Monthly Archives: August 2014

Relics From The Past: A Mystery Wreck on the Branch

Last spring I was contacted by someone who had made a discovery along the Georgetown Branch. Just North of the Dalecarlia tunnel some folks were clearing invasive species brush from the park area just around the trail. While going through the brush, they uncovered this:

Mysterious wreck on the GB.
Frame of a freight car. Photo from David Cohen.
Frame of two more freight cars. Photo from David Cohen.
Frame of two more freight cars. Photo from David Cohen.

There have been a couple blog posts pop up (one here)covering the discovery, but no solid information on the wreck itself has arisen. I’ve had discussions with a few other railfans and friends and aside from a few clues this is a mystery.

Here’s what we know: the cars are likely freight cars. There are apparently no trucks, bolsters or couplers. They appear to have been torched off (and presumably removed). The one car nearest to the trail dates from 1935-1950. Jeffrey Ramone writes: It’s definitely from a car that was built between 35 and 50. New York Air Brake equipment, AB valve…way cool.” J. D. Hathaway writes: “I’m told the car was built after 1934 because of the type of brakes. The cylinder and various things are all part of the “AB” type air brake system”.   It’s unlikely these were hopper cars, as the subframe is clearly from a car that has a solid frame beneath. Boxcars, gondolas, flatcars are all possibilities. It’s most likely a 40′ car. Some more sleuthing is necessary to really get to the bottom of it.

Why are the cars there? This is the biggest mystery. Several theories have arisen. My best guess is that they were part of a wreck in this area at some point. Something akin to a messy derailment. There were no injuries so perhaps there was no public report. The cars were simply torched in place to salvage some of the materials and parts and the rest left to rot. Obviously an air brake system can’t be reused after it’s suffered damage in a wreck.

Perhaps the economics of the time dictated that the underframes were the least valuable parts and were left behind. Perhaps the crew was called away on another job and this was simply forgotten. I doubt these were placed here intentionally, ie on a siding of some kind. Due to the dates on the cars there should be a report of the wreck somewhere. I will keep searching! If you come across any additional information, please share it here!

CCT North side 1
Photo by J.D. Hathaway
CCT North side 3
Photo by J.D. Hathaway
CCT South side 1
Photo by J.D. Hathaway
CCT South side 2
Photo by J.D. Hathaway
CCT North side 5
Photo by J.D. Hathaway
CCT North side 4
Photo by J.D. Hathaway
CCT South side 3
Photo by J.D. Hathaway
CCT North side 2
Photo by J.D. Hathaway


Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

Channeling the classic episode of The Simpsons, were you aware that the corridor from Bethesda to Silver Spring could have been a monorail type train, known as an Aeromovel? This odd type of transport uses compressed air to “push” the train along on an elevated platform, and was considered as an alternative for reuse of the Georgetown Branch between the two cities. A study was done and a copy can be found in the Chevy Chase Historical Society archives.

GB Corridor Study Aeromovel
GB Corridor Study for the Aeromovel Alternative, 1989



Layout: Progress at Georgetown Junction & Bethesda

Got a bit of work done on the layout today. Laid down more roadbed at Georgetown Junction and laid in the sub roadbed (Homasote) in Bethesda. Did some thinking about track laid flush on the sub roadbed in Bethesda vs. laying it on roadbed. I was originally leaning toward all on the sub roadbed itself but thinking about Bethesda there was a nice track profile on much of it. This will be tricky. I do have some large Homabed panels that would work but I think it may be a waste here. We will see! Going to study some more photos and make a decision. Progress is good!

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