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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! <<<

<< Previous (north) | THIS PAGE: Halethorpe to Patapsco | Next (south) >>

Amtrak 2038

Amtrak 2038
Mile: 102.8 Date: Jan 2018
Ease: A- View: N
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 8 Topographic Maps

AMTK 2038 demonstrates how to avoid I-95 traffic. Before the East Coast's main thoroughfare arrived circa 1970, a small dirt road had crossed at grade here.


I-95

I-95
Mile: 102.8 Date: Feb 2004
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 8 Topographic Maps

Here's the view from above. The overhead wires are a giveaway as to what's below. Before sound barriers were added it was possible to glimpse the trains.


Amtrak 2016

Amtrak 2016
Mile: 102.8 Date: Jan 2018
Ease: A- View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 8 Topographic Maps

AMTK 2016 kicks up dust during a dry January that preceded the wettest year on record in the region.

For photo tours like this one that proceed in a southerly direction, sun glare can be a problem but sometimes can be worked to a photographic advantage.


1927 Index
Image courtesy Johns Hopkins University

1927 Index
Mile: 102.9 Date: 1927
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 42 Topographic Maps

The index to the 1927 aerial photos shows two separate rail lines running south to Halethorp (sic), the straighter Penn Line and a less straight line on its left...


Streetcar
Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University

Streetcar
Mile: 103.0 Date: winter 1926/1927
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6:
Map: Ba 42 Topographic Maps

The more-curved line was a United Railways and Electric Company (UR&E) streetcar line.

Herb Harwood kindly provided details:

    "I can say with certainty that both the topo map in your first link and the aerial photo in your second show the UR&Es Halethorpe trolley line, which came out Wilkins Ave. and used some private right-of-way paralleling the PRR into Halethorpe. It dead-ended short of the PRR station, at or near the point your aerial appears to show a car. This was abandoned some time in the mid-1930s, as I recall, and I believe part of the r.o.w. was later used for Southwestern Blvd."
Though it does not cover this line to Halethorpe, if you enjoy streetcar photos I recommend Harwood's book Baltimore Streetcars The Postwar Years.


Snowy Halethorpe
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Snowy Halethorpe
Mile: 103.0 Date: Dec 2009
Ease: A- View: N
Area: B T6: 342
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

For a "refreshing" experience soon after a snowstorm, stand trackside as a 100-mph train speeds by. Even without snow it can be quite an adrenaline rush, one not recommended for the faint of heart.

At photo time Halethorpe Station was little more than a couple trackside asphalt pads.

Links: 1987, 1993, 2010


Amtrak 656
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Amtrak 656
Mile: 103.0 Date: May 2010
Ease: A- View: N
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

Dave wisely waited until after the snow had melted to freeze AMTK 656, an HHP8 built by Bombadier. Since then Amtrak has retired all its HHP8s.

"K-braced" catenary poles, the ones with a horizontal beam over the tracks such as seen in this photo, are employed where the normally stand-alone catenary poles cannot be supported by guy-wire due to insufficient width or clearance within the right of way.

Links: retired HHP8s, 1997, 2007


Commuters
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Commuters
Mile: 103.0 Date: Aug 2009
Ease: A- View: W
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

Rather than cross the tracks, with help from Francis Avenue's bridge commuters returning home from DC trudge up and over them, then back down. Since photo time the station has received its own elevated walkway with elevators. Milepost 103 is visible at bottom.

Links: original milepost 103 in 1978, another


MARC 4902

MARC 4902
Mile: 103.0 Date: Feb 1999
Ease: A- View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

MARC's 4 model AEM7 units, numbered 4900 to 4903, entered service 1986. They have since been removed from revenue service. As seen from the stairway, this one is departing after discharging passengers.

Links: 1997, 1997, 2002


MARC 4913
Photos courtesy Dave Hiteshew

MARC 4913
Mile: 103.0 Date: Aug 2009
Ease: A- View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

Kathryn D. Waters MARC has/had its own HHP8 units, such as number 4913 that is/was dedicated to Kathryn D. Waters who was a Maryland MTA Administrator.

Link: 2002


Amtrak 651

Amtrak 651
Mile: 103.1 Date: Oct 2018
Ease: B+ View: W
Area: B T6: 342
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

A new Halethorpe Station opened during 2014; it lies a short distance south of the old, and has its own overpass.

Links: 2012, new station under construction 2013


MARC Bi-level

MARC Bi-level
Mile: 103.1 Date: Dec 2017
Ease: A- View: N
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

A train of all bi-level cars slows to stop, with the lead car controlling the MARC engine that's pushing from behind. MARC engines are always on the Baltimore (Perryville) or Martinsburg end of the train, hence capturing them without sun glare can be a challenge.


MARC 8031

MARC 8031
Mile: 103.1 Date: Dec 2017
Ease: A- View: S
Area: B T6: 342
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

MARC service on the Penn Line is more frequent than on the Camden Line. This was a mid-day train, hence few commuters.


MARC 16

MARC 16
Mile: 103.1 Date: Dec 2017
Ease: A- View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

It was MARC 16 doing the pushing, its color washed out by sun glare.


Speed 100

Speed 100
Mile: 103.1 Date: Oct 2018
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

100 speed Yes, this is one of the stretches along which Amtrak reaches triple digit speeds. It's one reason MARC 35 is switching to the track added during station reconstruction. Underway as of this writing, and scheduled for completion during the 2020s, is a fourth track all the way to Odenton.

Amtrak usually runs its high speed trains on the two center tracks. Increasing speed above 135 mph is hampered here by the variable tension catenary installed by the PRR. When such catenary sags in hot weather, very high speed trains can cause destructive oscillating waves in the wires. Parts of the NEC north of New York have newer, constant-tension catenary that does not exhibit this problem.

Link: 2010


CSX Coal

CSX Coal
Mile: 103.1 Date: Oct 2018
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 9 Topographic Maps

Deep zoom compacts much into one photo, starting with the closest:

  • nearest is a red signal for a closed track
  • the tall rusty structure is the Penn Line's only other surviving, disused water gantry
  • track 4's signal (green) is mounted beyond so trains stopping at the station can see it
  • the red sign below reads "Barricade" because that track was closed for maintenance
  • the light-blue bridge over the line carries Alternate US 1
  • 2/3rds of a mile distant, coal hoppers roll past along CSX's main line

Link: 2010


Gadsby's Run
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Gadsby's Run
Mile: 103.5 Date: Aug 2007
Ease: B View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

Gadsby's Run (some maps call it West Branch) is spanned by a bridge more modern than a B&P original. It will need to be widened for a fourth track. The new track will be added on the east side of the existing.


US 1
Photo credit Dr. Charles J. Kokoski

US 1
Mile: 103.5 Date: ~1930
Ease: B View: S
Area: B T6: 343
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

Where are the trains, planes, trucks, and autos? Oh, it's around 1930. This trackage would not see its first electric train until 1935.

The shack on the right was PRR's Winans Station. That's US 1 above, and the B&O main line in the distance; both bridges were replaced when the PRR widened to 3 or 4 tracks.

Where the PRR had 4 tracks, the outer ones were generally designated for freight and the inner ones for passenger trains.

Link: 1931


1927 Aerial
Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University

1927 Aerial
Mile: 103.6 Date: winter 1926/1927
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: T6: 343
Map: Ba 42 Topographic Maps

Winans Station was near the H in Washington. That S curve of US 1 over the B&O tracks at lower left was soon straightened by 1929's Vinegar Hill bridge; it's scheduled for replacement during the 2020s. Vinegar Hill got its name from Irish railroad workers who had settled in this vicinity.


Signal Pole
Photos courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Signal Pole
Mile: 103.5 Date: Aug 2007
Ease: B View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

pole The skeletal remains of a PRR pole-mounted signal stand on the left. This is the only such survivor of which I know along the Penn Line. In Baltimore there's a similar signal skeleton but it is mounted on a catenary pole.

The link shows an example of the latter at Magnolia, Maryland.

Link: 1976


Culvert

Culvert
Mile: 103.6 Date: Feb 2019
Ease: B- View: NE
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

Aerial photos suggest this concrete model replaced a B&P stone box culvert when the PRR added a third track during the 1930s. Culvert inlets like this need to be cleared periodically to maintain throughput otherwise the next heavy rain might overflow the culvert -- and the tracks.


Meet the B&O
Photos courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Meet the B&O
Mile: 103.7 Date: Aug 2007
Ease: B- View: S
Area: B T6: 328, 343
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

When during the 1930s the PRR added a third track it made provisions B.O.R.R for a fourth track, hence the extra room under the B&O (now CSX) here. The bridge's builder's plaque reads McClintic-Marshall Corporation 1934.

There are four ex-B&O tracks above, making it a 4-track-over-3-tracks grade separation, soon to be 4 over 4, the most in the area. Someone asked me if there exists in the present day USA a wider, non-yard, grade separation of two rail lines, such as 5-tracks-over-5-tracks. I know of a 6-over-8 in Chicago (northeast of where I-94 and I-57 meet). Can anyone top that?


Halethorpe

Halethorpe
Mile: 103.8 Date: Apr 2000
Ease: B View: N
Area: B T6: 328
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

Departing Baltimore the Pennsy opted for a route west of the B&O, but here switches to the east. From this point down to Washington, DC, the ROW will remain on the east side of the B&O's. In 1835 the B&O chose a more inland route, one closer to the fall line where it could serve the various early factories and small towns that had already dotted the central Maryland landscape.

By contrast, the 1850s route to the east that the B&P surveyed was through more sparsely settled areas, and at a lower elevation. This meant its track could be straighter, necessitating fewer cuts through high ridges and fewer tall bridges.

Change for: B&O tour at this site


Signal Mounts

Signal Mounts
Mile: 103.8 Date: Feb 2019
Ease: B- View: E
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

signal mounts To the other side of the B&O bridge the PRR had at one time affixed signals. The mounting hardware is all that remains, perhaps left behind because the bridge is not Amtrak property. These are the only disused overhead signal mounts (more than just brackets) I have found along the line. A westbound CSX freight was rumbling above at the same time this Amtrak train passed below.


Washouts

Washouts
Mile: 103.8 Date: Feb 2019
Ease: B View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 42 A 11 Topographic Maps

The Penn Line follows Gadsby's Run south. Heavy rains during 2018 caused some trackside washouts here, as revealed by the replacement, larger stone ballast visually above MARC 28.


Amtrak 2032

Amtrak 2032
Mile: 104.0 Date: Feb 2019
Ease: B- View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 41 K 12 Topographic Maps

A different kind of washout, this time the dreaded sun glare, strikes again. In the distance is I-895.


Under I-895

Under I-895
Mile: 104.2 Date: Nov 2002
Ease: B- View: S
Area: B T6:
Map: Ba 41 K 12 Topographic Maps

Arriving during 1957, the I-895 Baltimore Harbor Tunnel Thruway was the first limited-access highway to cast a shadow on the Penn Line in the Baltimore area.


Serious Maintenance

Serious Maintenance
Mile: 104.2 Date: Aug 2017
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B+ T6:
Map: Ba 41 K 12 Topographic Maps

Amtrak takes track maintenance seriously. As viewed from I-895, that's quite a stretch of MoW equipment.

Along straight track the PRR spaced the tall catenary poles about 270 feet apart. Since this equipment spans about 4 poles we can quickly calculate it stretches about 1000 feet, or more than 3 football fields.

Before I-895 arrived during the 1950s a farm's grade crossing was found at photo bottom right.

Link: Amtrak catenary repair


Santa Fe

Santa Fe
Mile: 104.3 Date: Nov 2002
Ease: C View: E
Area: B+ T6:
Map: Ba 41 K 13 Topographic Maps

Concrete crossties courtesy the Santa Fe? That's how they are stamped. These were made by San-Vel Concrete company, and are intended to last 50 years, which is 10 to 20 more years than a wooden tie. Concrete ties cost about twice as much as a wooden tie.


Patapsco Bridge

Patapsco Bridge
Mile: 104.3 Date: Nov 2002
Ease: C View: SE
Area: B+ T6: 343
Map: Ba 41 K 13 Topographic Maps

Compared to the B&O's grand Thomas Viaduct located about two miles upstream, the Penn Line's bridge across the Patapsco River is positively mundane. Undoubtably, it was also much less costly to construct.

The steelwork on this side of the bridge appears to date from a widening during 1898, whereas that on the other side is newer, perhaps rebuilt around 1990.


Downstream Side

Downstream Side
Mile: 104.3 Date: Nov 2002
Ease: C View: S
Area: B+ T6: 343
Map: Ba 41 K 13 Topographic Maps

The piers with reddish stone and angular ends are original B&P construction circa 1870. To reduce flooding concerns, during 1898 the Wilson Brothers Company contracted to lengthen the bridge via three new stone piers. Those 1928 have rounded ends, such as the closest in this view. At the same time the company likely also widened the bridge from two to three tracks.

The "1928" embossed in concrete reveals when the piers were widened on this, the downstream side, in preparation for electrification of the line.

A fourth track is scheduled for addition here during the 2020s. Whether that will require a total rebuild of this bridge is not yet clear. Perhaps it can be tacked on in the manner of the prior expansions.

Link to older picture: 1885


Deferred Maintenance

Deferred Maintenance
Mile: 104.3 Date: Nov 2002
Ease: C View: E
Area: B+ T6:
Map: Ba 41 K 13 Topographic Maps

Amtrak is desperately in need of a "round tuit" when it comes to repainting the bridges they inherited. At photo time it was in excess of a half century since the steel portions of the Patapsco Bridge last received a coat of paint.

When this bridge was painted during September 1952, Amtrak was but a gleam in some government bureaucrat's eye, Pennsy Pacific K4s steamers were still hauling passengers, and President Harry S Truman was busy with a police action in Korea.


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