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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.


Queens Chapel Road

Queens Chapel Road
Mile: 36.0 Date: Jun 2004
Ease: A View: SW
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 J 10 Topographic Maps

It's quiet here, however past the bend and just beyond the Queens Chapel Road overpass in the distance lies a heap of railroad activity...

Prior to 1907 and the opening of Union Station, the B&O's Washington Branch track did not have this gentle curve. Instead the track continued straight, and ran along what is now West Virigina avenue.


Montana Avenue

Montana Avenue
Mile: 36.4 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: A View: N
Area: D IC2:
Map: DC 10 H 10, PG 11 H 10 Topographic Maps

With New York Avenue a short distance behind, this 1936-dated bridge carries the B&O over Montana Avenue on its way to Eckington Yards (left). Immediately behind me is the Pennsylvania Railroad's bridge, which serves the same purpose, but is not nearly as attractive looking.

Prior to the Union Station track realignment, the B&O had a small station named Montello near this location.


Joint ROW

Joint ROW
Mile: 37.2 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: D View: E
Area: D IC2: 232, 394
Map: DC 10 F 11 Topographic Maps

The uncooperative (for railfanning) 9th Street overpass provides an overhead look back about a mile to where Montello station had been. Here the ex-B&O (now CSX) tracks are on the left and the electrified ex-Pennsylvania RR tracks (now Amtrak) are on the right.

Initially the B&O had a monopoly on railroad service to Washington, but eventually the Pennsy muscled in. Each RR had its own station and the downtown area and Mall were busy with steam engines, unsightly steam engines according to the politicians.

They "encouraged" the railroads to build a single, joint station, and in 1907 Union Station opened. Both the B&O and Pennsy constructed new approaches to the station, and for this stretch the tracks of the two competitors were adjacent.

At the bottom of the photo, note the pair of B&O tracks bends to the left: they are part of the large wye that connects with the Metropolitan Branch. The switch at the bottom leads a single track into Union Station. The B&O's F tower had been here on the left; on page 232 of Impossible Challenge II it can be seen in a photo similar to this that dates from the 1940s.

Prior to the realignment, the B&O's right of way had continued across what has become New York Avenue, passing close to the tall office building seen on the right.


Wye

Wye
Mile: 37.2 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: D View: W
Area: D IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 11 Topographic Maps

Same 9th Street overpass vantage point, but this time looking the opposite direction (west).

The dual Pennsy tracks are on the left, along with the single B&O track to Union Station. Below is the wye track that connects to the Metropolitan Branch. The 1873-opened Met extends from Washington north-northwest through Rockville and Gaithersburg to meet the Old Main Line at Point of Rocks, Maryland.

The two photos below zoom into the picture, first to the left, then to the right.

Link to older picture: 1940


Zoom Left

Zoom Left
Mile: 37.2 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: D View: SW
Area: D IC2: 243, 272
Map: DC 10 F 11 Topographic Maps

Ahead the tracks bend toward Union Station.

That's the top of the Washington Monument at the extreme left.


Zoom Right

Zoom Right
Mile: 37.2 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: D View: NW
Area: D IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 11 Topographic Maps

Eckington Yards, the B&O's primary freight facility in the DC area had been located just west of here, but in 1976 some of the property was transferred to the then new DC Metro subway and combined with Pullman Yards to become their Brentwood Shops. In the distance are several rows of Metro cars.

Reader Dave Manning disagrees with some of the details:

    "Eckington was still in service by the B&O in 1976 and NO part of it was ever transferred or used by WMATA. The only yard used to build Brentwood was the old Pullman yard and it was completely built and in service by 1976, along with the first segment of the Red Line. So, the only thing that happened in 1976 relative to Brentwood was that the Metro line here opened for service. In the photo you shot from the 9th St. bridge, Eckington would be between the Metro cars and that red brick warehouse in the center of the shot. The piggyback yard extended perpendicular to the main yard tracks and was off to the left."

Reader Eugene Leache provided some historical background:

    "Eckington was the estate of prominent journalist, and D.C. mayor, Joseph Gales. During the Civil War it was the site of a Union Army hospital."

Link: Brentwood Yards pics


Ivy City Yards

Ivy City Yards
Mile: 37.2 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: D View: NE
Area: D IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 11 Topographic Maps

Now we've turned around again (dizzy yet?) to look at Amtrak's Ivy City repair center.

The overpass offers enough views to make any railfan's mouth water, but there is a reason this area is called the "holy grail of railfanning". Lots of trains, yes, but no place to park, a rough neighborhood, and if that wasn't enough, a once anthrax-contaminated post office (yup, this is where you can find the infamous Brentwood Postal Facility).

Link to other pictures: Ivy City Yard


Amtrak 2036

Amtrak 2036
Mile: 37.0 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: B View: E
Area: D IC2:
Map: DC 10 G 11 Topographic Maps

From trackside it looks like Amtrak Acela 2036 has a sore nose. This is the same train seen at the extreme left of the prior photo.

Links to older pictures: 1956, ~1976, 2002


Amtrak 918
NEW! Nov 2010

Amtrak 918
Mile: 36.8 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: C+ View: SW
Area: D IC2:
Map: DC 10 G 11 Topographic Maps

Amtrak 918 gets reinvigorated at the train spa.


Disused Bridge

Disused Bridge
Mile: 36.5 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: A View: E
Area: D IC2:
Map: DC 10 H 11 Topographic Maps

Now we're on New York Avenue and Ivy City is behind the trees on the left.

As mentioned above, the B&O's original route had followed what is now West Virigina Avenue. The tracks crossed left to right near the intersection of what later became New York Avenue and Montana Avenue, the intersection this auto traffic is waiting to cross.

Around 1908 the B&O abandoned the original route in favor of the new approach into Union Station, but this bridge is not of B&O heritage.

Reader Greg Hager wrote:

    "Many years ago (1980?) I remember seeing a Penn Central SW switcher sitting on that bridge with a number of box cars. On checking on line satellite pictures confirms that the line connected with the PC. To get to the B&O it would have to cross The Amtrak main line at grade. As always keep up the good work on an excellent site."


Siding

Siding
Mile: 36.6 Date: Jun 2004
Ease: A View: SW
Area: F IC2:
Map: DC 10 H 11, PG 11 H 11 Topographic Maps

Short portions of the Pennsy spur track can still be found. Now trucks (as seen in the background) do the transport job, while the tracks are left to accumulate trash. That's Okie Street on the right.


West Virginia Avenue

West Virginia Avenue
Mile: 37.0 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: A View: SW
Area: C IC2: 98
Map: DC 10 G 12 Topographic Maps

Continuing into Washington via the B&O's original route yields little evidence the railroad had once been here. I had hoped to find one of the B&O's stone mile markers surviving in someone's front yard, but no such luck. Mile marker 37 would have been at the Mt. Olivet Road intersection seen here.


I Street

I Street
Mile: 38.0 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: A View: W
Area: C+ IC2: 61, 96, 98
Map: DC 10 E 13 Topographic Maps

The same markerless situation exists at I and 5th Streets NE. This had been mile 38. From here the original route curved southwest (left) as it made its way about a mile into the distance to the B&O's station at New Jersey Avenue and C Street.

Before that station opened in 1851, the B&O had only a small station it converted from a boardinghouse at Pennsylvania Avenue and 2nd Street NW (presently near the Capitol Reflecting Pool). All traces of both stations are long gone.


2nd Street

2nd Street
Mile: 38.0 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2: 152, 233
Map: DC 10 E 13 Topographic Maps

Now we're adjacent to the present day trackage, looking north with Union Station behind. The tracks were built on an embankment, and most city streets, like M Street ahead, cross under.


K Tower
NEW! Nov 2010

K Tower
Mile: 38.5 Date: 2000
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 13 Topographic Maps

What happens when you snap a photo with a disposable film camera through the window of a moving Metro train? You get a poor quality picture... I don't ride Metro often, and this is the only photo I've taken that shows K Tower, the spot from which all train movement at Washington Terminal is directed.

Link: discussion of track control here


Union Station Yards

Union Station Yards
Mile: 38.7 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC Dwn 9 A, PG 17 D 1 Topographic Maps

Back when cameras struck less fear into authorities, the backyard of Union Station was more accessible. It's where Maryland Rail Commuter car 4900 relaxed awaiting evening commuters.

You'll note this train is not headed by a diesel locomotive. After leaving the station, it will split off from the shared ROW, and follow the former Pennsylvania RR route (now the electrified Northeast Corridor) north toward Baltimore.

In 1953, Pennsylvania RR's runaway "Federal Express" train roared through here and rammed into Union Station, just days before crowds were expected for a Presidential inauguration.

Links: Wreck of the Federal Express, 1986 pic


Tangle
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew
NEW! Nov 2010

Tangle
Mile: 38.8 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC Dwn 9 A, PG 17 D 1 Topographic Maps

Tough to believe this complex track layout is simpler than it was 100 years ago... one of the old photos below was snapped from roughly the same location. That's K Tower near the center.

Links to older pics: 1920, 1920s


MARC 57

MARC 57
Mile: 38.8 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View: S
Area: A IC2:
Map: DC Dwn 9 B, PG 17 D 1 Topographic Maps

Awaiting in the bowels of Union Station for homeward bound, weary commuters are several MARC trains parked nose to tail. This is MARC locomotive 57 pointing the way to the suburbs in Maryland.


Union Station Interior

Union Station Interior
Mile: 38.9 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B+ View: SE
Area: A IC2:
Map: DC Dwn 9 B, PG 17 D 1 Topographic Maps

This is the view inside Union Station. The main entrance in is on the right side, with ticketing and trains to the left. I wonder if the honeycomb ceiling design found here served as the inspiration for that in DC Metro subway stations.

Link to older picture: opposite view ~1921


Union Station

Union Station
Mile: 39.0 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: A View: NE
Area: A IC2: 228
Map: DC Dwn 9 C, PG 17 D 1 Topographic Maps

Union Station in Washington, DC is the end of the line for B&O's Washington Branch. After years of neglect, not long ago the station was restored to its original glory. Fortunately, the grand structure was recognized for its place in history before it could be demolished and replaced. This was where the Pennsylvania Railroad, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and Southern Railway met to exchange passengers in the heyday of rail travel. These days, it remains an important station for train travel.

The stone mile markers along the route indicate the distance between Baltimore and Washington is 40 miles. So, why, you may ask does this site list Union Station at mile 39? The source of the one-mile discrepancy remains uncertain. Even adjusting for the location of the B&O's original station (pre-Union Station) does not account for the difference.

Links to older pictures: B&O station 1872, Images of Union Station, Washington Terminal Project



Both the Washington Branch and this tour end here!

Did you enjoy this tour? Rate this site at RailLinks.com. Thank you. -Steve

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