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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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Metro Yard

Metro Yard
Mile: 28.1 Date: Feb 2000
Ease: B+ View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 5 Topographic Maps

Asset Retired Just south of Sunnyside Avenue there are indications we're getting closer to Washington. In the background, you can see the Greenbelt Yard and Inspection Shop of DC's Metro system. The track immediately on the other side of the fence was Metro's only connection with the CSX Cap Sub. Prior to Metro, a grade crossing had existed ahead.

A 2018 visit (photo left) found the link disconnected, and its utility box labeled for removal. Hopefully CSX does not spray paint its retiring employees.


Greenbelt Shop

Greenbelt Shop
Mile: 28.6 Date: Apr 2004
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 6 Topographic Maps

Metro's Greenbelt facility is easily seen from the outer loop of the I-495 Capital Beltway. The Beltway opened here during 1964, and its bridge over the B&O line was made long enough to permit additional tracks underneath, such as Metro's Green Line that arrived during the 1990s.

Greenbelt is a terminus of Metro's Green Line, for the moment at least. Long-term planners have proposed extending the line northeast to Fort Meade, or even Baltimore Washington International Airport some 20 miles distant. Such an extention would likely parallel the B&O line at least to Laurel.


Greenbelt Stations

Greenbelt Stations
Mile: 29.0 Date: Dec 2003
Ease: A View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 H 6 Topographic Maps

At Greenbelt the trains compete not only with the cars of DC area commuters but also with each other. Still, that doesn't mean the signage is easy to understand.

The brown sign is DC Metro standard, but in this case it describes "Commuter Rail" which locals call the "MARC train". It also lists East Bound and West Bound, which infrequent riders are unlikely to understand, not to mention the preferred spelling is Eastbound and Westbound. Omitted is a sign to direct people to DC Metro's Green line.

The blue sign is more understandable: it mentions MARC and indicates which way to walk to reach the platform to Washington, DC. It does not, however, indicate how one can reach the platform for Baltimore-bound MARC trains.

Of course, regular commuters know their way and don't need signage. The only audience for these signs are newbies and infrequent riders, the very group that needs clear directions.


Platforms

Platforms
Mile: 29.0 Date: Dec 2003
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 H 7 Topographic Maps

The north (east) end of the MARC platform is right at mile marker 29. There's no B&O stone milepost to be found here; it was likely removed as part of the station construction. Underneath, a B&O culvert was rebuilt with modern concrete and piping.

We can look across to the adjacent Metro station where a Green line train is just pulling in. Since this is the terminal, the train will sit with doors open until the next train arrives. Metro's Greenbelt station opened during 1991.

In the distance toward the left you'll find CPL signals, still present during 2018, and evidence of this right of way's B&O heritage. Now CSX shares the line with MARC commuter trains. Notice how an extra set of tracks peel off the center main line order to serve the station, and get MARC trains out of the way of passing freights.


MARC Station

MARC Station
Mile: 29.1 Date: Dec 2003
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 H 7 Topographic Maps

Here is much the same view as the prior photo, but from the south (west) end of the MARC platform. The Metro train is in the distance at center left.


CSX 5314

CSX 5314
Mile: 29.1 Date: Aug 2018
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 H 7 Topographic Maps

CSX 5314, 955, and 5230 lead empty Tropicana reefers (refrigerated boxcars) back to Florida. During prior years CSX ran exclusive Juice Trains, but seeking greater efficiency it has opted to include other cars with those of Tropicana.

On the right, Metro will lead passengers back to Florida Avenue in DC where a different kind of reefer was made legal during 2015.


Survivors

Survivors
Mile: 29.1 Date: Aug 2018
Ease: A- View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 H 7 Topographic Maps

dwarf CPL These CPLs at Greenbelt may be the last survivors of their kind along the Cap Sub, perhaps earning a temporary reprieve from removal by being adjacent to a MARC stop with platform sidings. That unusual track arrangement may require MARC to approve any signal change.

Dwarf CPLs have a special charm that will be missed. The "D" does not stand for "dwarf" but rather reminds passenger train operators leaving the station to not exceed 40 mph and to be prepared to stop at the next signal.


Triple Culvert
NEW! early-Sep 2019

Triple Culvert
Mile: 29.3 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 H 7 Topographic Maps

Southwest of the station this triple culvert handles overflows via a unique center smaller pipe higher up. This concrete structure dates to 1963 when PG Contry was channelling many of its streams, and might have replaced an original B&O box culvert or stone arch.


CSX 3190

CSX 3190
Mile: 29.9 Date: Aug 2018
Ease: B+ View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 G 9 Topographic Maps

safety stand CSX 3190 and CSX 5205 roll past a disconnected siding that leads to a Washington Post printing facility behind the photographer, in fact the track goes right into the building. At photo time the siding's other end was still connected to the main.

At left is a Bethlehem Steel Co Mainline Safety Stand that controls a derail. On the right is the site of the B&O's Branchville Station.


Color Surprise
NEW! early-Sep 2019

Color Surprise
Mile: 29.9 Date: Aug 2018
Ease: B+ View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 G 9 Topographic Maps

Everyone knows signal colors are red... tangerine... blue? Since incandescent bulbs glow yellowish, signal lenses are tinted so the resulting light is the common red, amber, green. This disused signal is no longer extant.


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. Flowing beneath the photographer, and the railroads, is a stream that was sewered to make room for a parking lot at the Washington Post's facility.

During the 1870s a B&O spur curved to the right to serve a poudrette factory. Poudrette was fertilizer made from "night soil" (human waste).

Links: removal of night soil, 2005


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. The right half of the walkway was accidentally destroyed during the 2015/2016 addition of a third track for Metro. Berwyn Road's grade crossing closed around 1990.

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

Link: 1971


Straightaway
NEW! early-Sep 2019

Straightaway
Mile: 30.2 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 G 10 Topographic Maps

On the right, the Washington Branch starts a 3.5 mile straight run, its longest.

On the left, Metro meanders to College Park Station, then ascends to curve over the Washington Branch. I believe its nearest track stages trains for the morning commute.


Paint Branch
Updated early-Sep 2019

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

Aug 2019 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.


Low Plane
NEW! early-Sep 2019

Low Plane
Mile: 31.3 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 F 12 Topographic Maps

Since the College Park Airport runway (off photo right) is about 10 feet actual lower than the adjacent railroads, landing planes must glide in fairly low. Imagine the surprise of a train operator when out from the trees emerges a plane barely above eye level. Double stacks reach almost as high as these CSX signals, so a slightly lower plane could strike such railcars -- or "knock down a signal" the hard way.

Note: to better illustrate the proximity of landing planes and trains, the main photo is a created composite of two, inspired by the actual, poor-quality, cropped photo at left shot moments before. These two photos may not depict the same plane.


CSX 3473
NEW! early-Sep 2019

CSX 3473
Mile: 31.3 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 F 12 Topographic Maps

rusty rotors This "brake rotor runner" (that's what the first car holds, as seen at right) is near a mile in length. Both it and this Metro train are passing over Paint Branch Parkway that was cut underneath during 1994. Shoo-fly track on the northwest side had carried CSX trains over the construction. The Green Line began operation here during 1993.


Incognito
NEW! early-Sep 2019

Incognito
Mile: 31.4 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: A View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 F 12 Topographic Maps

A faster engine must have blown the doors off CSX 940. It's looked like this since 2016.

Engines operating such as this in the middle of a train, or at its end, are Distributed Power Units (DPUs). The operator is at the head end of the train, as usual, but powering and braking commands are transmitted via computer so that all engines of a DPU set are working in tandem.

Link: more CSX 940


MARC 7755

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 was scheduled to become a Capital Bikeshare location during 2019.

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

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

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, 1966, MPXpress locomotives


Four Trains
NEW! early-Sep 2019

Four Trains
Mile: 31.4 Date: Aug 2019
Ease: A View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 F 13 Topographic Maps

One photo, four tracks, and four moving trains, a personal best.


CSX 5268

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 had the same basic appearance as the original models from the 1970s when the system opened. That changed upon the arrival of the "7000 series" cars in 2016.

Link: "7000 series" pictures


MARC 14

MARC 14
Mile: 32.0 Date: Jun 2019
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 12 E 1 Topographic Maps

With mileposts 32 at each side, MARC 14 rolls under the Lafayette Avenue extension, the Cap Sub's newest overpass.


CSX 5296

CSX 5296
Mile: 32.2 Date: Oct 2013
Ease: B View: S
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.



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