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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.


Juice Train

Juice Train
Mile: 19.4 Date: Sep 2001
Ease: B View: S
Area: A IC2:
Map: Ho 20 D 10 Topographic Maps

Resuming where we left off on the Washington Branch, the Tropicana Juice Train is a blur as it rushes its cargo north past the Patuxent Branch at Savage.


Juice Train

Juice Train
Mile: 19.4 Date: Sep 2001
Ease: B View: NE
Area: A- IC2:
Map: Ho 20 D 10 Topographic Maps

In a non-stop run, the vibrant orange cars of the "Juice Train" transport chilled fruit juices from Florida to distribution facilities in New Jersey.


Signal Tower

Signal Tower
Mile: 19.5 Date: Oct 2003
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: A- IC2:
Map: Ho 20 C 10 Topographic Maps

A tall color-position light (CPL) signal tower protects the crossovers near the Patuxent Branch.


Last Days
NEW! Nov 2013

Last Days
Mile: 19.6 Date: Aug 2013
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: A- IC2:
Map: Ho 20 C 10 Topographic Maps

CSX removed these CPLs November 16, 2013.


More Juice

More Juice
Mile: 20.0 Date: Oct 2003
Ease: B- View: S
Area: B+ IC2: 58?
Map: Ho 20 B 11 Topographic Maps

Another juice train powers through the relatively undeveloped area at mile 20 (20 miles from Baltimore).


Whiskey Bottom Road

Whiskey Bottom Road
Mile: 20.5 Date: Jun 2001
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: AA 4 K 12, Ho 20 B 12 Topographic Maps

This curve between Savage and Laurel is one of the most severe on the relatively straight Washington Branch. Here Whiskey Bottom Road crosses above. The bridge dates from 1990, and the concrete slabs in the foreground are evidence of a prior bridge. I don't travel past here often, so I don't recall what had been here, or if it was a grade crossing.

Reader Bill Hebb wrote to say:

    "In regards to the type of bridge at Whiskey Bottom Road over the Washington main, it was never a grade crossing. Prior to the current bridge, there was in the fifties and sixties a wood bottom bridge, improved around the early seventies with a macadam base and the wood made a tremendous racket when the horse vans crossed it.

    "I trained horses at Laurel Race track from the mid sixties to the early eighties and crossed that bridge every day. The picture you show seems like a tremendous improvement, it used to be a rough decline from the road down to the bridge, than across the bridge and then a 30% decline of about ten feet to get to the level the back stable gate / entrance of LRC."


Laurel Park

Laurel Park
Mile: 20.9 Date: Jun 2001
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: AA 4 J 13, Ho 20 A 13 Topographic Maps

A statue of famous Maryland thoroughbred Billy Barton welcomes visitors to Laurel Park Racetrack. The disused stairs behind the horse's nose are relics of the racetrack's former life as the Maryland State Fairgrounds (which are now located in Timonium). They lead up to what had been long train platforms.

Vehicle access to the dual underpasses is regulated to discourage through traffic (the white poles are removable). This is one of only a few spots at which you can drive under the Washington Branch.

Link to older picture: Racetrack 1920


Groundhog

Groundhog
Mile: 20.9 Date: Jun 2001
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: Ho 20 A 13, AA 4 J 13 Topographic Maps

Above the underpasses, MARC (commuter) trains stop at the racetrack's tiny station. The 1911 date on this staircase puts its origin at the time of the state fairgrounds. Not seen behind me is a disused staircase that dates to 1953.

Within the brightened box at bottom right you might be able to discern the face of a groundhog who calls this spot home. He dutifully watched me the entire time I was snapping photos.


Platform Lamp

Platform Lamp
Mile: 20.9 Date: Jun 2001
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: AA 4 J 13, Ho 20 A 13 Topographic Maps

Above the disused platform hangs a bishop's crook style lamp. I suspect this is still the original that was installed around 1910.


Laurel Racetrack

Laurel Racetrack
Mile: 20.9 Date: Oct 2003
Ease: B+ View: NE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: AA 4 J 13, Ho 20 A 13 Topographic Maps

Despite being less than a half mile from the station in downtown Laurel, the tiny Laurel Racetrack Station still sees MARC train service largely thanks to the proximity of the racetrack. Yes, that wooden platform is the "station".

That 65 mph sign is the highest posted limit I've seen anywhere on CSX trackage in the region.


PW 21 D

PW 21 D
Mile: 21.0 Date: Oct 2003
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 20 A 13, AA 4 H 13 Topographic Maps

PW, 21, D, Burma Shave!

OK, I can figure out the 21, but what are the PW and D signs? Anyone?

Reader Charlie Wingate said, of the D sign:

    "It is fallout from the MARC accident in Silver Spring, and tells push-pull trains to approach the next signal (assumed to be absolute) at medium speed. See this link: Bull sheet."

There is no original stone mile marker to be found at this location. Just past the bend is the downtown Laurel station.


Patuxent River

Patuxent River
Mile: 21.2 Date: Jul 1999
Ease: B View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: Ho 19 K 13, PG 4 J 3 Topographic Maps

Another bridge can be found spanning the Patuxent River (not to be confused with the Little Patuxent River) at Laurel. This bridge is a short distance south of the racetrack station and north of the downtown Laurel station.

Originally there was a single arch stone bridge here, but it was removed courtesy a flood in 1863. Probably one arch was not enough to handle the river, which is reasonably substantial at this point. The arch was likely replaced with a Bollman Bridge, followed later by the plain one you see here.

Not seen is the bicycle rider who came around a blind corner at high speed and nearly ran me down. The prior photo from this batch managed to include him in the image, and shows the surprised look on his face when he was just a few feet from barrelling into me. I knew railfanning could be dangerous, but not due to bicyclists!

Trivia: this spot is the southernmost point of Howard County.


Patuxent River

Patuxent River
Mile: 21.2 Date: Jul 2003
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 4 J 3, Ho 19 K 13 Topographic Maps

This is the opposite view as a CSX freight speeds past on top, and a car bumps through the potholes on the old dirt road below. The bridge could use a coat of rust preventer.


Laurel

Laurel
Mile: 21.3 Date: Apr 1999
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 J 3, Ho 19 K 13 Topographic Maps

Laurel's Main Street is seen here passing underneath the Washington Branch. The traffic light controls access to the single-lane underpass.

On the right, and depicted better in the next photo, is Laurel Station, still an active commuter stop. The text on the marker reads: "LAUREL RAILROAD DEPOT - Built by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1884, this 'American Queen Anne' structure continues in daily use. The architect Francis R. Baldwin also designed the rear wing of the State House in Annapolis. This building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972."

Link to older picture: 1980


Main Street Bridge

Main Street Bridge
Mile: 21.3 Date: Jul 2003
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 J 3, Ho 19 K 13 Topographic Maps

A volunteer sunflower would rather watch the evening's rail traffic than look at the sun here at the Main Street bridge. This is the only single lane underpass along the Washington Branch.

Does anyone know when it was built? It looks old enough that the steel structure now present on top is not the original design.


Laurel Station

Laurel Station
Mile: 21.3 Date: Apr 1999
Ease: A View: S
Area: B+ IC2: 155
Map: PG 4 J 3, Ho 19 K 13 Topographic Maps

A better view of Baldwin's gem.

Link to older pictures: Pics


MARC

MARC
Mile: 21.3 Date: Jul 2003
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B+ IC2: 312
Map: PG 4 J 3, Ho 19 K 13 Topographic Maps

Maryland Area Rail Commuters exit the last northbound train of a midsummer's evening.

Link: Vintage Rail Passenger Depots of Maryland


MARC 63

MARC 63
Mile: 21.3 Date: Jul 2003
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B+ IC2: 321
Map: PG 4 J 3, Ho 19 K 13 Topographic Maps

A view of the lead unit, MARC 63, as it pulls out of the station.


Carrier: B&O

Carrier: B&O
Mile: 21.3 Date: Jul 2003
Ease: A View:
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 J 3, Ho 19 K 13 Topographic Maps

Does Amtrak serve Laurel? No, old habits die hard.

This discarded Amtrak ticket stub was blowing around the Laurel station platform. It looks to be from an Amtrak passenger who connected via MARC from Washington, DC to Laurel (and paid $40 for the privilege, much higher than normal MARC rates).

But note who Amtrak lists as the carrier: BO. The last time the B&O carried passengers along this route on its own was 1973! Since that time, the State of Maryland has gradually assumed responsibilities. Uniformed B&O employees were replaced by those of MARC in 1984.


Bowie Road

Bowie Road
Mile: 21.9 Date: Sep 2000
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 4 H 4 Topographic Maps

GCFX 3055 and 3062 roll by Bowie Road. This is about as narrow as a 2-lane road underpass can get. The stone construction style of this structure would indicate it has been here for some time. This was a major road into Laurel before Rt. 198 was built.

Links to older pictures: 1922 wreck, 1922 wreck


Crow Branch

Crow Branch
Mile: 21.9 Date: Jan 2003
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 4 H 4 Topographic Maps

In a practice that makes me think of southern California, Prince George's County is fond of controlling its streams via concrete channels like this one.

This photo looks downstream as the Crow and Bear Branches combine ahead, only to be oddly split into two, with the left side apparently flowing under the road, under the Bowie Road RR bridge. It is not obvious where these channels emerge on the other side.

The road sign on the left depicts a fire truck to warn motorists that a fire station is found ahead. I can't think of anywhere else I've see such a sign.

I originally listed the stream in the foreground as the Bear Branch, but reader Karl Ginter kindly provided clarifications:

    "The channel emerges on the left hand side of the road beyond the bridge, runs thru the apartment complexes (splitting the two complexes) and continues on across the rerouted (new in 1958) Md 197 to the swamp and the Pax river channel.

    "A lot changed in this area between 1950 to 1980. They rebuilt this area and put in the flood control in the 1970's or early 1980's. This was just after Hurricane Agnes where the city was severely flooded, so there was a lot of flood control projects in the city then. Before then, it was bare stream beds, full of trash. The culvert is actually an improvement! This work was done in the late 1970's as my best guess. County records call this bridge structure 200000P-016102, and indicate it was built in 1972.

    "I don't believe that you're looking at the Bear Branch, but the Crows Branch which runs up Marshall Ave, and then over behind Laurel High School.

    "If I recall correctly, the Bear Branch runs underground from US 1 @ Cherry Lane to this point. It's been a long time... and it was above ground at some point back then, although I can't remember precisely when everything got covered over. To the right of the picture is the bowling alley, and what used to be the Roadway depot and the old Laurel Drive In Theater. The Bear Branch ran long the edge of what used to be the Avondale School property, along the freight depot, behind the old 7-11, and merged in at the bridge where the funky split in the culvert is."



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