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PRR / Amtrak Photo Tour


PRR / Amtrak in Maryland
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.


Special Note: >>> The places described on this page host quiet, high-speed trains. Stay well clear! <<<

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Race To Washington

Race To Washington
Mile: 127.3 Date: Jun 2019
Ease: A- View: N
Area: B+ T6:
Map: PG 13 D 6 Topographic Maps

After staging at New Carollton, Amtrak is first to react to the green on the tree. Amtrak's hauling ten cars compared to Metro's eight.

Metro's X-shaped crossovers, common at terminals such as New Carrollton, maximize flexibility of arrival and departure tracks.

Link: 1970s


Amtrak 635

Amtrak 635
Mile: 127.3 Date: Jun 2019
Ease: A- View: W
Area: B+ T6:
Map: PG 13 D 6 Topographic Maps

It's all relative: maybe this train was standing still while everything else moved past it.


Inspection Car

Inspection Car
Mile: 127.3 Date: Jun 2019
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: B+ T6:
Map: PG 13 D 6 Topographic Maps

The end car of an Amtrak train is often something different, such as a baggage car, or this inspection car. Amtrak has several kinds of inspection cars, but no one has been able to more specifcally ID this one.

Links: reverse view 1970s, 1970s, 1970s


Amtrak 2005

Amtrak 2005
Mile: 127.4 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B T6:
Map: PG 13 D 6 Topographic Maps

Northbound AMTK 2005 is slowing to stop at New Carollton, as seen from the site of Ardwick Station, where the grade crossing was supplanted by US 50 around 1960.

Ardwick's larger station building was on this, the northwest side of the tracks, while a small passenger shelter stood southeast of and closer to the tracks.

The cantilever-mounted signal is showing Rule 281b Approach Limited.

Links: 1970s, 1970s


Amtrak 2008

Amtrak 2008
Mile: 127.4 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: A- View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: PG 13 D 6 Topographic Maps

It's a tight squeeze under US 50. The catenary must be placed with care here since vibrations from traffic on the bridge can cause the power wire to bounce, leading to an electrical short.

Links: ~1980 catenary work, ~1980 catenary work


Low Road

Low Road
Mile: 127.8 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B T6:
Map: PG 13 C 6 Topographic Maps

MARC can operate at higher speeds than Metro, but will arrive in downtown Washington sooner mostly due to fewer stops. Union Station is MARC's next stop, while a Metro rider endures at least 14 more to get there.

The track on the left, on the ground, serves the Ardwick Industrial Park.


Pennsy Drive

Pennsy Drive
Mile: 128.1 (spur 0.3) Date: Jun 2018
Ease: A View: W
Area: B T6:
Map: PG 13 C 7 Topographic Maps

Along Pennsy Drive the Ardwick Industrial Park spur spans a stream that in standard PG County fashion has been sequestered within concrete. Both the park and its rail service dates to the 1960s, with the latter peaking during the 1970s. Though these rails look unused for some time, they may find new life as the unrivaled efficiency of rail transport becomes part the process to reduce CO2 emissions.


RPCX 1600

RPCX 1600
Mile: 127.8 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: B View: SE
Area: B T6:
Map: PG 13 C 6 Topographic Maps

Yes, the Railroad Passenger Car Numbering Bureau has passenger cars of its own, this of the M500 type, built as a Pullman Standard Comet I coach.

Who numbers the numberers?

Link: RPCX 1600s


Interior

Interior
Mile: 127.8 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: B View: E
Area: B T6:
Map: PG 13 C 6 Topographic Maps

RCPX 1600 information is almost as sparse as passengers on board, but it may have begun life on the Erie Lackawanna Railroad followed by time with New Jersey Transit.


AC Motor Stop

AC Motor Stop
Mile: 127.8 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: B View: SE
Area: B T6:
Map: PG 13 C 6 Topographic Maps

AC Motor Stop advises "motors", as electrically-driven locomotives were first called, to not roll past the sign. In this case the supply catenary soon ends over the near track, the reason for which is explained as this tour continues below.

The line twice spans Beaverdam Branch here via relatively inaccessible bridges that from a distance appear modern.


Landover

Landover
Mile: 128.8 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: B+ View: SW
Area: B- T6: 354
Map: PG 13 A 8 Topographic Maps

During the early 1900s when the PRR replaced the original B&P Station here with an interlocking tower, Landover was not yet a commonly used name for the area, hence the tower borrowed that of a local landowner and became Wilson's Station Railroad Tower, a moniker by which it is sometimes referred even during the 2000s.

Not only has the name survived, but also the tower, albeit in a disused form since the mid-1980s. The new passenger station the PRR built across the tracks (the southeast side) survived into the 1960s, only succumbing upon the arrival of Metro during the 1970s.

Links: MP54 1977, from tower 1977 Conrail coal, CR 4607 1978, GG1 4935 from tower 1978


MARC 7757

MARC 7757
Mile: 128.9 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: B View: N
Area: B- T6: 353
Map: PG 13 A 8 Topographic Maps

The century-plus old Wilson's Station Railroad Tower will likewise succumb should the "Amtrak Parallel Alternative" of the proposed Maglev line be built.

Link: PG County Historic Sites info


Pre-Metro
Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Pre-Metro
Mile: 129.0 Date: 1974
Ease: View: E
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 13 A 8 Topographic Maps

With the tower at left, this 1974 aerial captured the Metro-izing process underway. Landover Road (foreground) was grade separated during 1941, and twinned in 1959.

Link: LoC source photo


A48866

A48866
Mile: 128.9 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B+ View: SE
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 13 A 8 Topographic Maps

Not all Amtrak equipment has steel wheels.


CP Valve

CP Valve
Mile: 128.9 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: B+ View: SW
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 13 A 8 Topographic Maps

From here to Union Station, track switches are accompanied by these distinctive US&S canister purge valves that are part of the pneumatic system that operates the switch.


Air Pipe

Air Pipe
Mile: 129.0 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B+ View: NE
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 12 K 9 Topographic Maps

propped pipe This supply line runs from the tower to the track switches.

Landover became the PRR's most important switching location in the US capital's suburbs when during the first decade of the 1900s the railroad built the Magruder Branch from the mainline here southwest to the then-new Washington Union Station.

This pipeline appears to be part of a second-generation set of switching equipment. Adjacent trackwork during 2019 suggests it will soon turn the job over to a third generation.

Link: 1977


US&S Box

US&S Box
Mile: 129.0 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B+ View: N
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 12 K 9 Topographic Maps

Adjacent the second-generation switching equipment is this box dated 1907, probably a remant of the first switch equipment of the Magruder Branch, and the only survivor I've observed along the line.

swissvale Under countless layers of paint it is lettered U.S &.S.Co. SWISSVALE.PA. It's a puzzle why & qualifies for a . but the first S does not. Who knew the circa-1900 rail industry was plagued by cheap designer knockoffs? Later versions of this box omit the . except after Co.

In standard Pennsy cryptic fashion, on its back the box is stenciled SW SLKS.

George Westinghouse of air brake fame founded the Union Switch and Signal Company during the 1880s. Swissvale, Pennsylvania was the home to the company's primary factory from 1881 to 1985. Today US&S is a subsidiary of global rail control equipment maker Ansaldo STS.

Link: track diagram


Magruder Branch

Magruder Branch
Mile: 128.9 Date: Jun 2018
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 13 A 8 Topographic Maps

This MARC train bound for Washington is following the Magruder Branch. The tracks on the left are the ex-B&P mainline to Washington, now used by CSX.

1878 map This area had been known as Magruder. A Hopkins 1878 map shows Lewis Magruder, and F. Magruder, likely relatives of the family associated with the Magruder grocery chain in Washington. Before Landover this area was known as Wilson's Station, and Blithewood Post Office.

The map's rail line marked "Wash. & Pt. Lookout Bra. B&O" began in 1872 as an independent rail company, but was quickly acquired by the B&O to do an end run around the Pennsy's B&P end run into Washington that gave the PRR control of Long Bridge to Virginia. For awhile the line was known as the B&O's Baltimore, Washington and Alexandria Branch of the Washington City and Point Lookout Railroad. Fortunately, that was later shortened to Alexandria Branch.


Metro

Metro
Mile: 129.0 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B+ View: SW
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 12 K 9 Topographic Maps

Metro plays hopscotch with the B&P/PRR original route where a distant boxcar waits for a ride (left). After the Magruder Branch (right) became the main line PRR renamed the original route the "Landover to South End". Ownership passed to Conrail, then during 1999 to CSX for which it is the Landover Subdivision.


Original Alignment

Original Alignment
Mile: 129.8 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 12 J 10 Topographic Maps

This is a reverse view, so had this photo been snapped the same day as the prior, that boxcar would be at distant right.

The PRR relegated the original alignment to freight, then during the early 1980s Conrail removed its catenary. Heavy freights, typically pulled by a GG1, E33, or E44, were known for putting a substantial load on the electrical system. The resulting voltage drop played havoc with the electrical systems of some passenger engines. The rusty poles remain though to carry high voltage lines.

The spur on the right serves/served the Cabin Branch Industrial Center and Maryland 50 Industrial Parks. Disused sidings lurk in both.


Columbia Park Road

Columbia Park Road
Mile: 129.8 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: A- View: W
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 12 J 10 Topographic Maps

The two routes, the original and Magruder Branch, parallel each other for over a mile while Metro nestles between them. Metro's Cheverly stop can be glimpsed in the distance, beyond the bridge carrying Columbia Park Road across all the various tracks.


Coal

Coal
Mile: 130.4 Date: Sep 2017
Ease: B+ View: E
Area: B T6:
Map: PG 12 H 11 Topographic Maps

The original route is not always quiet. Here CSX 3357 and CSX 3455 roll a coal delivery under Columbia Park Road, likely bound for the Northeast Corridor and Popes Creek line while a train of recycling scrap waits alongside.


Cheverly

Cheverly
Mile: 130.4 Date: Jul 2019
Ease: B+ View: E
Area: B T6:
Map: PG 12 H 11 Topographic Maps

AMTK 631 (left) zooms past Cheverly where Metro service began November 20, 1978. Into the 1940s the PRR had here maintained Tuxedo, a passenger-only station.


MARC 8051

MARC 8051
Mile: 130.7 Date: Sep 2017
Ease: C- View: E
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 12 F 11 Topographic Maps

West of Cheverly the Magruder Branch separates from the original and takes dual trackage all the way to Union Station's yards. With only two tracks to hang over, the catenary can be suspended from poles on only one side of the tracks.


Signals on Bridge

Signals on Bridge
Mile: 130.7 Date: Sep 2017
Ease: C+ View: SW
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 12 F 11 Topographic Maps

PRR mounted these US&S brand signals on the ex-B&O Alexandria Branch bridge over the Magruder Branch, the region's only remaining example of such warmth between the former competitors. In the past signals were similarly mounted where the B&O and PRR crossed in Halethorpe, but have since been removed.


MARC 14

MARC 14
Mile: 130.7 Date: Sep 2017
Ease: C- View: W
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 12 F 11 Topographic Maps

If trains can't sufficiently reduce the CO2 of other transport methods, maybe kudzu can, at least until humans gently fertilize the oceans, mimicking the natural process that increases plant growth and CO2 sequestration there. Of course, since climate change has many causes, CO2 balancing is not a panacea.

Until the 1980s wye trackage known alternately as the Magruder Loop Track and Cheverly Loop Track curved in from the left to connect the original with this, the Magruder alignment.

Link: Wikipedia on ocean fertilization


Wye

Wye
Mile: 130.8 Date: Sep 2017
Ease: B- View: W
Area: B- T6:
Map: PG 12 F 11 Topographic Maps

Devoid of catenary wiring the original alignment, now operated by CSX as its Landover Subdivision, looks barren. The sharply curving track at right is part of what remains of the Magruder Loop Track. During the 1960s a scrap metal recycling facility grew up within the curve and still ships material by train.


MARC 7848

MARC 7848
Mile: 131.1 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: A- View: E
Area: C+ T6: B-
Map: PG 12 E 11 Topographic Maps

Back at the Magruder Branch, MARC 7848 trails on this northbound at milepost 131.

Compared to others, some track sections are more literogenic, that is, an appealing subject about which to write. This track section is not one of them.


B-W Parkway

B-W Parkway
Mile: 131.1 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: A- View: W
Area: C+ T6:
Map: PG 12 E 11 Topographic Maps

baggage car During the 1950s the B-W Parkway supplanted Kenilworth Parkway as the primary northbound route out of eastern DC.

Baggage cars have some of the last vestiges of Amtrak's most bold red, white, and blues.

Trains enjoy a roughly 4-mile-long straight stretch here. At distant left is a bridge over the Anacostia River.


Anacostia River Bridge 1977
Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Anacostia River Bridge 1977
Mile: 131.7 Date: 1977
Ease: View: S
Area: C+ T6:
Map: DC 11 D 10 Topographic Maps

The Magruder Branch's bridge across the Anacostia River is about 3 miles upstream of the B&P's original bridge across the river. Like the rest of the branch, the first rail bridge here dates to about 1905. That's New York Avenue along the bottom of the photo.

New York Avenue, along with its feeder roads B-W Parkway and US 50, was to be a grand eastern entrance to DC called Gateway. The tighter fiscal era of the 1970s put off that plan. Fresh development along New York Avenue during the 2010s has revived the Gateway concept, and the corridor has been looking its best since the 1960s.

Link: LoC source photo


Anacostia River Bridge
Photo courtesy Google

Anacostia River Bridge
Mile: 131.7 Date: Oct 2018
Ease: A View: S
Area: C+ T6: 355
Map: DC 11 D 10 Topographic Maps

This is a similar view from New York Avenue.

The Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane caused hidden damage to the bridge, which led to the wreck of the PRR's Crescent Limited during August 1933, as illustrated by the linked photo.

Link: 1933 wreck


MARC 4912

MARC 4912
Mile: 131.7 Date: Dec 2018
Ease: B+ View: SW
Area: C+ T6:
Map: DC 11 D 11 Topographic Maps

The Anacostia River Trail facilitates views such as this.

Soon after the wreck of the Crescent Limited, PRR rebuilt the Anacostia bridge into the version seen here. The revised bridge was made longer to permit greater volumes of water to flow under, plus, much later, the trail.

Links: 1933 wreck, 1933 wreck, 1970s


Amtrak 2014

Amtrak 2014
Mile: 132.4 Date: Dec 2018
Ease: B+ View: E
Area: C T6:
Map: DC 11 B 11 Topographic Maps

Southbound AMTK 2014 is crossing the Anacostia, and will soon also cross the undefended border between Maryland and Washington, DC., where for the new line the PRR had lopped off the southern portion of what was the United States Reform School Farm, later the National Training School for Boys, where a young Charles Manson would spend a few years.

MARC's northbound electric engines would reach speeds of about 125 mph down to the bridge.

Here, along Magruder Branch, Milepost 132 (left) employs the same style as the lower-numbered mileposts. This implies all Penn Line mileposts date to the opening of the Magruder Branch around 1906.

Links: maybe 134 mph, VS marker, reform school


New York Avenue

New York Avenue
Mile: 132.4 Date: Dec 2018
Ease: B+ View: W
Area: C T6:
Map: DC 11 B 11 Topographic Maps

looking east, April 2000 The National Arboretum is ahead on the left. Here the Magruder Branch predates New York Avenue, so the road left room for additional tracks to be added in the future. The road bridge was given additional lanes during the early 2000s, as seen in the DDOT photo at right.

Link: DDOT source photo


Brickworks

Brickworks
Mile: 133.1 Date: 1945
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: C T6:
Map: DC 10 J 11 Topographic Maps

During the 1940s when this topo map was drawn, New York Avenue, the red line from left, had ended at Bladensburg Road, the vertical red line at center. The spurs under PENNSYLVANIA served the United Brick Corporation, the large black polygons on the topo map. brickworks 1970s by LoC

Those rail spurs were cut off when during the 1950s New York Avenue was extended east, abutting the brick factory. Brick manufacture continued at the site into the 1970s. As of 2019 ruins of the factory can still be seen within the grounds of the National Arboretum adjacent eastbound New York Avenue. South-looking 1970s aerial photo at right courtesy Library of Congress. The photog's aircraft was roughly over the Magruder Branch. The circular "beehives" are brick kilns.


Bladensburg Road

Bladensburg Road
Mile: 133.3 Date: Apr 2014
Ease: A View: NE
Area: C T6:
Map: DC 10 J 11 Topographic Maps

looking SW Dec 2018 Given its stone walls and construction style I believe this is the original circa 1905 bridge over busy Bladensburg Road.

The north side has the best-preserved "Pennsylvania Railroad" text found within Washington. During the 1950s the PPR last repainted many of its bridges in the region.


Spur

Spur
Mile: 133.8 Date: Dec 2018
Ease: A View: E
Area: C T6:
Map: DC 10 H 11 Topographic Maps

This is the only spur off the Magruder Branch in this vicinity to survive the extension of New York Avenue. It served a Hecht Company warehouse, as well as Capitol Service Stations, Jewel Tea, Safeway Stores, Baltimore Lumber, Pittsburgh Plate Glass, National Trucking, and Anheuser-Busch, among others. Prior to the spur the PRR here counted as customers several sand, cement, and brick companies, as well as IBM.

looking west, about 1960 The bridge likely dates to 1930 when New York Avenue was extended east through this location as far as Bladensburg Road. The two DDOT views at right look the opposite direction, west, along New York Avenue from the vicinity of Montana Avenue. They show that the Pennsy name on the spur bridge about 1960 was lost by March 1971 when the bridge was modified for a widened New York Avenue. The site of the Quality Motel was previously occupied by the Baltimore Lumber Company. By the 2010s the Esso gasoline station on the right had morphed into a garden center known for entertaining misspellings in its signage. The Quality Motel now has Quality Inn signage, but the lobby is staffed by multiple armed guards who claim it's not a hotel. Based on other reports, I surmise this is actually now a place DC stashes its homeless. Unless you are a homeless railfan, you will probably want to stay elsewhere.

looking west, March 1971 Reader Greg Hager wrote:

    "Many years ago (1980?) I remember seeing a Penn Central SW switcher sitting on that bridge with a number of box cars. On checking on line satellite pictures confirms that the line connected with the PC. To get to the B&O it would have to cross the Amtrak main line at grade. As always keep up the good work on an excellent site."

Link: DDOT source photos


Siding

Siding
Mile: 133.8 Date: Jun 2004
Ease: A View: SW
Area: C T6:
Map: DC 10 H 11 Topographic Maps

Short portions of the Pennsy spur track were still extant at photo time, when trucks (as seen in the background) did the transport job behind the Hecht Company warehouse, while disused tracks were left to accumulate trash. That's Okie Street on the right. During the 2010s this area was redeveloped into mixed use.

Link: this area in 1943


Together

Together
Mile: 133.8 Date: Dec 2018
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: C T6:
Map: DC 10 H 10 Topographic Maps

As if a secret tryst, behind what in 1971 had been the Quality Motel shown above, the Magruder Branch (foreground) approaches from the right and cozies up to the ex-B&O Washington Branch in order to share the route to Union Station.


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