Layout Progress Update

It’s been too long. Over a year. I haven’t touched the layout since the summer of 2015. There, I said it. There have been many, many factors and excuses to explain this lapse, none more compelling than inertia and laziness. I’ve taken on lots of other side-projects and tasks and found many other ways to distract myself and burn time doing fun things that don’t involve working on the layout. Well, I’ve got the bug again and I’m back at it. I spent the holiday weekend cleaning out the layout room, reorganizing and getting myself mentally back up to speed with my progress on the layout.

I’ve posted a few photos of my progress here on my Flickr page.

When I had last left off I had completed much of the track in Bethesda but ran into a snag when on of my train club friends pointed out that there was a nasty S-curve in the yard entrance. I had also installed some spline roadbed at the Geo. Jct. area and that worked out quite nicely. Much of the rest of the layout was covered with “stuff”, and became staging for painting trim for our office renovation as well as other random projects. All of that stuff was cleaned up, moved out or reorganized to optimize space. I completely cleared the upper level of the layout so I could continue working on the track work I had started over a year ago. Once I got cleaned up, things really moved along nicely. I realized a few things:

  1. I really love this project and I’m excited to see where it takes me.
  2. I need glasses – reading glasses at least. My vision is not what it was.
  3. I need to set some goals and stay on task.
  4. I need to flesh out the layout design a bit more; I came across some issues that are going to prove to be challenging to overcome and will most likely require reworking some of the track plan. (oh well!)

All in all, it’s been a productive weekend and I’m moving ahead with a good head of steam. I just hope I can keep the momentum!

The Famous Talbot Ave Bridge is Slated for Demolition

Talbot Ave bridge, 2/7/2015. © Ben Sullivan
Talbot Ave bridge, 2/7/2015. © Ben Sullivan

A sad, sad day indeed. A couple of weeks ago I learned about the eminent demise of the famous Talbot Ave bridge which has spanned the Metropolitan Branch and Georgetown Branch of the B&O for nearly 100 years. The bridge was built back in 1918 and is somewhat of a special legend among railfans being that the girders appear to be sourced from an old turntable, giving it the distinctive profile. This shape is recognizable in so many photos shot over the ages at the Junction. I, myself, have visited the bridge many times, shooting photos of it and from it and enjoying it as a landmark. I’m terribly sad to hear of its eminent demise and will miss seeing it at the Junction as it altered forever with the Purple Line destruction not far off. At least it will live on in my basement, as I plan on modeling it on my railroad. Here are a couple links covering its history:

Talbot Avenue: a bridge in black and white

A Montgomery bridge that linked black and white neighborhoods during segregation soon will be lost to history

On February 7, 2015 I visited the area and took many detail photos of the bridge. You can find them here on my Flickr page. (Scroll down a ways, they begin around IMG_6582)

Talbot Ave Bridge in the distance as a CSX freight approaches
Talbot Ave Bridge in the distance as a CSX freight approaches.

A Sketch of the Lower Level of the Layout

I created this a while ago but wanted to share it. This is a sketch I did showing rough scenery concepts for the lower level of the layout. What you have is the track entering from the helix at the bottom right. It exits from Dalecarlia Tunnel and then crosses a drop-down bridge, passes the Army Map siding and into the Dalecarlia water treatment facility yard area. From here the track continues down hill, crosses over the C&O canal, a Canal overflow/stream and into Georgetown. The line will pass the boat house, scale and under the Aqueduct bridge. In Georgetown there are several industries and yards for switching. The line continues through G-town  and ends at the Coal & Ash house and King Coal.

The idea here is to get a rough idea for what will actually fit and a slight reality check for my own sanity. I know that the track layout is relatively accurate but this exercise really allowed me to see what will fit and what won’t. I removed a few things I thought I would be able to fit and added others that I had missed. I hope to create one for the upper deck but it’s just a matter of time if I ever get around to it.

A colorized scenery and track layout sketch showing the overall concept for the lower level of the layout
A colorized scenery and track layout sketch showing the overall concept for the lower level of the layout

The Georgetown Branch in Train Simulator 2017

I was contacted by a really nice gentleman named Mark V. via the B&O Yahoo Group who indicated he had some photos of the GB that he had shot ages ago (more on that later). What really piqued my curiosity is that he mentioned he is working on a model of the GB for Train Simulator 2017! We exchanged a couple emails and he sent me a link to a video showcasing his progress. Wow! This is incredible. I will update more when I get it. Have a look for yourself here:

So far he has completed from the Junction with the Met all the way down to the crossing over Rock Creek. The details are fantastic. The track layout is a more modern arrangement, what existed near the end of the branches life. I am really excited to follow his progress and see more of the development! I may have to pick up a copy of Train Simulator 2017 myself! If you’d like to contact Mark V., you can reach him at straypacket@gmail.com.

Interesting 1958 Rockville Wreck Video


Saw this video this morning, posted to the CSX “Cap, Met, and OML” subs, Railfans group on Facebook. I know it’s not Georgetown Branch related, specifically, but it’s hyper-local and shows some amazing detail shots of the track and some equipment in the 1950s. I don’t have many details about the wreck, only what’s found in the description. Anyone got more info? Post it here in the comments. Also, note all the people on the live tracks! Nowadays that would never happen.

Georgetown Yard Limit, 1966

A really wonderful photos was posted to the Maryland Division Railfans group on Facebook. The photo was taken in July 1966 at the west end of Georgetown yard, along the Potomac, and is one from a location that I have never seen before; at the end of the passing siding/yard track at the west end of Georgetown. There is a “YARD LIMIT” sign placed at this location that I never new existed. I’m so thankful as it provides a peek at something I never would have known had I not seen the photo. When I model this area on my layout, I will be sure to add that sign! Thanks so much, Guy Span!

July 1966, B&O GP9 6503 appears to be heading west (RR East) out of Georgetown as it passes the yard limit. The caboose is tucked behind the locomotive, per RR practice. Guy Span photo.
July 1966, B&O GP9 6503 appears to be heading west (RR East) out of Georgetown as it passes the yard limit. The caboose is tucked behind the locomotive, per RR practice. Guy Span photo.

Rock Creek mystery photo

I just stumbled across this really neat photo from the GWU Special Collections showing the mule stables located along the Rock Creek. What’s interesting from a B&O perspective is that just behind it you can see the terminus of the Georgetown Branch as well as what may be the extension of the line built to serve the construction of the Lincoln Memorial.

Rock Creek, C&O Canal mule stables, B&O RR
Rock Creek, C&O Canal mule stables, B&O RR (Photo from Special Collections Research Center GWU)

In the foreground we see a canal boat, docked next to the mule stables. Not sure if the railroad ever provided any service here, but perhaps they brought new animals in stock cars and perhaps feed for them. In some very old Sanborn maps I have, there are stock pens indicated in this location.

Behind the pens, to the left, you can see a few box cars. One has a circular logo. Look carefully for the roof lines. Above and behind them, you will see the roof of the old B&O RR freight station, which was in service until the late 40s when they tore it down and built the coal and ash house which stood until 2006 when it was torn down to make way for the Swedish embassy expansion. The original freight house was a wooden timber affair, built to the B&O Standard Plan.

What interests me most is the prospect that the bridge in the background is the one which was built to serve the Lincoln Memorial construction. The Georgetown branch was completed to Georgetown in 1908-1910. The C&O Canal stopped service some time around 1924. The Lincoln Memorial was constructed between 1914-1922. Being that the bridge appears to be a heavy duty type, and the smaller connecting section to the right appears to have ties and rail on it, and no railing for pedestrian safety, I’d say it’s a good chance. If you look carefully you can see a second bridge, just beyond the first one, behind the light-colored house to the right. This one appears to have sides. I have some other photos of the area that I will have to study more carefully. Enjoy!

Georgetown Waterfront, 1939

Alert reader Christopher R. emailed me to share this wonderful view of the waterfront in 1939. Probably the most interesting thing in the photo is the B&O Georgetown local switcher, at work! If you look above the Aqueduct Bridge abutment, you will see the smoke pouring from the smoke stack of the venerable 0-6-0. It appears to be reversing and has just passed the scale house and is passing beneath the footbridge to the Washington Canoe Club. There is a long passing siding that begins  just behind the Club. Other items of interest are the buildings lining the waterfront, beyond the boathouses, Canal Rd./M St., and the old pilings for the Aqueduct Bridge, now gone. About ten years later the pilings would be demolished by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Georgetown Waterfront, 1939

* interesting note: About ten years ago I found this very same photo in the LoC online collection “American Memory” and gleefully posted a zoomed in view of the lower res image from the site: http://gallery.sluggyjunx.com/railroad_and_industrial/georgetownbranch/gb_prototype_photos/g-town_steam_switcher-wide

RIP Barry Rubin

Barry Rubin passed away earlier this year on Feb 3, 2014.

2003 was a hallmark year for me in my research on the Georgetown Branch. Up until that point, I had spent much of my time hunting around online for Sanborn maps, looking at old aerial photos and maps of the line, trying to decode the various phases and stages of the construction of the line. Unraveling the mystery, as I like to say, which I still am doing to this day. Around this time I became involved with the B&O RR Historical Society and joined the popular related Yahoo group. Worlds opened as I met many new B&O enthusiasts eager to share information, ideas and recollections. I had members mailing me photos, form 6’s, maps, drawings and other pieces of data that I had never seen. The web was growing.

One day I heard that there was a B&ORRHS member, Duane Carrell, who was planning on writing an article about the Georgetown Branch. Imagine my excitement. I mean, here I was, trying as hard as I could to dig up information on the line, and there was another nut just like me who was writing an article about it! I was thrilled. Then came the emails that really locked everything in for me. Barry Rubin, who at the time was involved with the Society, decided that with all the interest in the Georgetown Branch, perhaps we should have a get-together, a sort of meet-and-greet. He offered up his house as a location and we put it on the books.

On a very cold January morning, I showed up not knowing what I’d find or who I’d meet, or that it would be the seminal turning point for opening up my eyes to the depth of the history of the Branch. Duane, who was writing the article, showed up and brought with him all of his source materials. There were original track chart blueprints, maps, huge collections of black and white photos, overhead aerials, notes, and a variety of other plans and documents. ALL about the Georgetown Branch. I was just overwhelmed with excitement and remember poring over each and every page and photo, knowing that none of these were going home with me so I had better soak it all up now.

Barry then led us, caravan style, from his home in Chevy Chase down to Bethesda, where we parked at River Rd. and walked a short distance both North and South down the old right-of-way, describing track alignments, old buildings that remained, remnants of sidings and ghosts of operations gone by. We had a GREAT time and we all became friends as we shared in an enthusiasm for this little old railroad branch line.

Jan 18, 2003, Bethesda MD. The first (and only) Georgetown Branch get-together. From left to right: Kelly Regan, C.E. Close, Duane Carrell, Barry Rubin, Daniel Rubin and Joe Nevin.

Barry was the impetus for that meet-up. He took the time to get everyone together, offering his house and his leadership. He did so much outside of this silly little meeting, but for me it was one of the most important in my quest as a historian and a fan of the Georgetown Branch, the B&O and the people of the B&ORRHS. It’s the people that I meet, who put in time and effort to share and foster that energy and excitement that carries the legacy of the B&O on for future generations to enjoy and discover. For this, I thank you, Barry. Safe home.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Rubin

Duane Carrell wrote the following obituary on the B&ORRHS Yahoo Group:

I wanted to let the members of the chat know that Barry Rubin, titular editor of the Sentinel, passed away this morning in Tel Aviv.  He had been fighting cancer for over a year-and-a-half.

I met Barry when we entered 7th grade in 1961 at Alice Deal Jr. High in Washington and we became fast friends in the ninth grade when we discovered that we each had an interest in railroads.  I was with him when he bought his first train set in downtown Washington on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated.  A year later we joined the Rockville Society of Model Engineers and his father often drove us to meetings.  By our senior year our interests had diverged somewhat although we remained friends.  He went to Georgetown Univ. and became a history professor and also worked for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate.  I saw him briefly at our 20th high school reunion in 1987 and then lost touch for another 14 years.  In the meantime he had developed a deep interest in Israel and Mideast affairs and moved to Tel Aviv, although he kept a residence in Chevy Chase for lengthy visits here.  In 2001 I happened to see his name in the masthead of the Sentinel as the editor, wondered if it could be the same person and emailed him.  Lo and behold it was and we re-kindled a long-dormant friendship and became very close.  It was Barry who made me aware of the yahoo group and encouraged me to write for the Sentinel.  And, as history sometimes repeats itself, Barry took part in his first Civil War reenactment with me three years ago in Olustee, Florida.

 Barry became an authority on Middle East Affairs, founded the Global Research in International Affairs Center, wrote close to 20 books – most on the Middle East – and traveled the world, speaking to government and private groups about the state of the Middle East.  He was extremely professional in his analysis and did not let his opinions get in the way of the facts.  He did not back away from stating the truth and made some enemies for it.

 He was diagnosed with cancer in July, 2012, appeared to be beating it and more appeared in recent months.  He married somewhat late in life and leaves his wife, Judy, an 18-year old daughter who is performing public service in Israel and a 14-year-old son.  I have no word on funeral arrangements yet.

 He will be missed.

 Duane Carrell

Very short film clip of Georgetown in the 50s

I’m a complete sucker for media showing the Georgetown Branch in its heyday, and get pretty excited when it’s of the film/video variety. There are simply not that many films in existence which depict the branch in service! There are fabled copies of a film showing the fan trip down the line in the late 40s held by the NRHS but I haven’t even been able to get a reply from them on this.
Anyway, in this film which is a snippet of a collection of aerial footage of DC in 1954 shows the Georgetown waterfront area for the first 23 seconds. Not that great, it’s wobbly, but it’s there. Note the aqueduct bridge footings, still in place in the river (Army Corps of Engineers had yet to demolish them), the Lone Star cement factory standing tall and the Hopfmaier rendering plant smoking away across from the Wilkins Rogers mill. The power plant is still standing and the coal steam plant can be seen in the background near the end of the line. Very cool!
http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675050411_Potomac-River_Lincoln-Memorial_Jefferson-Memorial_National-Airport_Key-Bridge