From Jack: “My grandad worked on the B&O RR for most of his career as fireman & engineer. Here is a note he scribbled in 1912 re a train wreck he was involved in in Bethesda. It could be a dangerous occupation.“
The note reads (to the best of my ability): “Eng 2052 Turned over at Bethesda MD Sat Night Oct 12th 1912 at 11:10 PM acct Low place in Track, Engr J.S. Clifton + Fireman O.T. Templeton, Condr. Elmer Wholmes.” There is a lot to take in here. First up, the B&O line into Bethesda had only recently been completed, some time between 1908 and 1910 when it fully opened. At this point, Bethesda was very rural and there wasn’t much industry. The fact that the engine turned over (assuming on its side) is really striking. I wonder if it was due to a washout. The fact that it happened at 11:10 PM is also surprising to me, as I did not know they ran so late at night! But the MOST interesting thing to me is the engine number. I am constantly trying to decipher what power was running on the line in the early years, and here I have an actual locomotive number.
So here are the details, which I pulled from the B&O Steam All-Time Roster by W. Edson. Engine no 2052 was a 4-6-0 class B-19a built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in August of 1901. It was dropped from the B&O roster in 1933. Here is a photo of sister loco, 2046 in Glenwood, PA, for reference:
I have been spending a really large amount of time lately trying to identify freight cars in old photos of the Georgetown Branch. As a modeler who is striving for authentic representation and operation, I am driven to figure out what traffic on the GB was like; where it came from and where it was going and who was shipping it. I don’t have a collection of train orders or waybills, only some records, maps and photos. Much of my study revolves around the industries that I am familiar with whether through first-hand account, B&O Form 6 data, old maps indicating what industries existed where and when, and photos which show the lay of the land and the freight cars on the rails.
Although seeing a freight car in a photo does not necessarily translate into knowing the details of shipments and carriers, it does provide some detail and context to help guide me as I make up my own model railroad roster and operational narrative. Seeing a Great Northern boxcar on a siding at a lumber yard, one can reasonably assume that it is carrying lumber from the Pacific Northwest. Seeing a tank car sitting on a fuel dealer siding, one can reasonably assume it is carrying fuel oil to be unloaded in a nearby storage tank. Seeing a B&O boxcar on the main line of the branch means very little; but it provides a reference point and a data point for my own model research and acquisition.
So with this new series I am going to take a closer look at the freight cars in the old photos I have and try to identify them as best I can. I am not trying to write a detailed article, but rather make a positive ID and gather some details, and perhaps some references. My end goal is to find HO scale models for these cars so I can represent them on my model railroad. I hope you enjoy.
Kicking it off, let’s start with a fun one.
Let’s start with the boxcar, furthest away, just in front of GP9 3400:
It’s a B&O boxcar (note the “13 Great States” herald on the far right). The car has 4/5 corrugated ends and Youngstown doors. Note the tack board placement on the end and door. From what I can tell this is an M-55 class variant, perhaps an M-55c, which I understand had those distinctive squared-off corrugated 4/5 ends. Ted Culotta has a nice blog post about the M-55a and the B&O RR Historical Society, B&O Modeler, has a nice article about the M-55h in the “orange comet” scheme. I found a few other photos which may give more insight: M-55? (Sentinel Service) 466054, M-55h 467673, M-55c 466350, . Accurail offers an M-55a model. as well as an M-55 trio of “Time Saver” schemes. Not sure of the details on this car. Sunshine Models also produced an M-55h kit, which you can see in the B&ORRHS article linked above. It sounds like National Scale Car has an M-55 kit in the works, which I eagerly await.
Next up is this DL&W hopper. Note, there is a vertical artifact on the photo which appears as two or three vertical stripes. This appears to be an 8-panel hopper. (10, if you count the two end panels where the slope is located.) I know little about DL&W so it makes the challenge even greater. I have spent a good amount of time digging around online and have yet to find some good reference material. A photo on the RR-Fallen Flags site appears to be a close match, but it’s got u-channel ribs at each end, where the car in the photo does not appear to. The paint scheme reveals a number xx6535, perhaps. Note the spacing of the LA | CKA | WAN | NA and the “The Road of Anthracite” herald. Bluford Shops produced an 8-panel, 2-bay hopper which to me VERY closely resembles the prototype in the photo I have. My search for an HO scale representation is ongoing; any help finding a source would be MUCH appreciated!
Last up is this gondola, spotted on the Eisinger Mill & Lumber siding:
This one is pretty neat. Thankfully, there is a fantastic resource for PRR freight cars: the PRR Freight Car Page. Studying the design of this car; the ribs, their length, the lettering and the shape of the car, I determined this is a PRR class G26 gondola. A personal guess at the number, 439586, matches with the prototype info being part of car nos. 439009-440709, AAR class GB, built in Altoona between 1930-31, measuring 65’6″ inside length, 20 panels. Thankfully, this car was produced in a kit form by the now-defunct Eastern Car Works a number of years ago, and I picked up a very nice completed model via eBay last month that will really go well on my layout (below). As I plan on modeling the construction of the Whitehurst Freeway, there will be plenty of girder loads to be brought down the Branch in this neat car!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first installment of FCF. I have so many more freight car sleuthing stories to share and welcome any and all input you all may have on helping me solve some of these mysteries.
EDIT: I recently discovered the MyHeritage photo colorizer via Chris Adams’ wonderful Valley Local blog. This is an AI-based tool that does a darn decent job of colorizing black & white images. Now, it’s just for fun and nothing is meant to be perfectly accurate, but sometimes a bit of color helps the brain put things in context. Anyway, here’s what the subject image looks like when run through the colorizer: