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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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Wye Bridge

Wye Bridge
Mile: 37.3 Date: Dec 2018
Ease: A View: SW
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 11 Topographic Maps

At the "waistline" of Ivy City, CSX coal empties are traversing the ex-B&O bridge to the Metropolitan Subdivision. This bridges dates to the early 1900s.

Link: ~1950


Subdivision Sign
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Subdivision Sign
Mile: 37.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: NE
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 F 11 Topographic Maps

This sign under the 9th Street bridge reveals where along the wye CSX places the boundary between the Cap and Met: for eastbound trains "End Metropolitan Subdivision BA M.P. - 1.0, Begin Capital Subdivision M.P. BAA - 37.2".

Since photo time, CSX replaced the CPL signal in the photo with one of its newer design.


Original Alignment
Image courtesy Library of Congress
NEW! mid-Dec 2019

Original Alignment
Mile: Date: 1907
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: IC2:
Map: DC 10 Topographic Maps

Prior to Washington Terminal, the B&O's alignment crossed what is now the quasi-traffic circle where New York Avenue and Montana Avenue meet, then continued SW along what became West Virginia Avenue.

As depicted by the double-tracked rail line that extends to the bottom of the image, this 1907 map captures that original alignment, before it was pulled up in favor of the then-new Ivy City, Washington Terminal route north of it. Railroad alignments are all too delible.

Link: LoC source image


West Virginia Avenue

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

Continuing into Washington via West Virginia Avenue 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. Beyond Mt. Olivet Road on the left the B&O had a small yard, where 11th Place NE now follows the southeastern limit of that yard.


I Street

I Street
Mile: 38.0 (old alignment) 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.


Custom CPL
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Custom CPL
Mile: 37.5 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: NE
Area: C IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

Back along the active route...

The signals facing this direction are of ordinary Pennsylvania RR signals by Jersey Mike style, but those opposite are B&O-style CPLs custom crafted from PRR signal parts (view at left courtesy Todd Sestero). This interesting, perhaps unique, combination arose from the shared route to Union Station. Though the two closest tracks are ex-PRR, now Amtrak, MARC trains are sometimes switched onto them to facilitate access to all passenger platforms at Union Station.

Note also there are 2 tracks under the signals, but the signals are shifted to one side rather than being back to back. This was a common PRR practice ostensibly to make the signals more visually associated with their corresponding track. That's the 9th Street bridge in the background.

Link: more pics


From New York Avenue
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

From New York Avenue
Mile: 37.8 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: SW
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

The Penn Line and Cap Sub lead to the three nearest tracks. The others follow from behind the photographer at Amtrak's Coach Yard at Ivy City, CSX's Metropolitan Sub, and DC Metro's Red Line. Note the verdigrised ground wires attached to the road's fence, perhaps needed due to the proximity of catenary.


Capitol
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Capitol
Mile: 37.8 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: S
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: DC 10 E 12 Topographic Maps

The western trackside provides the first glimpse of the Capitol. On the signal bridge at left note the small CPLs, Union Station Terminal's own variant of the B&O and PRR editions.

On the right is Metro's NoMa-Gallaudet U stop, the system's first infill station; NoMA = North of Massachusetts Avenue. The distant tall structures this side of the Capitol belong to Union Station.


2nd Street

2nd Street
Mile: 38.2 Date: Jul 2005
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2: 152, 233
Map: DC 10 E 13 Topographic Maps

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


K Street
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

K Street
Mile: 38.3 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A View: W?
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 10 D 13 Topographic Maps

Underneath is a combination of stone, steel, and modern concrete.


K Tower

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

What happens when you snap a photo with a disposable film camera (remember those?) through the window of a Metro train? You get a poor quality picture. K Tower had directed all train movement at Washington Terminal, but is being phased out in favor of centralized train control from Philadelphia.

Link: discussion of track control here


H Street 1960
Photo courtesy District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Library
NEW! mid-Dec 2019

H Street 1960
Mile: 38.7 Date: ~1960
Ease: (no access) View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1, PG 17 D 1 Topographic Maps

Approaching Union Station from the north, as this tour does, H Street is the last street to cross under/over the tracks. During the 1970s this underpass was sealed after the 6-lane H Street bridge was built over the tracks.

The Esso gasoline station at left puts the photo date before 1973 by which time in the United States Esso had been rebranded Exxon; in most other parts of the world it remains Esso. On the right a Railway Express Agency will-call office has yet to see the early 1960s rebranding as REA Express. To support World War I efforts, during 1917 the United States Railroad Administration forced a marriage of seven package transport companies to form the American Railway Express Angency, later the Railway Express Agency. The largest piece of REA came from the company that today is American Express. REA shuttered during 1975.

This photo predates the double-striping of the divider between opposing lanes of traffic. During the early 1970s most US cities converted from a single-white or single-yellow center stripe to the double-yellow specified by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. It's an anachronism for which to watch in movies depicting that time period.

Link: DDOT source photo


Overview
NEW! mid-Dec 2019

Overview
Mile: 38.8 Date: Jul 2019
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

That's the H Street bridge at botton, and K Tower near photo center.

The early 21st Century has witnessed a building boom around Union Station to compete with that from 100 years earlier when the station first opened. You might notice no building reaches especially high. That is due to a 1910 District of Columbia law that limits height relative to the width of the street on which the building fronts.


Tangle
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

Tangle
Mile: 38.8 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 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.

Links to older pics: 1920, 1920s


MARC 31
NEW! mid-Dec 2019

MARC 31
Mile: 38.7 Date: Jul 2019
Ease: B View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

Diesel engines like this MARC Motive Power MP36PH-3C unit can depart Union Station and follow any of three commuter routes, the Brunswick, Camden, or Penn Line. Only the Penn Line is equipped with electric catenary.


Dwarves By The Dozen
NEW! mid-Dec 2019

Dwarves By The Dozen
Mile: 38.7 Date: Jul 2019
Ease: B View: N
Area: B T6:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

pole CPL Though Washington Terminal was a Pennsylvania Railroad and B&O joint project, the latter had primary responsibility for signals, hence the plethora of B&O-style color-position light signals extant today even while CSX has already replaced most outside of the Terminal.

In the main photo I count at least a dozen dwarf signals, including the one at left mounted high to a platform lamp pole for better visibility.

Links: same spot 1977, B&O Safety First train 1917


MARC 57

MARC 57
Mile: 38.8 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 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.

Sunlight sneaks in where H Street does not cast a shadow. Since multiple trains wait on a given track, to help passengeres identify their desired train, overhead signage includes both a track number and location letter.

Link: 1917


Bilevel
NEW! mid-Dec 2019

Bilevel
Mile: 38.8 Date: Jul 2019
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

Sixty-three Kawasaki-built two-level cars like this one of MARC III type entered service around 2000. MARC added another 54 MultiLevel cars from Bombadier around 2015. Multiple-level cars carry more passengers, but people riding on the top level are more subject to side-to-side car sway.

During January 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, C&O 1977, 1986 pic


MARC Interior
NEW! mid-Dec 2019

MARC Interior
Mile: 38.8 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View:
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

Single-level MARC II passenger cars date to the 1980s and look like this inside. All seats face their respective car end, so half face this way, half the other. Emergency information is on the card at each seatback.

This car is for Democrats only; Republican cars are upholstered red. Independents must ride on the roof. Instead, I trust everyone thankfully realizes all MARC cars accept all passengers regardless of political leaning, agenda, or otherwise.

Link: MP54 interior 1977


GPO Spur
Photo courtesy Dave Hiteshew

GPO Spur
Mile: 38.9 Date: Sep 2008
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 D 1 Topographic Maps

This disused elevated spur at First and G Streets had connected Union Station (right) with the Government Printing Office (left), now Government Publishing Office. Paper by the trainload could be delivered directly into the GPO without any street running.


Union Station Interior

Union Station Interior
Mile: 39.0 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B+ View: SE
Area: B IC2:
Map: DC 16 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. Perhaps 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: 39.1 Date: Jun 1999
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2: 228
Map: DC 16 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, during the 1980s 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, Southern Railway and others 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: Images of Union Station, restoration photos



<< Previous (east) | THIS PAGE: Ivy City to Washington | Next (west) >>

Though the Washington Branch and this tour end here, you can continue west along the Metropolitan Branch.

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