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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.


Mt. Airy Planes - Brief Historical Background:

Map - East

Map - East
Mile: Date: Jan 2005
Ease: View:
Area: IC2: 352
Map: Topographic Map

The B&O's alignment in this area changed so many times that a map is a necessity. The area from Watersville west to Mt. Airy is depicted here.

This map represents data from Harwood (1979), USGS maps (1945 and 1980), and aerial photos (1980) combined with research from my hiking and photographing the area many times over the course of several years.

The alignments are depicted on the map by colors that indicate the date of opening. The same colors are overlaid on some of the photos below to assist visualizing the route.


Mt. Airy Cutoff
Updated Jul 2005

Mt. Airy Cutoff
Mile: 36.0 Date: Mar 2005
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 33 B 3, Ho 3 C 4 Topographic Maps

This tour begins east of Watersville at the right edge of the map above, at milepost 36 (center of photo).

In this view west from the north bank of the Patapsco River at the border of Howard and Carroll Counties, the gap in the trees marks the right of way the original route (green line) had once traversed bound for the planes.

The tracks and bridge in the foreground mark the easternmost point of the Mt. Airy Cutoff. The roughly 10-mile-long Cutoff was built in 1901 to replace the original 1831 right of way plus the 1838 Mt. Airy Loop.


Patapsco Bridge

Patapsco Bridge
Mile: 36.0 Date: Jul 2000
Ease: B View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 3 B 4, Ca 33 B 3 Topographic Maps

Here's the view looking back to the shooting location of the prior photo.

The original route kept on the north side (left) of the Patapsco River.


Path

Path
Mile: 36.2 Date: Oct 2004
Ease: B+ View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 33 B 3, Ho 3 B 4 Topographic Maps

Now we're on the north bank of the river, proceeding west.

A cleared path through the forest. A raised shelf of land. Very even grading. Dark black soil underneath (an amalgam of coal dust, creosote and decayed wooden ties). All of these are signs of an old railroad right of way, and all are found at this location.

You can reach here via a road (multi-home driveway?) that parallels the north bank of the river east from Watersville Road.


Road

Road
Mile: 36.3 Date: Oct 2004
Ease: A View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 33 B 3, Ho 3 B 4 Topographic Maps

The path quickly graduates into a paved road, but its railroad origins are still obvious to the trained *heh* eye.


Culvert

Culvert
Mile: 36.4 Date: Oct 2004
Ease: B View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 33 A 3, Ho 3 A 4 Topographic Maps

Forgotten long ago by most, this tiny, circa 1830 culvert did not escape my attention while I was hunting for B&O artifacts. This is fairly typical of the construction style that railroad employed during that era.

If we stretch a bit and call this a bridge, it might very well have been the oldest still in use in Carroll County. Since the time of this photo, the stonework has been replaced by a large black pipe.


Watersville Road

Watersville Road
Mile: 36.6 Date: Oct 2004
Ease: A View: SW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 33 A 3, Ho 3 A 4 Topographic Maps

Watersville Road (seen left to right here) presented the first grade crossing since Woodbine. Behind me was a very small culvert that has been modified since its railroad days.

Across the road the right of way becomes a driveway clearly marked with "Keep Out" signs. I recommend you always obey such signage.

Fortunately, topographic maps show no streams, and therefore no old bridges of significance immediately ahead, the most likely artifact to survive.


Other End

Other End
Mile: 37.1 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: C View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 J 3, Ho 2 J 4 Topographic Maps

With help from a zoom lens, here is the opposite end of the half-mile long private driveway.

The very even grading is a hallmark of railroad rights of way.


Beams

Beams
Mile: 37.2 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: C View: SE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 J 3, Ho 2 J 4 Topographic Maps

My friend Kirk accompanied me on this artifact hunt, and stands by to help provide perspective on how substantial this culvert is.

The construction style is puzzling. Obviously this was built or rebuilt some time after 1830. Records indicate the railroad disused the route here around 1901, but the steel beams look newer than that.

Perhaps the right of way lived on past 1901 as a road, and the steel was added for the road. The area had lain dormant for decades until bulldozers pushed their way through just days before this photo. It appears new houses will soon be built nearby.


From Side

From Side
Mile: 37.2 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: C View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 J 3, Ho 2 J 4 Topographic Maps

The same culvert as seen from its side. The lack of mortar implies pre-1860s construction of the stonework.

Is this design one-of-a-kind? No, there's another found a short distance west.


Cut

Cut
Mile: 37.3 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 J 3, Ho 2 J 4 Topographic Maps

Another railroad ghost: hillside cuts don't happen by themselves.

Ahead, but not pictured is a very tiny stone-only culvert.


Beavers

Beavers
Mile: 37.5 Date: Dec 2004
Ease: C+ View: NE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 H 3, Ho 2 H 4 Topographic Maps

In this section, the bulldozers have retreated to the housing development atop the hill in the distance, leaving beavers to do their job below. The green line marks the right of way.

It hadn't occurred to me before, but given the B&O's penchant for following rivers, beavers with poor aim (the river is on the right) surely must have blocked the railroad with downed trees from time to time.


Another Culvert

Another Culvert
Mile: 37.5 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: C+ View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 H 3, Ho 2 H 4 Topographic Maps

Near the busy beavers, you'll find steel beam culvert #2, the only other of this design I've found. The new housing development is beyond the trees upon the hillside.


Loop Diverges

Loop Diverges
Mile: 37.5 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: B+ View: SW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 H 3, Ho 2 H 4 Topographic Maps

The culvert of the prior picture can be found between the two large trees on the left. A hillside vantage point helps us find the B&O's original 1831 alignment (green), and the location where the 1839 Mt. Airy Loop (magenta) had diverged, both now survived by little more than mounds of dirt. We'll follow the green line.


Brush

Brush
Mile: 37.5 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 H 3, Ho 2 H 4 Topographic Maps

Back at the culvert, now on top, notice the decayed timbers sitting on the steel beams; those had been nailed across the beams.

The overgrowth around this culvert is so dense don't bother trying to visit during the summer unless you bring a machete. Even in non-leaf season, the thorny brush makes going very difficult. It's no wonder this area has received little coverage by railroad historians.

Fortunately, immediately ahead the right of way now serves the needs of dirt bikers and the ATV crowd, and can be walked without shredding your shirt or skin.


Bridge Out

Bridge Out
Mile: 37.6 Date: Dec 2004
Ease: C View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 H 3, Ho 2 H 4 Topographic Maps

The original 1831 alignment must have crossed a small stream that flows down from springs in Mt. Airy, but I've not found definitive proof of the location. The USGS topographic maps do not correctly depict the path of this stream. This view looks upstream.

At the spot pictured, the stream makes an unusual zig zag after having flowed for some distance sandwiched between the 1831 (green, midair) and 1839 (magenta) alignments. My guess is the 1831 alignment spanned it at the zig zag seen here. I'd feel better about my guess if some old squared off stones from an old culvert littered the streambed, but I could find none.

West of here, the 1839 alignment spans the stream via a high, now collapsing, stone bridge that can be seen in the Mt. Airy Loop tour pages. The stream makes a similar zig zag at that location.


Patapsco River Bridge

Patapsco River Bridge
Mile: 37.8 Date: Oct 2004
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 2 H 5, Ca 32 H 4 Topographic Maps

This is not the same stream in the prior picture, instead it's the Patapsco River, and the bridge belongs to the Mt. Airy Loop extension.

The 1831 alignment and the extension physically crossed near here, but were separated in time by about 60 years.

For future reference, note the pipe at the right which discharges "fragrant" effluent from the Mt. Airy sewage treatment plant.


1831 Route East

1831 Route - East
Mile: 37.8 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: C View: NE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 2 H 5, Ca 32 H 4 Topographic Maps

Looking back from the top of the bridge we can see the 1831 alignment (marked in green). The discharge pipe is hiding in the shadows at the lower left.

The tracks sat on the mound of dirt uncomfortably close to the Patapsco River, seen in the foreground. Perhaps erosion shifted the river in the time since trains last traversed here in 1839. The stream from the Mt. Airy springs is unseen behind the mound.


1831 Route - West

1831 Route - West
Mile: 37.8 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 H 4, Ho 2 H 5 Topographic Maps

From essentially the same vantage point at the prior photo, this is the view looking the opposite direction. The thorniest segment of the tour is behind, and walking ahead is easy.

The ROW did not have the sharp turns seen here. Those have been created by dirt bikers as they navigate their way around fallen trees.


Farm

Farm
Mile: 38.0 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: D View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 G 4, Ho 2 G 5 Topographic Maps

This tree-lined former B&O corridor now marks the edge of a farmer's field. Patches of stone ballast can be found near here.

Topographic maps show a tiny stream at this spot, and indeed there is, but the iron-piped culvert is not original railroad construction, and not worth picturing.


Plane 1 Base

Plane 1 Base
Mile: 38.3 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: C View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 F 4, Ho 2 F 6 Topographic Maps

At the end of the corridor of trees is the location I believe to be the base of Plane 1. Twin Arch Road is just beyond the brush, and the ground begins to rise steeply.


Plane 1

Plane 1
Mile: 38.4 Date: Nov 2004
Ease: B View: W
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ca 32 F 4, Ho 2 F 5 Topographic Maps

All indications are this driveway on the other side of Twin Arch Road is what remains of Plane 1. It leads up to a junkyard.

Why is it not straight, as the plane would have been? The next tour page will speculate.



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