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Patapsco Valley State Park

Patapsco Valley State Park
Avalon Vicinity

Click a photo to see a larger view. Please send your comments and corrections to Steve.

DNR sign The Destructive Power of the River The B&O (now CSX) Old Main Line runs parallel to the Patapsco River in the Avalon area of the state park accessible from US 1 in Elkridge, Maryland. The river valley (and the railroad) have been subjected to repeated floods, most notably in 1868, then again from remnants of Hurricane Agnes during June 1972. In 1975, Hurricane Eloise brought another round of flooding, albeit less severe.

Image Credits: Except as noted below, the 1966 to 1981 photos below courtesy Dave Hiteshew depict various well-known areas of the park pre-flood, post-flood, and during repairs. Swinging bridge from 1900 courtesy Pratt Library. Map (1915) and aerial photos (winter 1926/1927) are courtesy Johns Hopkins University. Bloede Dam 1932 photo credit Office of Advisory Engineers on Water Supply, 1933 (unpublished), Water and Water Power Rights - Patapsco Project: Baltimore, Md., Baltimore City Department of Public Works, Public Improvement Commission, 375 pp. (digitized by the Maryland Geological Survey).

Map - Thomas Viaduct (right) Upstream to Orange Grove (left)
1915: 1915 map

Thomas Viaduct
1927: Thomas Viaduct 1927 1973: Thomas Viaduct 1975 1976: looking north 1976 1977: looking south 1977

River Road
1966: Avalon area 1966 1973: lavatory, upstream to I-95 1973 from Ilchester Road 1973 downstream to Bloede dam 1973 upstream from Bloede dam 1973
1978: downstream to I-95 1978 1979: 1979 repairing

Gun Road
1927: w/Avalon Mill remnants 1927 1966: Gun Road north to xing 1966 1973: looking upstream 1973 looking south 1973
1975: Gun Road rebuilt, then Eloise 1975 1976: scoured, looking upstream 1976

Avalon Dam and Lost Lake ("Reservoir" on 1915 map)
1927: Lost Lake 1927 1966: Avalon dam 1966 Avalon dam 1966
1973: Avalon dam 1973 1973 Agnes breach 1973 Avalon dam 1973
1975: Eloise flooding 1975 1977: Avalon dam 1977 Avalon dam 1977 1979: Lost Lake rebuild 1979 1981: Lost Lake 1981

Swinging Bridge at Orange Grove
1900: 1900 courtesy Pratt Library 1927: w/Orange Grove Mill 1927 1966: Swinging Bridge 1966 Swinging Bridge 1966
1973: Agnes damage 1973 Swinging Bridge 1973 Swinging Bridge 1973
1978: non-flood collapse 1978 Swinging Bridge 1978 1979: repaired 1979 1999: Swinging Bridge 1999

Bloede Dam
1927: w/Ilchester Tunnel 1927 1932: Bloede Dam 1932 1973: Bloede Dam 1973 Bloede Dam 1973 Bloede Dam 1973
1975: Hurricane Eloise 1975 Hurricane Eloise 1975 2015: Bloede Dam Nov 2015

Photos (5) Courtesy Baltimore Sun
1972: Ellicott City Ellicott City Daniels Wilkens Ave 1974: OML reopened Apr 1974

June 1972 JD Tower (Hyattsville) Log Book, Courtesy B&O History Collection
Note no trains recorded between 5:14 AM of June 22 and 3:00 PM of June 23, 1972
JD log Jun 21 1972 JD log Jun 23 1972 JD log Jun 24 1972 JD log Jun 25 1972

1973: Adley Transfer 1973 then-fairly-new I-95 1973 1973, tank washed by Agnes 1977: 1977, still there in 2022 2018: CSX 360 May 2018

One little-known positive consequence of the storm is a series of railroad history books. During 1972, HH Harwood (B&O historian) and Charles Roberts (publisher) happened to meet at Ilchester while both were viewing what floodwaters had revealed of early B&O track designs. Roberts encouraged Harwood to write the first Impossible Challenge book, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Within a few years after Agnes, B&O repaired its Old Main Line, and trains began running again during April 1974. Other affected area railroads chose to abandon portions or cease operation entirely, including Baltimore and Annapolis, the ex-Catonsville Short Line / Caton & Loudon, and the ex-Northern Central route of PRR / Penn Central. The damages were a major contributor to the bankruptcy of northeast railroads that led to the formation of Conrail in 1976.

See more flood damage, upstream at Ilchester.

National Weather Service's Agnes history report (offsite link).

To tour a railroad, select from the map: clickable map

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