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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.


Marker 30

Marker 30
Mile: 30.0 Date: Dec 2003
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 G 9 Topographic Maps

Mile 30 features both a modern and stone marker. That's the overpass of Greenbelt Road, MD 193, ahead. The siding in the foreground leads to a Washington Post printing facility behind us, in fact the track goes right into the building.


Berwyn

Berwyn
Mile: 30.2 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2: 315
Map: PG 7 G 10 Topographic Maps

The former MARC Berwyn station has been reduced to just a walkway thanks to the addition of a DC Metro stop (Green Line) not far away.

In the distance, an approaching Metro train, headlights shining brightly, has just passed under Greenbelt Road.


Paint Branch

Paint Branch
Mile: 30.9 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: B- View: S
Area: B- IC2:
Map: PG 7 F 11 Topographic Maps

Both the Washington Branch and the Metro Green Line cross over the Paint Branch stream here. The water level is but 10 feet beneath the track level, which says to me the stream rarely has high floods.

The original parts of the stone bridge supports are of differing heights, indication that in the past a different bridge graced this location. According to Harwood, originally the span was wooden, but perhaps as early as 1839 an iron bridge was employed. If so, it would have been the first iron bridge in the country.

Link to older picture: US 1 near here ~1900


MARC 7755
NEW! Nov 2013

MARC 7755
Mile: 31.4 Date: Oct 2013
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 F 13 Topographic Maps

MARC 7755 approaches as a control cab for the locomotive (in this case MARC 11) pushing from the other end. During the 2000s, MARC expanded its rail service to the University of Maryland via this stop in College Park. The welcome sign is a bit premature since passengers disembarking on this damp autumn afternoon have another mile-plus of travel to reach the campus. This is scheduled to become a Capital Bikeshare location.

A quarter-mile in the distance you can glimpse part of the bridge over Paint Branch Parkway; the road took over what since the 1950s had been the path of a B&O spur to the university's power plant on the east side of US 1. The spur had split off to the left near the far end of the train in this photo.

Links: spur photos, Capital Bikeshare


Stations
NEW! Nov 2013

Stations
Mile: 31.4 Date: Oct 2013
Ease: A View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 F 13 Topographic Maps

The MARC "station" here, which consists of platforms with covered shacks, is adjacent to the College Park stop of the DC Metro's Green line. A walkway connects the two. At first reaction it seems odd for the two very similar modes of transport to place stops adjacent, but fast food restaurants have studied this issue and learned the best location for a new restaurant is near that of a competitor.

Both stops date to the 1990s before which Calvert Road had crossed the tracks here at grade.


MARC 17
NEW! Nov 2013

MARC 17
Mile: 31.4 Date: Oct 2013
Ease: A View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 F 13 Topographic Maps

Motive Power model MP36PH-3C locomotives began MARC service during 2009. They are more energy efficient than their predecessors. They even operate in the rain.

The B&O's College Park station had been here on the left. Platform remants survived until Metro's arrival.

Links: MARC roster, MPXpress locomotives


CSX 5268
NEW! Nov 2013

CSX 5268
Mile: 31.9 Date: Oct 2013
Ease: B View: N
Area: B- IC2:
Map: PG 12 E 1 Topographic Maps

Metro's Green line rises over the freight tracks before disappearing into a hillside tunnel (unseen at left) and progressing west under University Park.

All Metro cars have the same basic appearance as the original models from the 1970s when the system opened. That is scheduled to change upon the arrival of the "7000 series" cars in 2016.

Link: "7000 series" pictures


CSX 5296
NEW! Nov 2013

CSX 5296
Mile: 32.2 Date: Oct 2013
Ease: B View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 12 E 2 Topographic Maps

About 28 minutes later, this GEVO cousin numbered 28 higher than the one above, came off the Alexandria Branch to lead mixed freight toward Baltimore. East West Highway bridges behind.


Waiting
NEW! Nov 2013

Waiting
Mile: 32.2 Date: Oct 2013
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 12 E 2 Topographic Maps

Deep zoom shows a passenger at Riverdale awaiting the next MARC train. Further away, some of the Cap Subdivision's last CPL signals still in operation await the retirement that will come upon activation of their successors standing adjacent.

Link: ~1988


Riverdale

Riverdale
Mile: 32.4 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: A View: S
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 12 E 2 Topographic Maps

Riverdale makes for a surprisingly pleasant and scenic stop on any tour of area railroads. This view looks south toward Queensbury Road, the last remaining grade crossing encountered on the way to Washington. That may partially explain why a higher than normal number of drivers at this crossing make the mistake of turning onto the tracks and getting their car damaged or stuck.


Riverdale Station

Riverdale Station
Mile: 32.4 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B+ IC2: 157
Map: PG 12 E 2 Topographic Maps

Riverdale's MARC station has recently been rebuilt on the site of the B&O's original station. Inside are volunteer maintained small displays of railroad history. The short row of shops seen behind give the area a quaint, small town feel. On the right, the overpass is that of East-West Highway, Route 410.

Reader David Hiles shared some history:

    "According to town legend, the Calvert family allowed the railroad to run through their plantation in Riverdale under the condition that the railroad will always offer passenger service somewhere on the original grounds. If passenger service was discontinued to Riverdale, then the railroad would forfeit the right of way back to the Calverts. Maybe that is why we still have the closest MARC station to DC."

Link: Riverdale Railfans Yahoo Group


Trolley

Trolley
Mile: 32.4 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: A View: S
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 12 E 2 Topographic Maps

At Riverdale, the B&O and the Washington-Laurel trolley were separated by the width of the building seen here, at which trolley tickets were sold. The railroad is on the left, while the trolley line survives only in the form of the series of utility poles stretching into the distance on the right. The trolley operated until the 1950s.


MARC 7100

MARC 7100
Mile: 32.8 Date: Apr 2004
Ease: B+ View: NE
Area: C IC2:
Map: PG 12 E 3 Topographic Maps

The area's oldest surviving motive unit in revenue service at the time of this photo leads a commuter train toward Washington on a spring afternoon. MARC 7100 is a twice refurbished ex-B&O 239A EMD model F7-A originally built in 1951, and assigned B&O number 293A (later 4553). It's not really a locomotive... instead here it is a control cab that leads when another unit is pushing the train from behind. MARC 7100 was retired in 2010 and now resides at the B&O Railroad Museum.

Link: history of this unit, with pics from B&O days


Marker

Marker
Mile: 33.0 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: B+ View: SE
Area: C IC2:
Map: PG 12 D 4 Topographic Maps

The character of the neighborhood declines as you proceed south of Riverdale.

My maps indicated a mile marker might be near the deserted end of Kennedy Street, and I was determined to check for one, despite the street being littered with abandoned, stripped cars. As I drove in from US 1 to trackside, I passed a group of people who were in the process of disassembling vehicles.

The marker was exactly where I had expected, though buried in brush, so I quickly snapped a few photos before making a hasty exit. This is not a safe place to visit.

Reader Marty Hager sent some feedback:

    "Your virtual tour of the Washington Branch of the B&O is a wonderful resource and I have enjoyed it tremendously since I first discovered the site... I take exception with one of your observations however. The site at the end of Kennedy Street in Hyattsville you described as not safe. This could not be further from the truth, at least in the day time. I have visited this site many times by myself and with my kids and we have never felt the least bit threatened. I teach at a school in the area and my oldest son is a student there. He sometimes goes to the tracks on the way home (he is also a big railfan) and I have no problem with letting him go by himself or with friends."
Marty, after another visit it looks like some of those cars are discarded hulks from nearby repair shops. Not pretty, but not as bad a sign as stripped vehicles. I've bumped up my grade for the area. Since the time of the photo the area has been redeveloped and Kennedy Street no longer reaches the tracks. -Steve


Alt 1

Alt 1
Mile: 33.0 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: C IC2: 179, 322, 394
Map: PG 12 D 4 Topographic Maps

The view south from Kennedy Street shows the bridge that carries Alternate US 1 (Baltimore Avenue) over the tracks at Hyattsville. JD Tower once stood off-photo on the left, but was removed in 1994.

Reader Russ Forte shared some memories:

    "When I was a kid, my dad took me to get my hair cut at a barber school located in a building near the tracks. We used to walk down to the tracks to look for trains. One day, the guys in the tower invited us up to see the insides. I was a very impressed 12 year-old. They had a board on the wall (CTC?) and about 50 levers that controlled the turnouts and signals. We didnít see any trains, but they showed us how they changed the turnout settings by moving the lever."

Links to older pictures: tower in 1991, JD Tower history site


Hyattsville Crossing
Photo credit B&O Museum

Hyattsville Crossing
Mile: 33.2 Date: ~1910
Ease: A View: SW
Area: C IC2: 157
Map: PG 12 D 4 Topographic Maps

Prior to the bridge there was, of course, a grade crossing for both Baltimore Avenue and Decatur Street. On the far right are the trolley tracks, and on the left is the B&O's Hyattsville Station.


Zoom
Photo credit B&O Museum

Zoom
Mile: 33.2 Date: ~1910
Ease: A View: SW
Area: C IC2: 157
Map: PG 12 D 4 Topographic Maps

Magnification and contrast enhancement of the prior photo bring out details such as the mail crane at the distant end of the westbound passenger platform. Via a mail crane, a train could pick up mail "on-the-fly" without stopping.

On the right note the trolley car and what may be either passengers or workers. At the time of the photo the trolley's right of way had not yet been repurposed into Rhode Island Avenue.

Links: mail crane info and video, in action in WV 1966

Highly recommended video (youtube): 82 Trolley line (1950s)


Hyattsville Station
Photo credit B&O Museum

Hyattsville Station
Mile: 33.3 Date: ~1910
Ease: A View: N
Area: C IC2: 157
Map: PG 12 D 5 Topographic Maps

This 1884 version was the B&O's largest station between Baltimore and Washington. The area is named for Christopher Hyatt who in 1865 established a store in this vicinity.

Link: Maryland Historical Trust (PDF)


Hyattsville

Hyattsville
Mile: 33.3 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: B+ View: NE
Area: C IC2: 157
Map: PG 12 D 5 Topographic Maps

The wye here at Hyattsville allows the Alexandia Branch to split from the Washington Branch and take a more easterly route around downtown Washington, DC. The Alexandria Branch tracks are not seen in this photo, but are off to the right.

This view from within the wye looks northeast back toward the Alt US 1 overpass, as well as the concrete slab on the right where Hyattsville Station had been. The station survived into the 1950s and a B&O freight house into the 1980s.

Link: station in 1907


Hyattsville Wye

Hyattsville Wye
Mile: 33.3 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: B+ View: SW
Area: C IC2:
Map: PG 12 D 5 Topographic Maps

This photo looks the opposite direction to the previous. Here you can see the so-called west leg of the wye (it's on the southeast side of the wye) splitting off to the Alexandria Branch, which is now on the left.

Immediately behind the pine trees on the right is US 1. About a mile in the distance is the overpass of 38th Avenue.

Link to older picture: 1940


Alexandria Branch

Alexandria Branch
Mile: 33.3 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: B+ View: E
Area: C IC2:
Map: PG 12 D 5 Topographic Maps

And this view looks along the wye's west leg toward the start of the Alexandria Branch. On the left is the Alt US 1 bridge again, and the concrete slab even further left is the former location of Hyattsville Station.


JD Sign

JD Sign
Mile: 33.5 Date: Apr 2004
Ease: A View: N
Area: C IC2:
Map: PG 12 D 5 Topographic Maps

An obviated milepost-style sign had alerted trains of their approach to JD Tower.


CSX 690

CSX 690
Mile: 33.7 Date: Apr 2004
Ease: B View: SW
Area: C IC2:
Map: PG 12 C 5 Topographic Maps

Red signals at Hyattsville have stopped this eastbound train on a spring afternoon. Closest to the camera are defect detectors, then the bridge over Charles Armentrout Drive (newest bridge in the area). Next, where CSX 690 has paused is the railroad bridge over the Anacostia River's Northwest Branch. About a mile in the distance is 38th Avenue, and even further Eastern Avenue.

Links: sound recordings (WAV files) of defect detector 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


38th Avenue

38th Avenue
Mile: 34.6 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 12 B 7 Topographic Maps

This is what happens when you violate the "keep the sun at your back" rule of photography. With better lighting, this is a nice spot for an overhead view of trains.

Fortunately, there's nothing of railroading significance to try to see through the glare in this view from 38th Avenue. About a half mile ahead, the tracks leave Maryland and cross with little fanfare into Washington, DC near mile marker 35 and the Eastern Ave bridge glimpsed in the distance.


Eastern Avenue

Eastern Avenue
Mile: 35.0 Date: Jun 2004
Ease: B View: SW
Area: C IC2:
Map: PG 12 A 8 Topographic Maps

Eastern Avenue (background) designates the boundary between Maryland and Washington, DC. It's also near mile 35; a beaten-up stone milepost hides in the brush on the left.

I searched for the DC line marker seen in the historic photo below, but have not found any remains. From a distance, the concrete platform at center had promise, but turned out to be a drainage ditch. The DC line marker may instead have been on the Metropolitan Branch in Silver Spring. Anyone know?

Link to older picture: entering DC?



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