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B&O Washington Branch Photo Tour

B&O Washington Branch
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.


Brief Historical Background: Washington Branch

Relay

Relay
Mile: 8.9 Date: Apr 1999
Ease: A View: W
Area: B IC2: 105, 130
Map: Ba 41 H 12, Ho 17 J 4 Topographic Maps

The dual tracks of the Washington Branch diverge left from the Old Main Line here at Relay, Maryland. In the past, both routes had been double tracked, yielding four tracks here, but sometime in the mid-1900s the OML was reduced to single track.

Before it was demolished in 1950, B&O's grand Viaduct Hotel was sandwiched between the Washington Branch and OML in the distance to the right of the Thomas Viaduct obelisk. This area remains suprisingly bucolic for what had been significant railroad intersection.


Mile Markers

Mile Markers
Mile: 9.0 Date: Mar 2004
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 41 H 12 Topographic Maps

Unlike the Old Main Line, the Washington Branch was given decorative stone mileposts, many of which survive. When the Branch opened in 1835 this spot was 9 miles from downtown Baltimore via the B&O route at that time. Subsequent track realignments reduced the distance to roughly 7 miles, hence the adjacent modern milepost.


Sibling

Sibling
Mile: 9.0 Date: Mar 2004
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ba 41 H 12 Topographic Maps

Perhaps since this was the starting location of the Washington Branch, stone markers graced both sides of the track. Photographic evidence suggests all other mile locations were given a single marker.

In January 2007 CSX excavated and removed both these markers... the (unconfirmed) rumor is they became gifts to an executive. I suppose these items are CSX property, and therefore CSX can do with them as they wish, but I'd rather this unique and historic pair had been donated to the B&O Museum. In February 2008 I was pleased to hear from B&O Museum Director Courtney Wilson that indeed CSX did remove and donate another of these markers to the Museum.


Relay

Relay
Mile: 9.0 Date: Apr 1999
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B IC2: 57, 94, 388
Map: Ba 41 H 12, Ho 17 J 5 Topographic Maps

Lonely CSX 8507 glides back toward where the tracks diverge. Directly to the left across the tracks, but not visible here, is the Thomas Viaduct obelisk. The white building in the distance is the old Relay House.

Links to older pictures: ~1870, 1976


waiting shack
Photo courtesy William Thurston Collection

Waiting Shack
Mile: 9.0 Date: 1939
Ease: View: E
Area: IC2:
Map: Ba 41 H 12 Topographic Maps

The roofline of a passenger waiting shack can be glimpsed at right as the B&O's Royal Blue train rolls east out of the shadow of the Viaduct Hotel. Note also the access road on the right; it leads up from the base of the viaduct.

In 2010, plans are in the works to restore the road and rebuild the shack as part of a viaduct viewing area. Those plans also call for the tracks and other artifacts to be fenced off, so if you want to see this area in more the form it has been for over a century, don't delay.


Viaduct Hotel Marker

Viaduct Hotel Marker
Mile: 9.0 Date: Jul 1999
Ease: B View: E
Area: B IC2: 127, 296
Map: Ba 41 H 12 Topographic Maps

Hidden in brush and weeds is the now-vandalized marker that serves to indicate the B&O's elegant Viaduct Hotel once stood on this spot. The hotel opened in 1873, but the introduction of sleeper cars as well as the Metropolitan Division (from Frederick to Washington, DC) around that same time sigificantly reduced the need for a hotel at this location. The Viaduct Hotel hung on for decades, was converted into crew quarters, and then demolished around 1950.

The text on the marker had read: "Site of Old Relay Station and Hotel - Baltimore & Ohio Railroad - Here, in 1830, passengers on B&O horse-drawn cars stopped to eat at the Relay House. Meanwhile, the relays of horses were changed for the remainder of the 13 mile journey between Baltimore and Ellicott's Mills, hence the name Relay. In 1835, a second station superseded the earlier one. In 1872, a large combination passenger station and hotel was erected on this spot. It was razed in 1950. This stone is from that building."

Links to older pictures: 1886, 1950, ~1976


Thomas Viaduct Obelisk

Thomas Viaduct Obelisk
Mile: 9.0 Date: Apr 1999
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2: 281, 322
Map: Ba 41 H 12 Topographic Maps

This obelisk pays tribute to the men who dreamed, engineered and built the Thomas Viaduct. The great stone structures of the B&O were not easy to construct, but they have paid dividends by virtue of their reliability and longevity.

Links to older pictures: ~1900, ~1930 ~1970, 1984


Thomas Viaduct

Thomas Viaduct
Mile: 9.0 Date: Mar 2000
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2: 57
Map: Ba 41 H 12, Ho 17 J 5 Topographic Maps

Mixed freight heads south over the venerable Thomas Viaduct which in 2010 celebrated 175 years of service to the railroad. The viaduct stretches for a total of 8 stone arches, and when finished in 1835 it was the longest bridge in the USA, and second longest in the world (London Bridge is slightly longer).

Benjamin Henry Latrobe II's successful design for the structure soon boosted him to the role of B&O Chief Engineer. John McCartney was chief contractor. Latrobe was not fond of the iron railing, some of which in disrepair still tops the viaduct; overhaul plans for the area call for the railing to be removed and replaced.

The road bridge seen in the distance is that of I-895.

Links to older pictures: 1861, 1939, 1940, 1972, Pic Group


Circus Train
Photos courtesy Dave Hiteshew
NEW! Apr 2017

Circus Train
Mile: 9.0 Date: Apr 2017
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2: 57
Map: Ba 41 H 12, Ho 17 J 5 Topographic Maps

flatcars After 145 years of operation, during April 2017 the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus made its final trip via train into Baltimore. The travelling circus formed long before trucks and autos were plying hard surface roads, thus it developed a natural association with the rails, even customizing equipment for transport on flatcars. Here RBBX flatcars are devoid of their usual colorful circus displays because this time it had trucked into much of its equipment, and may have sold off some to local carnivals at the places visited during the final tour. Baltimore was one of the last stops of the last circus train.


steamed
Photo courtesy William Thurston Collection

Steamed
Mile: 9.0 Date: 1939
Ease: View: SW
Area: IC2:
Map: Ba 41 H 12 Topographic Maps

In the past, steam power crossed the viaduct... now some people are getting steamed about the natural mineral patina that began forming on the viaduct in the 1800s and can be seen both in current and this 1939 photo. They want to steam clean everything.


walkway
Photo courtesy William Thurston Collection

Walkway
Mile: 9.1 Date: 1939
Ease: View: NE
Area: IC2:
Map: Ba 41 H 12 Topographic Maps

The Viaduct Hotel can be seen in this shot from the walkway that had followed the upstream side of the viaduct. What great views must have been possible! Restoration of this walkway would get my vote, but to my knowledge that is not in the current overhaul plan.

Links to older pictures: ~1930, 1984


Thomas Viaduct

Thomas Viaduct
Mile: 9.1 Date: Feb 2000
Ease: B View: E
Area: B+ IC2: 56
Map: Ho 17 J 5 Topographic Maps

This is the view of the Thomas Viaduct from the Howard County side of the Patapsco River. Shortly before I captured this photo, deer had been drinking at the river, and left the footprints seen in the foreground snow. To get to the location of this shot, from US 1 turn onto Levering Avenue, pass under I-895 and the viaduct, and continue for a short distance along the park road that parallels the river.

Links to older pictures: ~1880, 1886, 1925, 1976, 1984


View from I-95

View from I-95
Mile: Date: Oct 1999
Ease: A View: SE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ba 41 G 12 Topographic Maps

This is perhaps the easiest view of the Thomas Viaduct to obtain. While driving northbound on I-95, immediately after the I-895 interchange in the vicinity of Elkridge, get into the rightmost lane. Soon I-95 crosses the Patapsco River, and from its bridge you can look east (right) to easily see a portion of the viaduct. Trees obscure the majority of the viaduct, which stretches for a total of 8 stone arches.

How long might the Thomas Viaduct survive? Stone is very durable. Many Roman stones arches and viaducts have been standing for 2000 years, such as Pont du Gard, and Egyptian pyramids have been around even longer. The Thomas Viaduct's arches could stay upright for thousands of years, and despite their eventual collapse, the constituent cut blocks of granite might be notable as man-made for tens of thousands of additional years. Few things built in the United States are likely to last longer than what had initially been called Latrobe's Folly.

Link: Arkadiko Bridge world's oldest arched bridge (over 3000 years old) still in use


Levering Avenue

Levering Avenue
Mile: 9.2 Date: Apr 1999
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B+ IC2: 153
Map: Ho 17 J 5, Ba 41 H 13 Topographic Maps

Here is Levering Avenue passing under the southernmost arch of the Thomas Viaduct. The stairway in the shadows on the left leads up to the track, and the handrail is in disrepair. The climb up is not recommended for anyone made queasy by heights.

Links to older pictures: 1886, 1886, 1925?, 1936, 1976


I-895

I-895
Mile: 9.2 Date: Apr 1999
Ease: C+ View: S
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 17 J 5, Ba 41 H 13 Topographic Maps

But if you do climb the stairway and carefully walk across the tracks, this is what you'll find at the top. That's the I-895 overpass.

The small road on the right is Lawyer's Hill Road which used to make a grade crossing here.

Links to older pictures: ~1880, 1976


Bridge 10B

Bridge 10B
Mile: 9.5 Date: Mar 2000
Ease: B+ View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 J 6 Topographic Maps

This little arched bridge is the first on the Washington Branch. It is tucked inconspicuously just a few feet northwest of US 1. You might be able to glimpse it while driving by, but really need to stop and walk up to get the best view. According to Harwood, this side of the bridge dates to 1863 when the Washington Branch was widened to double track.


Bridge over US 1

Bridge over US 1
Mile: 9.5 Date: Jan 2002
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ho 17 J 6 Topographic Maps

Route 1 follows the path of the the oldest road between Baltimore and Washington. Long ago it was converted from a toll-based turnpike into a US Highway, and still carries much traffic.

Notice the fading Baltimore & Ohio label painted on the bridge. This is one of the few remaining places that you can still see evidence of the B&O name from before it was absorbed into the Chessie System and CSX Transportation.

The portion of US 1 seen here was built (when?) to bypass downtown Elkridge and the railroad's grade crossing at Main Street. Back in 1829, the B&O had to cross the same turnpike at a location further north (now the Morrell Park area of Baltimore) and built Jackson's Bridge, a 100+ foot wooden span which carried the road over the railroad.


Elk Ridge Marker

Elk Ridge Marker
Mile: 9.6 Date: Jan 2002
Ease: A View: W
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ho 17 J 6 Topographic Maps

At the intersection of US 1 and Old Washington Road sit this historical marker and bizarre early steam engine replica wannabe. Several readers have reported this is a replica of a Civil War steam gun.

The marker reads "Elk Ridge Landing - An important colonial port for shipment of tobacco. Here in 1765 Zachariah Hood, Maryland's 'Stamp Act' agent, was hanged in effigy. Lafayette's troops camped here April 17-19, 1781 on the way to engage Cornwallis in Virginia. George Washington passed here many times."

Link: Steam Gun info


Elkridge

Elkridge
Mile: 9.6 Date: Feb 2000
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B+ IC2: 153
Map: Ho 17 K 6 Topographic Maps

This is the view looking northwest from the recently disused Elkridge station across the US 1 bridge. The engine of the train seen here was idling at the St. Denis station, over a mile away. In the distance you can see the I-895 overpass again.


BNSF 4615

BNSF 4615
Mile: 9.6 Date: Feb 2000
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ho 17 K 6 Topographic Maps

Waiting at Elkridge for the traffic jam ahead to move is BNSF 4615 wearing a bold orange and yellow color scheme. We don't see many of these, affectionately known as "pumpkins", this far east, so this was a surprising treat.


Toomey Siding

Toomey Siding
Mile: 9.6 Date: Jan 2002
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 K 6 Topographic Maps

Immediately behind (northeast of) the disused Elkridge station is where you'll find the decaying remains of a siding that served the JH Toomey & Sons lumber and coal yard. It appears railcars were backed into the siding and their contents dumped into concrete bins below. I estimate the siding was constructed around 1900. As of January 2002 the area appears to be in active cleanup, so these track remains may be removed soon.

On a geneology web page I found the following information that dates to ~1960:

    "Notes for Joseph Henry 'Joe' Toomey, Engineer B&O Railroad, born March 16, 1833 died January 12, 1912

    "Joseph entered the employment of the B&O Railroad as an apprentice machinist about 1850. Later he was a machinist, locomotive fireman and Engineer. Still later he held the position of Superintendent of Roads and Engines of the Washington Division with headquarters at Washington Junction near Point of Rocks at the time of his retirement.

    "He owned a small farm of the approximate area of 25 acres, the eastern line bordering the right-of-way-line of the B&O R.R. at Elkridge, Howard County, Maryland and extending westerly along the Washington Turnpike. He, with his sons, Joseph Henry Toomey Jr. and Charles Edward Toomey, opened a lumber and coal yard on the Washington Turnpike at Elkridge under the name of J.H.Toomey and Sons Inc. Today it is one of the largest dealers of its kind in Howard county. It caters to the needs of adjoining counties and sections of Baltimore City."
The gray gravel of the mainline can be seen on the right through the brush.


Bumper Post

Bumper Post
Mile: 9.6 Date: Jan 2002
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 K 6 Topographic Maps

The Toomey siding ends with an interesting bumper post. The bumper consists of rails bent upward and affixed together with the bracket device shown in the next picture.


The Ellis

The Ellis
Mile: 9.6 Date: Jan 2002
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 K 6 Topographic Maps

At the rearmost part of the bumper post is this rail bracket on which the words "THE ELLIS" and "PATENT" are stamped (conveniently highlighted by the white graffiti). I assume "The Ellis" was the brand name for this type of bracket. These were likely common in the first half of the 20th century, but I'd would guess few of this vintage survive today.



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