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B&P Tunnel Photo Tour

B&P Tunnel in Maryland
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.


Brief Historical Background:

Map
Map credit Federal Railroad Administration

Map
Mile: Date: May 2014
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: RBL:
Map: Topographic Maps

Studies of the B&P Tunnel replacement options have produced many maps, such as this, that highlight the course of the tunnel's three segments through Baltimore City, north of downtown.

This tour will begin at Pennsylvania Station (right center of map) and proceed generally westward (left) to and through the B&P Tunnel segments.

Link: compressed PDF


Penn Station

Penn Station
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B View: E
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 10 Topographic Maps

The Northern Central Railway's Charles Street Station that opened during 1873 was the first at this site. That wooden structure was quickly outgrown and replaced in 1886 by a brick Union Station. That endured about twice as long until the even larger Union Station seen in this photo opened during 1911. Its name was later changed to Pennsylvania Station.

That's Charles Street right-to-left in the foreground. As the quantity of taxis suggests, this remains a busy rail passenger station served by Amtrak, MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter), and Baltimore's light rail.

Links: 1977, 1977, 1977


Interior

Interior
Mile: Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

The main waiting area had this appearance during the late 20th Century. When a gate opened ticket holders would walk down stairs to platforms below.

Link: exterior and interior photos


Amtrak 946

Amtrak 946
Mile: Date: Jun 1999
Ease: B View: E
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

At photo time the platforms were being remodeled. You might have boarded this DC-bound train led by Amtrak 946. As these AEM7 units aged they were joined on the Northeast Corridor by Amtrak's Acela model.

Link: more AEM-7 model photos


1917 Aerial
Photo credit Detroit Publishing Company,
via Shorpy

1917 Aerial
Mile: Date: 1917
Ease: View: NW
Area: RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

Long before Amtrak, as horse-drawn carriages were giving way to automobiles, the Pennsylvania, Northern Central, B&O, Western Maryland, and Maryland and Pennsylvania all had trains zoom rolling in this vicinity.

On the main photo, the "Now Penn Station" label marks what is considered the front of the building. During 1917 your train could have been pulled out from behind the station by the steam locomotive near center of the zoom view at right, then followed a Z-shaped route into the B&P Tunnel near the top left.

Links: source DPC photo, similar 1952?, JFX under construction 1958


departure
Updated mid-Aug 2018

Departure
Mile: Date: Jun 2018
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B RBL:
Map: Ba 35 B 10 Topographic Maps

Departure Jun 1999 A century later trains were still departing from behind the same structure and using the same route. During 2018 instead of a steam locomotive one of Amtrak's Acela units, such as number 2007, might have pulled your train, the timing of your departure possibly concurrent with the arrival of a light rail train at your left.

Though Washington is southwest of here, trains begin the trip in a northwesterly direction, still following the 1870s route that curves around what was the B&O's stronghold in downtown Baltimore.


Howard Street
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Howard Street
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: S
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Before your train can reach the B&P tunnel it must find its way over a largely-sequestered Jones Falls and under the colorful Howard Street Bridge. The original 1873 rail bridge here over Jones Falls was an iron truss that was later moved and reused by the Stewartstown RR in York County, Pennsylvania where as of 2018 it remains extant. plaque

Originally called the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, the agency responsible for building the Howard Street bridge over the Jones Falls Valley was renamed the Public Works Administration in 1935 (not to be confused with the Works Progress Administration). It also performed the electrification of the Pennsy line between New York and Washington. Plaques supply details:

Howard Street Bridge,
Approaches and Mt. Royal Overpass
Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works
Project No. Md. 1008-R-14

City Of Baltimore
Department of Public Works
Bureau of Highways
Howard Street Bridge
Approaches And
Mt. Royal Avenue Overpass
Howard W. Jackson
Mayor
Bernard L. Grozier       George Cobb         Herman F. Lucke, Jr.
Chief Engineer         Highways Engineer     Associate Engineer
J.E Greiner Company             Kaufman Construction Co.
Consulting Engineers                         Contractor            
1938

Link: PWA Wikipedia entry


Portal

Portal
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: NW
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

At North Avenue your train would duck into the B&P Tunnel segment known as the John Street Tunnel. Views of its portal from the Howard Street bridge are a bit obstructed but let you compare and contrast the portal (left) with North Avenue's arch over the ex-Northern Central right of way (right). By virtue of its greater height and width, the latter is likely to become part of a B&P Tunnel replacement route, should one get built.

Link: similar with train


North Portal

North Portal
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: W
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Many drive on North Avenue's bridge across the Jones Falls and never know its sidewalk offers the easiest clear view of the portal.


John Street Segment

John Street Segment
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: B- View: NW
Area: C T6: 327, 387
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

sign I was surprised to see nearby signage describing this as the "John St. Tunnel North Portal". Not east portal? That's a carryover from when the Pennsylvania RR considered it's east coast route to run north-south.

The adjacent sign reports this is Amtrak B&P Tunnel Zone E. The zones are labelled A to E from south to north (west to east on a map). Zone F includes Penn Station, and Zone G covers the Union Tunnels east of that station.

To facilitate ventilation the B&P Tunnel was originally built in two segments, with the John Street Tunnel later becoming a third segment.

Link: similar 1978


Lights

Lights
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The route between Penn Station and the tunnel is illuminated by heat lamps for deicing switches and even the catenary. Ice jams switches while icicles and electrified catenary do not go well together. These lamps are found near many switches, especially those close to bodies of water.


Building

Building
Mile: Date: Sep 2016
Ease: A- View: E
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

Across the tracks from the portal is this deteriorating building. Anyone know its former purpose?


South Portals

South Portals
Mile: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: SE
Area: C+ RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The John Street Tunnel is the shortest of the three B&P Tunnel segments due to this opening near North Avenue at Mount Royal. The opening may originate with a tunnel collapse in this vicinity during the 1800s.

A surprise is there are two portals, the closer one unused and the other in use but behind brick walls.

You will find online no mention of the unused tunnel other than at this B&O photo tours site. It does not show on a detailed 1896 topographic map, meaning it may have been added later.


1927 Aerial
Photo via Johns Hopkins University

1927 Aerial
Mile: Date: 1927
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

According to Baltimore historians, the unused tunnel never quite connected to what in 1927 was Mt. Vernon Yard, even though this photo shows grading and track in the vicinity. Now Baltimore's Light RailLink and Norfolk Southern share that yard, The yard was inherited from the Pennsylvania Railroad, which in turn had acquired it from the Northern Central.

At the opening note the operational John Street Tunnel segment was later enclosed within a sort of masonry box that prevented engine smoke from wafting at ground level into what had been a tony neighborhood. Since the box does not appear on detailed maps from the late 1800s it was probably added during the early 1900s.


Seventies Scene
Photo credit HH Harwood
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Seventies Scene
Mile: Date: Dec 1978
Ease: C+ View: NE
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 34 K 9 Topographic Maps

The box enclosure endured into the 1930s but when diesel engines relegated their smoke-belching steam predecessors to history, the roof was removed, leaving the walls plus support beams across the top.

The stairway at the left had led from the street down to the tracks.


Masonry

Masonry
Mile: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: C+ View: NE
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 34 K 9 Topographic Maps

Some 40 years later the scene remained much the same, but with fewer accessible stairways and more fences.


Open Roof

Open Roof
Mile: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: NW
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

From this angle one can glimpse into the tunnel, but not deeply enough to see the trains. You can hear them though.

Links: collapse mention, 2013 artist walking tour


Opposite Portal

Opposite Portal
Mile: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: C RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

The opposite end of the cut at John Street shows just one portal, that of the next segment, known as the Wilson Street Tunnel.


Wilson Street Segment
Photo credit Federal Railroad Administration

Wilson Street Segment
Mile: Date: ~2010
Ease: View: SW
Area: RBL:
Map: Ba 35 A 9 Topographic Maps

From here the Wilson Street Tunnel segment rises at a 1.3% grade to its western portal at the Pennsylvania Avenue Opening.

Link: 2013 derailment


Ventilation Tower
Photo credit HH Harwood
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Ventilation Tower
Mile: Date: Oct 1965
Ease: A View: E
Area: C T6: 321
Map: Ba 34 K 10 Topographic Maps

What had been an upscale Bolton neighborhood would never have seen fit to have locomotive smoke blown its way, so along the tunnel route the Pennsy built two tall ventilation towers like this one that stood where Tiffany Alley meets Wilson Street. The tower was dismantled shortly after this photo. A school's playground now occupies the site.

Within the nearby Marlboro Apartments, the local residents known as the Cone Sisters had amassed a collection of 500 Matisse paintings and numerous other circa 1900 art pieces, a collection now worth over $1 billion, much of which they donated to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Link: BMA Cone Wing


Opening

Opening
Mile: 97.0 Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A- View: E
Area: F RBL: 87
Map: Ba 34 J 11 Topographic Maps

After the B&P Tunnel runs southwestward under Wilson Street it emerges here at the Pennsylvania Avenue Opening, where the Pennsylvania Railroad had operated large ventilation fans in a brick building above the portal. Baltimore's Metro Subway passes underneath the Wilson Street Tunnel less than 200 feet east of this portal.

Certain passenger trains stopped here, hence the stairways. Certain freights did too, but not intentionally: on rainy days the exposed rails at this opening would become slippery, causing locomotives to become unable to pull heavy trains up through the incline and curves. Even when dry the sharp curve west of here has long been a speed-limiting factor for trains.

Link: trains stuck during rainy days


Amtrak 968
Photo credit HH Harwood
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Amtrak 968
Mile: 97.0 Date: Mar 1977
Ease: D (now) View: NE
Area: F T6: 322
Map: Ba 34 J 11 Topographic Maps

GE model E60s like this were common Amtrak power during the 1970s. With the old station here now closed, your easiest view of this stretch will come from the end of an Amtrak or MARC train. The Wilson Street Tunnel segment makes a straight run: the distant bright spot within is its opposite (east) portal.

Links: stills from ride through, Amtrak 968 pics


Gilmor Street Segment
Updated mid-Aug 2018

Gilmor Street Segment
Mile: 97.0 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: F RBL:
Map: Ba 34 J 11 Topographic Maps

Trains soon go back underground via the Gilmor Street Tunnel segment; extensive fencing makes an unobstructed photo difficult. Gunshots, such as those heard while obtaining this photo, might discourage one from seeking better views.

Views are a problem for train operators too, hence these dwarf or pedestal signals stand in for their more common, larger counterparts. Small signals can be mounted lower to make them visible from a greater distance within the tunnel.

Gilmor Street Tunnel Milepost 97, visible in the 1977 photo above, seems to no longer be extant, a victim of what appear to be subsequently-installed cable runways.

Few recent photos of this portal are online because 1) the opening is very much fenced in, and 2) it is located adjacent to what by at least one metric (2015, linked below) was the most likely place in the United States to experience a violent crime.

Links: 2015's most violent neighborhoods, less obscured pic


Westernmost Portal
Photo credit HAER

Westernmost Portal
Mile: Date: 1977
Ease: View: SE
Area: F RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

from Vincent Street 2018 The Gilmor Street Tunnel segment opens to light near the southbound bus riding Gilmor Street at top left. Mount Street is at bottom right.

Since 1977 trees and vines have grown to block easy clear views of the portal such as the one at left from Vincent Street, and more fencing has been added. Every decade or two Amtrak trims back the overgrowth.

Link: LoC source photo


Amtrak 2028
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Amtrak 2028
Mile: Date: Jul 2018
Ease: C View: E
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

Eastbound Amtrak 2007 leads the way into the stone arch west portal at Gilmor Street. Nearer are the concrete-lined arch of Vincent Street, and unseen steel beams of Mount Street. The nose of Amtrak 2028, trailing at the end, is about to pass into the shadow of Fulton Avenue.

Links: reverse view 1932, 1980


Fulton Junction
Photo credit HH Harwood
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Fulton Junction
Mile: Date: Sep 1978
Ease: C View: E
Area: D T6: 387
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

This Washington-bound train will follow the wires and turn to the southwest. The tracks on the left, the northeast leg of the Fulton Junction wye, were pulled up during the 1980s, but at photo time they still connected to the Western Maryland Railway.

Detour: this site's Western Maryland tour from here


Pneumatic
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Pneumatic
Mile: Date: Jul 2018
Ease: C View: S
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

The reservoir tank Amtrak 2007 appears to be sniffing holds compressed air that powers track switches in the vicinity. Pneumatic systems are commonly substituted for electrical equipment at low spots like this one at Monroe Street where puddling water could cause a short.


Zone A
Updated mid-Aug 2018

Zone A
Mile: Date: Sep 2015
Ease: A- View: W
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

Shrouded by Zone A's fence is the Monroe Street bridge. Amtrak divides the B&P Tunnel into five zones:

    Pennsylvania Ave Opening 2018
  • Zone A: western B&P Tunnel approach
  • Zone B: Gilmor Street Tunnel
  • Zone C: Pennsylvania Avenue Opening
  • Zone D: Wilson Street Tunnel
  • Zone E: John Street Opening, Tunnel and approach
The chosen route of a replacement tunnel bypasses all five zones.

Link: NIMBYism makes a new route difficult (2014)


Tunnel Alternatives
Map credit Federal Railroad Administration

Tunnel Alternatives
Mile: Date: 2014
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: RBL:
Map: Ba 34 Topographic Maps

Studies have considered many alternative routes for a new tunnel. The 2014 report linked below eliminated for further consideration all but routes 2, 3, and 11. Route 2, which involves rehabbing the existing tunnel, is the only one that can preserve a connection with the ex-WM at Fulton Junction.

Rehabbing this tunnel as well as the B&O's Howard Street Tunnel is likely less expensive than building any new route. As a temporary bypass while the rehabbing effort is underway one tube of either the I-895 Harbor Tunnel Thruway or I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel could be adapted for trains. Extensive rail infrastructure already exists near the portals of both tunnels. alt 3b

During December 2016 the Federal Railroad Administration announced 3B, a tweaked version of alternate 3, as its recommended route.

Alternative number 5 along US 40 was too quickly dismissed because it does not serve Penn Station. Disused ex-Nothern Central trackage already exists parallel to I-83 that could easily be rejuvinated as a short spur to Penn Station, though trains lacking an engine at both ends would need to be turned to exit.

Links: 2014 B&P Report (huge 100m PDF), FRA 2016 decision


New Portal (Site)

New Portal (Site)
Mile: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

A site near this intersection of Payson and Mosher Streets has been chosen for a new tunnel's south/west portal, should it get built. At photo time roughly half the houses here were abandoned -- owned by Baltimore City -- and many others unoccupied, hence the paucity of parked vehicles.

The catenary beyond near Fulton Junction marks the existing Northeast Corridor route originally laid down by the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad during the 1800s. The distant, tall broadcasting tower stands about 2.5 miles away atop TV Hill.

Link: revising the route (2016)


Southwest Leg
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Southwest Leg
Mile: 98.1 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: B+ View: N
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

As seen from the Lafayette Avenue bridge, part of the new tunnel's south (west) portal would be in the trees on the right. Inside the new tunnel its 4-track line would pass under the existing tracks at the curve ahead. It's here that the existing tracks reach their highest elevation within Baltimore County/City.

Until about 1980 the southwest leg of the Fulton Junction wye had connected on the left. If someday needed again, behind the photographer it could be reconnected with the new alignment, however there will not be sufficient room to restore the wye's northeast leg.


Lafayette Avenue
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Lafayette Avenue
Mile: 98.1 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: B+ View: E
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

The new alignment would pass in an open cut under the fortuitously extra-long Lafayette Avenue bridge where Pulaski Avenue now does; in this view that's the far side of the bridge.


Edmondson Avenue
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Edmondson Avenue
Mile: 98.1 Date: Jul 2018
Ease: B+ View: S
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

Coming from the left the new alignment would briefly join the existing for passage under the Edmondson Avenue bridge (ahead).


Franklin Street
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

Franklin Street
Mile: Date: Jul 2018
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: C- T6: 388
Map: Ba 34 F 12 Topographic Maps

From the area right of the distant MARC train, after squeezing under Edmondson Avenue the new alignment would shift west (left) of the existing, and require a new bridge over Franklin Street, the road being negotiated by the auto at bottom right.


West Baltimore
NEW! mid-Aug 2018

West Baltimore
Mile: Date: Jul 2018
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: C- RBL:
Map: Ba 34 F 12 Topographic Maps

Westbound MARC 35 is pushing away from the West Baltimore rail commuter stop that would be rebuilt adjacent on the west side of the existing station. The new alignment would traverse a new bridge over Mulberry Street before rejoining the old/existing alignment from the right near the MARC train. The Gwynns Falls Viaduct in the distance would likely be rehabbed, and the Pennsy's disused Gwynn Tower (center, distant) torn down.


Proceed or Stop

Proceed or Stop
Mile: Date: Nov 2016
Ease: A View: N
Area: D RBL:
Map: Ba 34 G 11 Topographic Maps

The need for an expensive repair or replacement of the B&P Tunnel comes at a time when Amtrak lacks excess funds. Can we afford to lose the use of the tunnel? Can we afford to spend so much on a project that, without huge fare increases, will not return it? The debate continues...

Link: B&P Tunnel site


The B&P Tunnel tour ends here. Thanks for following along!

Related info you may enjoy: Todd's B&P page, or this site's Penn Line overview tour.

For other tours here now, select from the map: clickable map

Or, return to main page

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