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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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Overpasses
NEW! mid-Dec 2021

Overpasses
Mile: 22.7 Date: Oct 2018
Ease: B View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 4 G 6 Topographic Maps

The run from the MD 198 (distant) to Cherry Lane (foreground) overpasses is a straight one. Into the 1980s, Cherry Lane had crossed at grade on the near side of its subsequent overpass. With a location name that has since faded, B&O's Mistletoe Springs Station had stood at this grade crossing, possibly in the southeast quadrant.

Link: 2015


Marker 23

Marker 23
Mile: 23.0 Date: Dec 2003
Ease: B View: E
Area: C+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 G 7 Topographic Maps

Both modern (left) and stone (right) markers grace this mile location which is sandwiched between housing developments found across US 1 from Laurel Lakes Shopping Center.

Dating back to the 19th century, there had been a significant hotel near here, worthy of its own B&O stop. Various sources have named it as the Oak Rest Hotel, or Oak Crest Hotel or Red Oak Inn. Perhaps it changed names over the years.

The hotel stood near the present-day intersection of Cypress Street and Waggaman Avenue. B&O's Oak Crest Station was where Cypress Street now dead-ends at the railroad. Does anyone have additional information or pictures?


Contee Place

Contee Place
Mile: 23.6 Date: Jan 2003
Ease: B View: N
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 E 8 Topographic Maps

From Elkridge south to DC, US 1 now remains on the west side of the Washington Branch tracks. However before about 1920, that was not true. Here at Contee, US 1 had crossed to the east side of the tracks (i.e. toward then behind the photographer) where it remained until crossing back at Beltsville.

The road in the distance, which is now named Contee Place, had been part of that Baltimore Washington Turnpike. It had crossed the tracks at the location of this photo. Even after US 1 was realigned, this remained a grade crossing into the 1990s.


CSX 3243

CSX 3243
Mile: 23.6 Date: Jan 2021
Ease: B+ View: NE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 E 8 Topographic Maps

CSX 3243 and CSX 3070 are westbound with autoracks under Contee Road.


Contee Road

Contee Road
Mile: 23.7 Date: Jan 2003
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 E 8 Topographic Maps

The Contee Road bridge is one of the newer overpasses to be constructed along the Washington Branch. In 1997 it eliminated the grade crossing that had been here.

The pavement in the foreground is the crumbling remains of the Baltimore Washington Turnpike's original alignment. Parts of that alignment survive today and remain in use as Old Baltimore Pike.


Ordinary
NEW! mid-Dec 2021

Ordinary
Mile: 24.2 Date: Sep 2021
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 D 9 Topographic Maps

There's nothing particularly interesting along the all clear mile between Contee and Muirkirk.


CSX 5853

CSX 5853
Mile: 24.9 Date: Jan 2003
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 B 10 Topographic Maps

CSX 5853 is killing time as it lazily rolls some work equipment westbound through Muirkirk Station on Track 1. The hopper on the end still carries a C&O reporting mark (might have been CO 918329). Even into the 2020s, the C&O mark could still be found on maintenance of way flatcars.

Link: CSX 5853 pics


Muirkirk Station
NEW! mid-Dec 2021

Muirkirk Station
Mile: 24.9 Date: Jan 2021
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 B 10 Topographic Maps

A normally-busy Muirkirk Station parking lot was all but empty during a bleak midwinter of COVID.

An 1878 GM Hopkins map places B&O's Muirkirk Station on the left, right about where the Muirkirk sign is.

Link: 1996


Muirkirk Road

Muirkirk Road
Mile: 25.0 Date: Feb 2000
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B+ IC2: 155
Map: PG 4 B 10 Topographic Maps

This is the view north from the 1970-dated Muirkirk Road overpass. On the right is the Muirkirk MARC commuter station, site of the photo above, and on the left is US 1. There is a very similar photo (circa 1920) on page 155 in Impossible Challenge II that's fun to compare.

The Intercounty Connector, MD 200, now connects to US 1 on the left. About 2 miles west the ICC connects through the Konterra development, which is being promoted by none other than descendants of 19th century railroad baron Jay Gould.


Not in a Hurry

Not in a Hurry
Mile: 25.0 Date: Jan 2003
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B+ IC2: 95
Map: PG 4 B 10 Topographic Maps

Almost two minutes later, the sluggish work train has not only passed the entire station but also the siding off Track 2 for the Muirkirk Industrial Park. Eventually, the train may even reach signals at Dale, about a half mile distant. delivery

That's US 1 on the right. The siding on the left to Capitol Building Supply was still active, per the 2018 photo at left. And, yes, in the distance that's an automobile parked on the active siding.

The snowy circa 1948 photo linked below shows a heavily-wired poles to be located between the railroad and what presumably is US 1. All other period photos I have seen from this area show the wires on the other side of the railroad. Consequently, I'm uncertain as to the precise location of the ~1948 photo.

Link: near here? ~1948


CEFX 3144

CEFX 3144
Mile: 25.0 Date: Dec 2003
Ease: A View: SW
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 B 10 Topographic Maps

Here's the view from above as two leased units lug an almost mile long mixed freight; delivery CEFX 3144 is in the lead wearing a "Bluebird" paint scheme. As of 2021, it is OMLX 3144.

At least one of the sidings on the left remains active as of 2021. From here the line generally follows Indian Creek south to Hyattsville.

From this vantage spot on the Muirkirk Road overpass, you can look down and to the left to find original B&O stone milepost number 25, which is at the top of the photo at left.


Muirkirk 1940
Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Muirkirk 1940
Mile: 25.0? Date: 1940
Ease: A View: SE?
Area: B+ IC2:
Map: PG 4 B 10? Topographic Maps

This LoC photo is labeled "Muirkirk" so this might be Muirkirk Road's milestone 25? grade crossing shortly before it was eliminated by a single-lane bridge. Milestone 25 can be found near Muirkirk Road, and as boxed in the zoom view at left, that may be it on the other side of the tracks, partially obscured by plants.

Note that wires are crossing over the tracks; once established such crossings tend to persist. As seen at top of the 2003 photo above, wires cross the tracks adjacent to the Murikirk Road bridge. Pole

Plenty of wires ran parallel to the tracks as well. If during 1940 you sent a telegram between Washington and New York it was likely carried by one of the wires shown at right. By 1942, the Bell System would urge customers to minimize calling Washington so as to leave these lines open for use of official war-effort communications. Also depicted are various types of glass insulators typically employed by B&O at that time.

Photos suggest B&O gradually swapped out semaphore signals like the ones in the main photo for CPLs during a period centered around 1950.

Link: LoC source photo


Ammendale CPLs

Ammendale CPLs
Mile: 26.1 Date: Jan 2003
Ease: A- View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 3 K 12 Topographic Maps

Looking northeast once again, this is the view from the now disused Ammendale Road grade crossing. Since the time of this photo CSX replaced the CPL-style signals at this interlocking. The railroad calls this location Dale.

Links: ~1948, recent pictures


Ammendale Road

Ammendale Road
Mile: 26.1 Date: Jan 2003
Ease: A- View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 3 K 12 Topographic Maps

Same spot as the prior photo, just looking in the opposite direction. There are not as many interesting things this way. It's almost not worth calling your attention to the tiny bit of concrete at the bottom of the photo, a relic of the disused Ammendale Road grade crossing. As reported in the Baltimore Sun of October 1, 1971, PG County executive William Gullett ordered the Ammendale and Odell Road grade crossings closed following fatal accidents.

Reader Larry McClelland wrote to add:

    Ammen was a US Navy Admiral, boyhood friend of U.S. Grant who saved Grants life from drowning as a boy. After the Civil War he retired to an estate which he named Ammendale. Grant considered him his only true lifelong friend and during Grants troubled presidency, Grant and Family often spent time at Ammendale to escape the pressures of Washington. Ammens daughter was in the first graduating class of Notre Dame Institute, now Notre Dame College, and the Grant and Ammen families attended the graduation and are listed in the program though I do not know if they traveled to Baltimore by rail, the history department of the college should have the answer. Great website.


MARC 19

MARC 19
Mile: 26.6 Date: Aug 2018
Ease: A- View: W
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 1 Topographic Maps

US 1 parallels the rail line for about 2 miles. This could make a fun train-truck race photo, except for the tiny detail the two were travelling opposite directions.


The Behnkes
Photo courtesy Behnkes
NEW! mid-Dec 2021

The Behnkes
Mile: 26.8 Date: 1940s
Ease: A- View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 1 Topographic Maps

Behnkes Nurseries was a fixture along US 1 in Beltsville for the better part of 90 years. This photo from Behnkes looks across US 1 to find an eastbound B&O train steaming past.

Link: Beyond Behnkes


B&O 3549
Photo courtesy B&O History Collection
NEW! mid-Dec 2021

B&O 3549
Mile: 27.1 Date: Jul 1964
Ease: A- View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 2 Topographic Maps

Above is the first known photo of B&O 3549, a GP35 model fresh from the CSX 2299, Apr 2002 factory July 1964. The wires spanning overhead echo where Powder Mill Road had previously crossed at grade.

That's the same unit (right) at Jessup during 2002, by which time it had been converted to road slug 2299. CSX retired it during 2019.

Link: B&O 3549 pics


Beltsville Station
Photo credit M. Dwyer

Beltsville Station
Mile: 27.1 Date: Jan 1973
Ease: A View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 2 Topographic Maps

B&O's small, frame Beltsville Station hung on into the 1970s. "Powder Mill" refers to nearby factories that made gunpowder during the 18th and 19th centuries.


Deteriorating
Photo courtesy B&O History Collection
NEW! mid-Dec 2021

Deteriorating
Mile: 27.1 Date: Jan 1977
Ease: A View: NW
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 2 Topographic Maps

Like many disused railroad structures during the 1970s, Beltsville Station became a funk hole before being torn down. At photo time, frigid weather gripped the eastern half of the US; snow was recorded in Miami, Florida as well as in the Bahamas. During the years since January 1977, there has not been a colder month in the region.


Disused Grade Crossing

Disused Grade Crossing
Mile: 27.2 Date: Jan 2003
Ease: A View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 2 Topographic Maps

The Powder Mill Station shops (right) occupy the site of Beltsville Station. At the center of this photo which looks northeast from shortly north of the Powder Mill Road intersection, is another disused grade crossing. Instead of curving left, originally US 1 had continued straight to cross the tracks then ran between the small house near the center and the tan building at right center. As at Contee, the increasing level of automobile traffic instigated the re-routing of US 1 sometime around 1920. The grade crossing remained open, however, until Powder Mill Road was grade separated around 1940.

In this photo, the railroad is hidden by brush; tracks cross left to right in front of the tan building.


Aerial 1937
Photo courtesy Johns Hopkins University
NEW! mid-Dec 2021

Aerial 1937
Mile: 27 to 28 Date: May 1937
Ease: View: N (up)
Area: IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 4 (center) Topographic Maps

The highest-resolution, pre-WW II aerial currently available is good enough to depict B&O stations at Beltsville and Sunnyside.

Within a few years after this photo, Powder Mill Road's grade crossing would be eliminated via an overpass that crosses the tracks a short distance south. That overpass appears in the photo below.


Powder Mill Road

Powder Mill Road
Mile: 27.2 Date: Jan 2003
Ease: A View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 2 Topographic Maps

Powder Mill Road, MD 212, was one of the first roads along the Washington Branch to graduate from a grade crossing to an overpass. At track level, the extra width originates with a former siding.

Reader Karl Ginter wrote:

    There's a picture on the wall of the Town Center theatre that dates the overpass (it is a picture of the Sidney Lust's drive in, on the parcel just S. of the bridge, but shows the bridge quite well, description mentions it was new).

    There were several grade crossing between Beltsville (now MD 212) and Contee. In 1967, there were grade crossings at Odell Road and Ammendale Road. Muirkirk was a single-lane steel bridge over the tracks at Muirkirk Road. The Muirkirk bridge was replaced in late 1960's/early 1970's, and the Odell and Ammedale Road grade crossings were closed about that time.


RDC
Photo credit Al Holtz,
B&O History Collection
NEW! mid-Dec 2021

RDC
Mile: 27.2 Date: Jan 1967
Ease: A View: N
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 2 Topographic Maps

As seen from Powder Mill Road's overpass, a Budd-manufactured RDC (Rail Diesel Car) carries B&O patrons toward Washington on a mild winter day. Does anyone know if Beltsville Station (left) was still open for passengers at photo time?

Interstate 95 opened in Maryland a few years after this photo, and the resulting hauling competition from trucks soon put the siding on the right out of business. It was removed later in the 20th century.

I looked into preparing a then-now photo pair, but trees and brush have overtaken on the left and block the view in any closely-matching now-photo.


Beltsville

Beltsville
Mile: 27.2 Date: Aug 2018
Ease: A View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 2 Topographic Maps

After landowner Trueman Belt granted B&O this right of way through his property, the railroad named the area Beltsville. Coincidentally, some 135 years later the Capital Beltway (no relation) would also barge through on the south side. If you squint through a mile of haze, you can just about see a distant Beltway bridge in this photo. It is out there beyond this mile-long straightaway.

Former residences on the left have become part of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. On the right, between 1947 and 1987 moviegoers found Sidney Lust's Drive-In, later Beltsville Drive-In.

Links: Civil War raid on Beltsville, photos at Cinema Treasures


Repairs Ahead

Repairs Ahead
Mile: 27.4 Date: Aug 2018
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 3 Topographic Maps

The malfunctioning gates at the next grade crossing (Sunnyside Avenue) will soon be functioning properly again.


Stone Culvert

Stone Culvert
Mile: 27.7 Date: Dec 2014
Ease: B- View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 4 Topographic Maps

This may be among the few Washington Branch box culverts to survive in its original 1835 form. The relative lack of development along this stretch means the railroad never had reason to widen or redo this culvert that adds water to Indian Creek. An argument for a more recent vintage is the stones are most similar to those used by B&O for other culverts dating to around 1900.


Whistle Posts

Whistle Posts
Mile: 27.7 Date: Dec 2014
Ease: B View: SW
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 4 Topographic Maps

Two styles of whistle post warn of the Sunnyside Avenue grade crossing ahead. The post on the right has been highlighted for viewabilty. Behind that post, note a rising ramp, one of the few active spurs remaining on the subdivision.


Spur

Spur
Mile: 27.9, spur 0.0 Date: Dec 2014
Ease: B View: NE
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 4 Topographic Maps

Though the Beltsville Industrial Center served by this spur originated during the 1950s, the rails show a forging date of 1915. B&O often recycled rail hardware from the mainline into spur track. At the time, reuse was called frugal and cost-effective, now it's called "green".


Splits

Splits
Mile: 27.9, spur 0.3 Date: Dec 2014
Ease: B View: NW
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 3 Topographic Maps

The spur does the typical splitting into sidings, many of which have been disused like this one on the right at Hanna Street. The rails on the left are not rusted over, so trains do still venture here from time to time.


Dwarf

Dwarf
Mile: 27.9, spur 0.0 Date: Dec 2014
Ease: B View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 4 Topographic Maps

Exiting the spur back to the main line...

At photo time, CSX's plan of attack on CPLs left most survivors of the dwarf species of the beloved B&O signal hiding at little-used spurs.


Marker

Marker
Mile: 28.0 Date: Nov 2003
Ease: A- View: S
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 4 Topographic Maps

An original mile marker watches over the Sunnyside Ave grade crossing. Since the time of this photo, it has been painted white.

When you stand edge on and observe these stones, you see Baltimore engraved on the left, and Washington on the right. That makes sense since the cities are in those directions.

When viewed from the front of a moving train, however, most of the time only one engraved side is in view at any given moment. The view from a Washington-bound train is much like that in this picture. Under such circumstances, the stones are confusing. This one gives the impression that Baltimore is 28 miles ahead, whereas in reality it is 28 miles behind.

Of course in 1835, the engravers did not have for reference established standards like interstate highway signs. Another possibility is the railroad relocated this stone from the other side of the tracks.


Sunnyside Avenue

Sunnyside Avenue
Mile: 28.0 Date: Dec 2014
Ease: A View: E
Area: B IC2:
Map: PG 7 J 4 Topographic Maps

Murphy's Law of Railfanning: trains roll by only after you start your trip home.

B&O's Sunnyside Station was located near the RR crossing road sign on the right.



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