment (green) curves sharply to squeeze between Standfast Hill and the mill race. The resulting screeching of train wheels around the curves convinced the railroad that a straighter alignment was needed (magenta at left).

In the background, the railroad's still active bridge spans the Patapsco River.


First Alignment

First Alignment
Mile: 18.0 Date: Nov 2002
Ease: A View: S
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

The original 1830 alignment is now paved over by the north end of Daniels Rd. It followed this road about as far as you can see here, and then turned sharply to the right, paralleling the river upstream.

That first alignment proved so unworkable that before the decade of the 1830s ended, the railroad gave in and constructed two bridges to span the river and reduce the 18-degree curve. The two bridges were named the Lower and Upper Elysville bridges, and spanned the river at unusual angles, allowing the tracks to cross back into Baltimore County briefly.

The magenta line marks the second alignment, and reaches the easternmost bridge pier barely visible at right. Unseen beyond the parked verhicles are a fish ladder and the mill's surviving dam. We'll follow the first alignment (green line) first.


Creek
Updated Jul 2014

Creek
Mile: 18.0 Date: Feb 2012
Ease: A- View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

Just upstream of the mill's dam is the river curve initially followed by the B&O that quickly convinced the railroad a straighter alignment was necessary. The culvert that had carried the first alignment across this creek is long gone, but ahead a Patapsco State Park walking path remembers the route; if you walk it be prepared for muddy sections.


Tight
NEW! Jul 2014

Tight
Mile: 18.1 Date: Apr 2014
Ease: B+ View: NW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

According to Harwood in IC2, this stretch had been double tracked. Perhaps subsequent floods have eroded the bank and reduced the room between the rock face and the Patapsco River.

In the distance on the river, within the bright reflection, you can see one of the piers of the Upper Elysville Bridge, which we'll visit below.


Mound

Mound
Mile: 18.3 Date: Mar 2014
Ease: B View: SW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 32 B 8, Ho 12 C 1 Topographic Maps

As seen from the other side, unmelted snow on a smoothly-graded mound highlights the first alignment's south-bank route.


Piers
NEW! Jul 2014

Piers
Mile: 18.4 Date: Apr 2014
Ease: B View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 C 1 Topographic Maps

These stone piers, the remains of the Upper Elysville Bridge, mark where the second alignment crossed the Patapsco to end and rejoin the first (behind the photographer). The second alignment bypassed the vexing Daniels curve we toured above and in the process shaved a quarter mile from the route.

Now we'll jump back east to Daniels where the second alignment began...


Daniels Mill
Photo courtesy owner Baltimore County Public Library, photographer Lawrence McNally

Daniels Mill
Mile: 18.1 Date: 1956
Ease: View: NE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

This 1956 aerial photo shows the mill at maximum expansion, about a decade before it would be shuttered. A coal train rides the third and final alignment. At the right edge, the Gary Memorial Methodist church (still active today) sits atop Standfast Hill.

The first alignment (green) curves sharply to squeeze between the hill and the mill race. The second alignment (magenta) crosses the river via the Lower Elysville bridge. A short distance upstream (unseen, below bottom edge of thie photo) the Upper Elysville bridge carried the tracks back across to rejoin the original alignment.

Links: Daniels Area of Patapsco Park, Daniels history


Second Alignment

Second Alignment
Mile: 18.0 Date: Nov 2002
Ease: A View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

This photo shows the easternmost two of five stone supports of the downstream, or Lower, bridge as they look today from what had been trackside. The town ruins are to the right and behind.


Downstream

Downstream
Mile: 18.0 Date: Apr 1999
Ease: B+ View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

Looking downstream between a pair of Lower Elysville bridge piers gives a glimpse of the active CSX bridge opened in 1906 to further straighten the previous two alignments.

The stone for the Elysville bridges came from the railroad cut at Mt. Airy that was underway at the same time.


Lower Elysville Bridge

Lower Elysville Bridge
Mile: 18.0 Date: Jan 2000
Ease: B+ View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

This view shows the westernmost of the five stone supports of the Lower bridge.

Both Lower and Upper bridges were over 300 feet long and designed by Benjamin Latrobe. He based his design on a bridge in Switzerland that employed an odd collection of diagonal struts. In a surprising (for the B&O) cost saving move, the structure atop these stone abutments was built of wood, and was covered.

Unfortunately, the wood proved unacceptable, and in the 1850s was replaced by Bollman truss bridges made of iron. They were the second bridges on this, the second alignment.

These Bollman truss iron bridges, of which the B&O eventually built about 100, contained many diagonal struts. It is possible that Wendell Bollman's classic design was inspired by the original wooden bridges that were here at Elysville.


Alberton Photo courtesy Baltimore County Public Library

Alberton
Mile: 18.1 Date: ~1880s
Ease: View: E
Area: A IC2: 69
Map: Ba 32 B 8, Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

By 1870, Elysville had been renamed Alberton, and was busy recovering from the flood of 1868. This view looks back toward the mill (blue) from a western hillside. During the 1800s, the forests along the Patapsco Valley were substantially thinner than now due to logging.

The black line shows where the railroad is today. Note the mill race along the far river bank, and at right the Bollman structure crossing the Lower bridge.

Link to older picture (looking east): locomotive on bridge ~1860


Bollman at Alberton
Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Bollman at Alberton
Mile: 18.1 Date: ~1870
Ease: View: NE
Area: A IC2: 69
Map: Ba 32 B 8, Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

The flood of 1868 washed out the first iron Bollman bridge at this location, necessitating the replacement pictured in this excellent photo. This is the third bridge on the second alignment. Records are incomplete, but as at Ilchester and Frederick Junction, prior to 1906 there may also have been fourth bridge design employed over these piers.

This view looks back toward the town from the west abutment shown in the present day photo above. The cupola seen in the distant left is that of the mill.

Note the ties are roughly hewn, and hand tools can be seen in the foreground left. This could indicate the tracks had been recently laid over the new, replacement bridge. Meanwhile, on the right, a man with a wooden leg relaxes. Working conditions were much tougher in those days, and one can't help but wonder if he lost his leg in a railroad accident.


Overgrown

Overgrown
Mile: 18.1 Date: Mar 2014
Ease: B- View: NE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 32 B 8, Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

I intended to replicate the 1870 photo above for a then-now comparison but tree and vine growth around the long-disused bridge obscured the view. A few steps to the right though the plants parted enough to let us glimpse a surviving mid-river pier and the steeple of Gary Memorial Methodist church (right).


Ex-RoW

Ex-RoW
Mile: 18.2 Date: Mar 2014
Ease: B- View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 32 B 8, Ho 12 D 1 Topographic Maps

The stretch between Elysville's lower and upper bridges is also grown over more than other B&O rights-of-way disused about as long (100 years). I found no railroad artifacts here.


Upper Elysville Bridge

Upper Elysville Bridge
Mile: 18.3 Date: Mar 2014
Ease: B View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 32 B 8, Ho 12 C 1 Topographic Maps

geese After a short distance in Baltimore County, about 1000 feet along the north bank of the river, here the second alignment prepared to cross the Patapsco back into Howard County. The old stone piers look to be in decent shape and are a favorite of geese. Their stones do not extend far out of the water because the B&O knew the river would not get much higher: the mill's dam is a short distance downstream. If this were a busier part of the state park perhaps a foot bridge would have already given the piers a new purpose.

For decades US 29 has been slated to cross the river here for an extension to Owings Mills but has not yet arrived. Between 1838 and 1906 the rails had crossed to rejoin the first alignment.


Bridge Back

Bridge Back
Mile: 18.4 Date: Mar 2000
Ease: B View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 C 1 Topographic Maps

This time we're looking from the first alignment back to the Baltimore County north-bank.


Damp Cut
NEW! Jul 2014

Damp Cut
Mile: 18.4 Date: May 2014
Ease: B View: NW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 C 1 Topographic Maps

Near this muddy spot the second alignment had rejoined the first to squeeze into this short rock cut. According to Harwood in IC2, this was one of the locations where trains of the pre-steam-engine B&O swapped horses.


Stone Stringers

Stone Stringers
Mile: 18.8 Date: Mar 2000
Ease: C+ View: NW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 B 1 Topographic Maps

At another muddy spot, the B&O's original stone stringers have worked their way to the surface to provide hikers dry footing. In this view, they are shown in the foreground while the current route can be seen across the river.


One Line
NEW! Jul 2014

One Line
Mile: 18.8 Date: Apr 2014
Ease: C+ View: SW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 B 1 Topographic Maps

Why only one line of stone stringers is visible, instead of the four that supposedly had once been here, is something of a mystery. Perhaps the others were scavenged to build other structures. In the muddy patch beyond another group of stringers has worked its way to the surface.


Arched Bridge

Arched Bridge
Mile: 19.0 Date: Mar 2000
Ease: C View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 A 1, Ba 31 K 9 Topographic Maps

By continuing west along the abandoned right-of-way you'll find this attractive, arched granite bridge. Trains haven't been through here for about 100 years, yet this bridge looks as good as new. The nicely squared blocks suggest this is an original dating to around 1830, however...


Bricks
NEW! Jul 2014

Bricks
Mile: 19.0 Date: May 2014
Ease: C View: NW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 A 1 Topographic Maps

...the interior is brick, which to my knowledge was a construction style the B&O used only later. This bridge may not be an 1830-original after all. It may date to the 1870s coincident with the next bridge upstream.


Greenery
NEW! Jul 2014

Greenery
Mile: 19.0 Date: May 2014
Ease: C View: SE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 A 1 Topographic Maps

The little arch had view of vibrant greenery following a rainy spring.


Scenic Bridge

Scenic Bridge
Mile: 19.0 Date: Dec 1999
Ease: C View: SE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 31 K 9, Ho 12 A 1 Topographic Maps

Here's the same bridge as seen from the Baltimore County (north) side. The beautiful setting makes me wish I could have also captured the reflection of a steam engine puffing away as it hauled goods upstream.


Scenic Zoom

Scenic Zoom
Mile: 19.0 Date: Dec 1999
Ease: C View: SE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 31 K 9, Ho 12 A 1 Topographic Maps

Same bridge, zoomed in close enough to see the moss clinging to its sides. This is the smallest bridge along the OML to receive a stone arch.


Rerouted
NEW! Jul 2014

Rerouted
Mile: 19.3 Date: Apr 2014
Ease: C View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 A 1 Topographic Maps

Initially the B&O bent around the hill ahead via the green line, but in another curve-lessening project that likely dates to 1838, it cut into the rock and built a new bridge (magenta). A mound of dirt is all that remains of the first alignment, but a bridge is found on the second.


Enigma
NEW! Jul 2014

Enigma
Mile: 19.3 Date: Apr 2014
Ease: C View: NW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 A 1 Topographic Maps

This brick arch bridge is a bit of an enigma. Records of it are sparse, however the subtle realignment nearby suggests this is not original. I do not know of any brick B&O bridges that date to the 1830s, so I suspect this one was constructed later. The granite foundation appears to be dry fit (sans mortar) a style well represented by other examples that date to the 1830s. Perhaps its stone arch failed during the flood of 1868 and was rebuilt with bricks.


1873
Updated Jul 2014

1873
Mile: 19.3 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: C View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 12 A 1 Topographic Maps

CHM Perhaps a clue about the origin comes from speculation by reader Adam Litecky:

    "This brick arched bridge is indeed different from the other bridges on the OML. On the western end of the northern support wall there is an engraving that may shed some light on this oddity. Carved into the stone it reads 'C.H.M. 1873'. The reason for the repair or reconstruction is unknown to me but by the engraving, this suggests significant work was done in that year. It could possibly be part of the alignment that corresponds with the construction of the lower and upper Elysville bridges. The cut just north of this bridge I believe served a work camp for the B&O when they built the final alignment that consists of the Davis and Dorsey tunnels and the Eureka and Daniels bridges. It appears that the entire area near the cut and across the river has been extensively graded at one point to accommodate workers and equipment. I have seen a 1911 or 1912 Howard County road map that shows the alignment tracks, the OML tracks, and the loop that served the camp. The map is located at the Howard County Historical Society."


Cut
Updated Jul 2014

Cut
Mile: 19.4 Date: Apr 2014
Ease: C View: NW
Area: A IC2: 204
Map: Ho 12 A 1 Topographic Maps

Hillside cuts along the 1830 right-of-way are rare. I believe this one's proximity to the enigma bridge supports the idea of a later realignment, perhaps 1838.


Eureka Bridge

Eureka Bridge
Mile: 19.7 Date: Dec 1999
Ease: C View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 11 K 0 Topographic Maps

Eventually the original alignment and its 1906 successor will meet, but before doing so the latter must cross the Patapsco River via Eureka Bridge, named for the mining company that had operated here.


Meet

Meet
Mile: 19.8 Date: Dec 1999
Ease: C View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 11 K 0 Topographic Maps

Looking back east, Dorsey Tunnel is more than half mile distant, but in the foreground the original alignment (green) and the current finally one meet again, but it is only to cross. The original winds around a hill, while the current bores right through via Davis Tunnel behind the photographer.

Though disused by the railroad for over a century, the original alignment lives on as a walking path through Patapsco State Park. It's muddy in spots but otherwise a recommended walk accessible from Daniels Road. You may even see some CSX train action across the river.



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