Monthly Archives: January 2014

Metropolitan Southern Extension on an 1893 Map

1893 Dalecarlia map
1893 map showing planned Met. Southern extension across Potomac

Well, look what I found on eBay! This map, dated 1893 is titled “Receiving [Dalecarlia] Reservoir], Plan of the Improvements proposed for cutting off from the reservoir the polluted water of its watershed. As many faithful Georgetown Branch fans will tell you, the Georgetown Branch originated as three separate entities:

“The Metropolitan Southern Railroad would develop the line from the Metropolitan Branch (the B&O main line at Silver Spring) to the Potomac Palisades. The Metropolitan Western would build the Virginia section of the line from the Potomac River to Quantico. Finally, the Washington & Western Maryland would complete the spur line from Potomac Palisades to Georgetown.”  (From
Chevy Chase Lake, ca 1890
Chevy Chase Lake, ca 1895

This map covers the area around Dalecarlia Reservoir. At the time the map was made, the Georgetown Branch (or Metropolitan Southern) was still in its early planning stages, having only been completed to the area around Connecticut Ave. in Chevy Chase. (see photo) If you will notice, the line doesn’t even extend toward Georgetown! There is a line crossing the Potomac River and another branch heading North into the reservoir, surely to provide building materials and other freight to the plant. It’s unknown where the line would have led.

In all of my memory, I do not recall an map depicting this crossing actually existing. One might surmise from the map that it did at one point, which of course it did not. It does reinforce, however, that there were plans circulating from the railroad at the time that do portray their goal of having a line that connected the B&O to the South. Of course due to many factors, it never happened and it became a small footnote of grand ideas in the long history of the branch and the B&O railroad, for that matter. I am excited to have a picture into this past.

Drawing the C&O Canal Bridges

CO Canal Bridge 3
Drawing of Bridge 3

One of the signature items I have planned for my Georgetown Branch layout are the three bridges spanning the C&O Canal & Canal Rd. These bridges were cobbled together from other parts of the B&O system when the line was laid down in 1908-10. I have thought about options for modeling these bridges and I am leaning toward a mixture of brass, styrene and museum board (or mat board) that is laser cut. I obtained a copy of the blueprints of the bridges but they are many generations of photocopies old and need lots of cleaning up. I figured redrawing them in Illustrator is a good starting point so I had some fun with the first (easiest) bridge of the three, a simple 30′ deck girder span.

The biggest challenge is alignment of the drawing with the precise nature of the software. I know I’m not going to get this exact, and that’s OK. What I’m aiming for is something scale and relatively accurate that I can work with once I finally do start to build the model itself. Getting started is sometimes the hardest part and I’m hoping this will be the motivation I need to get things rolling.

This is a “sneak peak.” I still have the top view to do and a few details. Also, the rivets are approximated using photos; today I counted myself among the rivet counters of the world for the first time. 🙂  I hope you enjoy the preview and I hope I can keep up the momentum to produce more illustrations as time permits.

Kelly’s Georgetown Branch layout updates

Dale_Tunnel5My friend Kelly is moving along on his Georgetown Branch layout, making great strides and some impressive progress! My model RR club, RMRRS, visited his layout a couple months ago and were really impressed. He has since completed the “paving” in Georgetown and reworked and scenicked the Georgetown Jct. area. Very cool!

I have some more photos in my gallery:

UPDATE: Unfortunately a couple years ago the layout was dismantled. Kelly is considering a new GB representation in a smaller size.

Article about the Hopfenmaier Rendering Plant

Rendering Plant
Hopfenmaier Rendering plant

A really neat article from a few years ago that begins with a search for a long-lost sign and ends with a shoebox history of the struggle between one smelly industry and residents (and everyone else) in Georgetown.  The Hopfenmaier rendering plant existed at 3300 K St., NW on the waterfront for nearly 100 years, until finally being ousted by fed-up residents and politicians. The rendering process takes leftover animal parts and oils used in food prep and renders them into lubricants, fuels and other uses. It’s an aged process (still in use today) but one that results in a massively horrible odor and residue. I have been told by first-hand accounts that the Whitehurst Fwy. (erected in 1948) had a coating of sooty grease and an odor that on a hot day, many years after the plant had shut down, would be unbearable. I can only imagine. Enjoy!

Layout Construction update

Upper helix lead
The upper deck helix lead.

It has been a very, very long time since I posted an update here on the blog about my model RR progress. Let me get things up to speed. The benchwork for the layout is about 95% complete. I have a few odds and ends to do but that hurdle has been crossed. Now I am working on adding the subroadbed, roadbed and connecting bridges and track. I completed construction on the helix and recently constructed the upper bracket and transition to allow the track to transition off the helix and enter the layout room. Remember, my helix is mobile and must be able to detach and roll away from the wall whenever the HVAC is serviced (like today!)

The staging yard was completed and track laid. I also built and installed a hinged swing-up bridge (with neodymium magnets to hold it in the up position) that connects the staging yard and the staging lead going into the layout room.  With some assistance from my train club several areas were completed, including the base for Rock Creek, and the lower helix lead entry point through the wall. One member, Tom, came over and helped me figure out how to do the entire Georgetown Jct. area, including the subroadbed and track arrangement. I realized I needed to put in the upper helix lead first, so that is what I am working on currently.

All in all, I have not been terribly busy with the layout. There are many distractions and I have many hobbies so I come back to it when I can. Also, I have spent a good bit of time researching the GB and have many, many materials to go through and add to the catalogs and notes and that takes time, too. I’m having a heck of a lot of fun with it.

As always, I try to keep my Gallery up-to-date where you can see snapshots of my progress. Enjoy!

Bethesda Frito-Lay Plant history

I found a brief mention of the Frito-Lay plant in Bethesda today while searching for some info on lineside industries. This was featured in a Q&A section on Bethesda Magazine’s website:

A neighbor who grew up here told me there was a Frito plant on Elm Street and Arlington Road in the 1940s. What was its exact location?

—Susan Rubel, Bethesda

The Frito Capital Company was at 4860 Bethesda Ave.—the current location of the Apple Store—according to a 1949 telephone directory in the Montgomery County Historical Society library.

Frito-Lay spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez says the plant was purchased by H.W. Lay & Company in the 1950s, and that it made Fritos corn chips until a new plant in Brentwood, Md., replaced it in about 1963.

William M. Offutt, author of Bethesda: A Social History (1995), recalls the plant being served by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. He says the scent of Fritos chips baking “added a very distinct smell to the neighborhood.”

View of Georgetown, including a steam switcher!

between 1909 and 1920
between 1909 and 1920

An alert fan of the website alerted me to an image on the website showing the steam switcher in action! These photos are so rare I just had to see. Wow! The photo is far away, shot from Rosslyn, looking toward Georgetown, but there it is. It’s making quite a good bit of smoke and appears to be idling or moving slowly. Can anyone identify the class of loco?

Here is a link to the site:

By the way, there are many, MANY fantastic images in and around this area to be found on the LoC site. Happy hunting!