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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.


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Bypass
Photo courtesy Google
NEW! Jul 2011

Bypass
Mile: 10.0 Date: 2010
Ease: View:
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 17 K 6 Topographic Maps

For the better part of a century, the B&O planned to bypass the Thomas Viaduct route (magenta) with a shortcut (light blue), but could never bring itself to obviate its grand stone bridge.

Some grading was done, the scars of which remain today along the southern part of the intended right-of-way, portions of which are still held by CSX. This is the alignment the B&O should have originally chosen in the early 1830s since it is shorter, straighter, and crosses the Patapsco River at a spot that would have been less expensive to span.

Furthermore, such an alignment provided room for a wye that would have allowed trains from Washington, DC to turn and proceed west along the OML. That leg of the wye could have run from present-day intersection of I-195 and US 1 to the vicinity of the Rolling Road grade separation bridge.

Without this connection, westbound passengers had to change trains, hence the B&O built the Viaduct Hotel in Relay, plus ultimately the Metropolitan Branch from DC northwest to meet the OML at Point of Rocks.

On the map, the gray almost vertical cut right of center is the alignment chosen by the Pennsylvania Railroad, now used by Amtrak.


Original Culvert

Original Culvert
Mile: 10.1 Date: Jan 2002
Ease: D+ View: SE
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 17 K 7 Topographic Maps

Other than the Thomas Viaduct, very little of the original 1835 Washington Branch has survived to the present without rebuilding.

By virtue of lack of mortar, plus its semi-collapsing condition, this substantial culvert appears to be an original. It is approximately 10 feet high at the center, and is located deep in a ditch that requires a difficult climb through thorny brush. This one is definitely not recommended for viewing in person unless you are a serious bridge fanatic like me.

If you know where to look while driving past on Race Road, you may be able to see the other (possibly newer) side of this culvert by peering through the trees.


Piped Culvert

Piped Culvert
Mile: 10.5 Date: Jan 2002
Ease: B View: E
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 17 J 8 Topographic Maps

A retaining pond in a ~1980s housing development on Fairbourne Court sits on the west side of the tracks. At the middle is a small piped culvert. It's nothing stupendous, but I saw it on maps and decided to investigate. The pipe was likely added during the 1900s.


Hanover

Hanover
Mile: 11.6 Date: May 1999
Ease: A View: W
Area: A IC2: 154
Map: Ho 17 H 10 Topographic Maps

The locals have a sense of humor here near the Hanover Road grade crossing. This is one of only a handful of grade crossings left on the Washington Branch. The sign is no longer present.


Workin' on the RR

Workin' on the RR
Mile: 11.7 Date: Jul 2004
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 G 10 Topographic Maps

The adjacent Anderson Avenue (behind the sign in the previous photo) provided a great spot from which to see crews installing new ribbon rail during a Sunday in July.

As heard at the start of the following brief video, the continuously welded rail issues bizarre, echoing metallic pings as the crane hoists it into place. The louder, repeating sound is that of a rail nailing machine that is unseen behind the crane. MPG Video; 320x200 resolution, 8 seconds; 750K file size MPEG.


Grove

Grove
Mile: 11.7 Date: Jul 2004
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 G 10 Topographic Maps

Another view of the machine at work.


Foreign W?

Foreign W?
Mile: 11.8 Date: Sep 2003
Ease: B View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 G 10 Topographic Maps

Just around the bend from the Hanover Road grade crossing, this old whistle sign caught my eye. I've seen only one other like it (near Riverdale). The design is similar to the keystone style employed by the Pennsylvania RR. Anyone know if this sign is a refugee from another railroad?


Loudoun Ave

Loudoun Ave
Mile: 11.9 Date: Nov 1999
Ease: A View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 F 10 Topographic Maps

Grafittied and fortunately mostly hidden by the road bridge's guardrail is this ugly concrete bridge over a tributary of Deep Run, the stream the Washington Branch follows in this area. Its appearance suggests a construction date in the 1930s.

Also of note is the single-lane road bridge, not many of which remain in Howard County. It was replaced with a multi-lane version in late 2003.


Mile Marker

Mile Marker
Mile: 12.0 Date: Sep 2003
Ease: B View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 F 10, AA 1 D 10 Topographic Maps

Original mile marker 12 is almost hidden by trackside weeds. Since the time of this photo, the marker has been removed to the B&O Museum. The opposite side of the tracks hosts a more modern counterpart.


National Pike Marker

National Pike Marker
Mile: Date: Oct 2002
Ease: A View: N
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 11 J 8 Topographic Maps

For comparison, this is an original stone mile marker used on the "National Pike" the road from Baltimore to Frederick and further west. Turnpikes employed the markers to both encourage use of their roads (for which tolls were charged) as well as to mark the distance travelled for purposes of toll calculations.

This milestone now sits in the front yard of a home along Frederick Road. The engraving reads "13 M To B" (13 miles to Baltimore), and is so sharp I suspect it has been re-engraved recently.

Link: a whole page of mile markers


Bascom Creek Bridge

Bascom Creek Bridge
Mile: 12.5 Date: Sep 2003
Ease: C+ View: NW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 E 11, AA 1 C 10 Topographic Maps

The stone arched bridge over Bascom Creek dates to 1835, making it the oldest survivor from the Washington Branch. It's not quite original, having been shored up several times over the years. Bascom Creek approaches the bridge from an odd angle, and looks to be eroding the foundation on the far side. A very similar angle, and erosion problem, can be found at the Davis Branch bridge on the Old Main Line.

An 1860 Martenet's map of the county calls this stream Budd's Run.


TransCore

TransCore
Mile: 12.7 Date: Sep 2003
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 E 11, AA 1 C 11 Topographic Maps

Installed at this location in 2003 is the newest in tracking technology, TransCore. This system appears to supplant CSX's On Track system, which is also found at this location. However, the corrugated "planter" style foundations for the new devices give them the appearance of being temporary.

From the TransCore Web site: "Tracking billions of dollars of equipment and cargo is crucial for good customer service and efficient rail and intermodal operations. That's one reason the North American rail industry adopted a mandatory standard based on TransCore’s Amtech wireless RFID technology. More than 95 percent of all railcars in interchange service in North America are equipped with our radio frequency tags, allowing railroads to manage cars and locomotives nationwide."


Parkway Center Spur

Parkway Center Spur
Mile: 12.7 Date: Sep 2003
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 E 11, AA 1 C 11 Topographic Maps

There's the TransCore unit again, and ahead, a rarely used spur peels off the mainline to serve the Parkway Center complex near the intersection of MD 100 and Rt 295. Off in the distance is the MD 100 overpass.

This spur is not marked on the ADC maps even though it is fairly long and contains many sidings.


>>> Follow along the disused Parkway Center Spur <<<

Spurs

Spurs
Mile: 12.9 Date: May 2002
Ease: B+ View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 E 12, AA 1 B 11 Topographic Maps

Looking back toward where the TransCore units now sit, we can see there is also a spur on the other side of the tracks (left). It serves the Route 100 Industrial Park, and is notable for its steepness.


Rusty Shiny
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Rusty Shiny
Mile: 12.9, spur 0.1 Date: May 2008
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 E 11, AA 1 C 11 Topographic Maps

Of these two ascending into the Route 100 Industrial Park, guess which sees more trains?


Snowy
Photo courtesy JP Frecker

Snowy
Mile: 12.9, spur 0.2 Date: Dec 2009
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 E 11, AA 1 C 11 Topographic Maps
Neither rain nor the first snow of autumn 2009 shall prevent CSX from its appointed rounds on the spur. That's MD 100 in the distance.


Rail Brace
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Rail Brace
Mile: 12.9, spur 0.2 Date: May 2008
Ease: B View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 E 11, AA 1 C 11 Topographic Map

This economy rail brace from W S Corp dates to 1928; in this case economy includes dyslexic letter stamping. I'm sure this spur dates to well after 1928, probably the 1960s, like its brother on the other side of the tracks.


Mirror 9

Mirror 9
Mile: Date: Jul 2002
Ease: A View: NW
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 14 E 7 Topographic Maps

A similar mirroring appears on this stone mile marker in Clarksville. The markers along the Ellicott City and Clarksville Turnpike (now MD 108) show the distance to Ellicott City and date to the 1800s.

Leonardo da Vinci used mirror writing extensively, possibly to obfuscate documentation of his ideas from readers unfamiliar with the technique.


Santa Barbara Court
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Santa Barbara Court
Mile: 12.9, spur 0.3 Date: May 2008
Ease: A View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 E 11, AA 1 C 11 Topographic Maps

The area at Santa Barbara Court looks nothing like the California town, but it does have the first grade crossing for the spur. The spur splits here, and will again further ahead. Note the boxcars in the distance, evidence this track comes to life sometimes.


Give a Hoot
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Give a Hoot
Mile: 12.9, spur 0.4 Date: May 2008
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 E 11, AA 1 C 11 Topographic Maps

...don't just toot.

Whenever I see these manual switch controls, this one given maintenance not long ago, I think of an owl. I also think of Jimmy Durante.


San Tomas Road
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

San Tomas Road
Mile: 12.9, spur 0.7 Date: May 2008
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 D 11, AA 1 B 11 Topographic Maps

Just beyond the San Tomas Road grade crossing sit several plastic pellet hoppers.


High Road Low Road
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

High Road Low Road
Mile: 12.9, spur 0.7 Date: May 2008
Ease: A View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 17 D 11, AA 1 B 11 Topographic Maps

The spur's tracks diverge and curve to serve many warehouses, even ones at different elevations. That is MD 100 in the distance.

On the next page we'll resume where we left off the Washington Branch.



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