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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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Wreck
Photo courtesy Marty Hager

Wreck
Mile: 32.3 Date: 1973
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 12 E 2 Topographic Maps

Marty Hager kindly contributed these two photos of a wreck and cleanup near Riverdale. Of this photo, Marty writes:

    "I'm pretty certain it was winter of '72-73. It is looking north from the Rt 410 overpass. This was a string of covered hoppers carrying corn heading for Baltimore. I remember that as the corn began to rot the entire area smelled like the inside of a port-a-potty for a while. It was around that time that a succession of accidents happened around the Riverdale-Hyattsville area."

Link: 1964


B&O 3762
Photo courtesy Marty Hager

B&O 3762
Mile: 32.3 Date: 1973
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 12 E 2 Topographic Maps

Of this scene with B&O 3762 Marty Hager writes:

    "This shot is not very interesting but it shows the scene of the wreck after repairs were completed. One artifact in the shot is the siding on the east side of the tracks. As much time as I spent hanging around Riverdale I don't remember that siding being there. It's gone now."

Links: more of B&O 3762, still in use during 2013 as UP 1500


Waiting

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. Farther 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: 1966


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."

Links: 1964, 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 after which for a time the building was home to Griff's famous subs and house of pizza.

Link: 1964


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 spent most of its time on other lines: this is the only known photo of it running on the Camden Line (what the Washington Branch is called by commuters). The unit was retired during 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: ~1930, tower in 1991, JD Tower history site


Hyattsville Crossing
Photo credit B&O Museum

Hyattsville Crossing
Mile: 33.3 Date: ~1900
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: 33.3 Date: ~1900
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.

The lighting at the waiting shack consists of hanging lanterns rather than electric lamps.

On the right note the trolley car and what may be either passengers or workers. The trolley arrived here during 1899, followed decades later by Rhode Island Avenue.

Links: in action in WV 1966

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


Crossing Eliminated
Photos courtesy Library of Congress
NEW! mid-Jul 2019

Crossing Eliminated
Mile: 33.2 Date: Jun 1940
Ease: A View: SW
Area: C IC2:
Map: PG 12 D 5 Topographic Maps

W post The photographer is standing on the bridge that during the 1930s took the place of the busy grade crossing. That's the B&O on the left, the trolley in the middle, and US 1 on the right. After the trolley ceased operation, its right of way would be used to widen US 1, a 30-year process that began during the 1950s.

At photo bottom is a whistle post of a design I've not seen elsewhere. Beyond it small piles of crossties are neatly arranged without a clear purpose.

Link: LoC source photo


Hyattsville Station
Photo credit B&O Museum

Hyattsville Station
Mile: 33.4 Date: ~1920
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.

Links: 1940s, Maryland Historical Trust (PDF)


Hyattsville Details
Photo credit B&O Museum
NEW! mid-Jul 2019

Hyattsville Details
Mile: 33.4 Date: ~1920
Ease: A View: N
Area: C IC2: 157
Map: PG 12 D 5 Topographic Maps

A magnified view shows the station's southwest side equipped with awnings, that era's form of air conditioning. On the left is an electric lamp in the then-popular bishop's crook style, its horizontal bar a holdover from when gas lamps were lit each evening by someone who leaned a ladder against that bar.

Sep 2017 Across the tracks DC-bound passengers could wait at a long covered platform shack. The curved-top fence discouraged passengers from crossing the tracks at any but the approved locations.

Segments of that type of fence survive at Hyattsville, perhaps because a tree has grown up around them, but this location is not between the B&O tracks. The fence abuts a concrete pad that supported a waiting shack for trolley passengers. The shack survived until about 1990. The yellow pipes might have been added later to block vehicles from parking.

Links: 1940s, Maryland Historical Trust (PDF)


Hyattsville

Hyattsville
Mile: 33.4 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 an adhacent B&O freight house into the 1980s.

Links: 1964


Hyattsville Wye

Hyattsville Wye
Mile: 33.4 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.

Links to older pictures: 1940, 1940, 1940


Alexandria Branch

Alexandria Branch
Mile: 33.4 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.

Link: Alexandria Branch photos


JD Sign

JD Sign
Mile: 33.6 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: 33.8 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.


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 as we'll see that changes past the bend and the Queens Chapel Road overpass in the distance.

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 train 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.


Disused Bridge

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

Readers have asked if this bridge west of Montana Avemue and over New York Avenue is former B&O. No, it belonged to the Pennsylvania Railroad to serve various businesses along the south side of New York Aveue, including Hecht Company.

When the B&O's pre-Union Station route followed what is now West Virginia Avenue its tracks crossed left to right near the intersection of what later became New York and Montana Avenues, the intersection this auto traffic is waiting to cross.

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."



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