I spent all day Saturday visiting the Georgetown Branch to see some of the construction changes. It was a glorious day. Kelly R. and I found some amazing things. I took hundreds of photos. I’m planning many future blog posts.
The impetus for the journey was that I remembered that the Rock Creek trestle was going to be demolished to make way for a new grade for the purple line. I had no idea if it was already down, but Kelly and I headed over to the site. Much to my joy, it is still partially standing, although about 8 of the trestle bents are gone from the East end.
The venerable structure is not long for this world. Massive mobile cranes are staging nearby to remove the pedestrian path atop the trestle and on the west end, well, the original right of way has been completely decimated. It’s heartbreaking for me to see. This trestle has stood the test of time. Survived fire, flood, hurricane and countless storms and seasons. Since it’s original incarnation as a long wood trestle to what it is today, a bridge has spanned this valley since the early 1890s. It’s a beautiful structure and is showing its age, with rot starting to really take its toll.
I visited today after work to take some final measurements and as many photos as I could snag with the limited sunlight I had. It’s a special bridge for me. Something of wonder. If it’s of any consolation, it will live on in model form on my layout as best as I can manage.
This neat video showing various railfan excursions from the 1950s to 1970s in the DC area shows a wide variety of subjects, including a brief, rare color film shot of the trolley approaching its crossing of the B&O’s Georgetown Branch, which crossed the trolley tracks on a deck girder bridge. The trolley last ran to Glen Echo on Jan 3, 1960 and the area beneath the bridge would be filled in later that year. (I walked the line back in 1991 and witnessed this deck girder bridge sitting only a few feet off the ground. It was a strange sight.)
Video begins at the 5:54 mark and is only a few seconds long, but it’s neat to see. In the background you can see the GB bridge crossing over the tracks. There was a second deck girder bridge to the left which extended the crossing.
Merry Christmas! Some more great progress has been made. I know it doesn’t look like much but I am making great headway considering the fits and spurts of attention the layout gets. All of the trackage at Chevy Chase is done and wired up. (Minus the turnout frogs, switch machines and the coal trestle at T.W. Perry.) the trains can now run all the way to just before Bethesda. Track is half way through the curve at the end of the room. Feels good to make such progress.
My goal is to get the upper deck done by the end of the year and I’m very close. I have already cut and prepped all of the track in Bethesda but had to rip it up so I could wire frogs and holes for switch machines. I also spent a day working with my friend Matt who helped me add some more prototypical curvature at the east end and rework my sidings. These changes are already in place, I just need to get the track in. One more week? Can he do it? Stay tuned.
Made some great progress this past week. The area around Chevy Chase is taking shape. I laid track halfway through the area and finished fitting the rest of the main and passing siding. I ran out of time to complete laying it. Still need to solder the drops to the rail bottoms and spike into place. After that I will install the team track which will go on the curvy bit of roadbed I installed.
I also installed a new-to-me Digitrax system that was graciously given to me. It’s an Empire Builder 2, about 15 years old but nearly new. Unfortunately the DT300 throttle suffers from the capacitor plague and I will have to have it repaired by Digitrax. Since they were badly hit by hurricane Michael it will not be for a few months. No worries for now, I have an old UT1 to play with. 🙂
Did some cleaning up and consolidating of scenery materials and storage in the layout room and a few other layout tasks. It’s been a productive week! More soon.
Another relic from the Georgetown Branch surfaces as a siding in Bethesda at River Road emerges from the brush.
Eagle-eyed viewer, contributor and friend Rich Pearlman went exploring the area around the crossing at River Rd. and came across the tracks on the South side of the intersection. I had a sneaking suspicion there were tracks there as I had previously seen and photographed rails buried in the dirt but I hadn’t seen them listed/shown on the maps I have, nor do I have period photos of them.
Well, Rich did the heavy lifting, digging through the B&O Railroad Yahoo! Group site to uncover a comment from Christopher Parker outlining a brief history of that siding. Here is what he wrote:
The siding, which was quite long (more than 10 cars), once served Metropolitan Fuel Company, across the tracks. By 1980 it was grown over and disconnected from the main, but the pipes and connections for
unloading tank cars were all still present. Metropolitan Fuel Company was purchased by Stuart Petroleum along with next-door Washington Fuel
sometime in the early eighties.
A red wooden caboose sat on this siding all through the seventies. When I first got a look at it in the late seventies, it was quite abandoned and didn’t have a road name on it. Around 1982, give or take a few
years, it was damaged by fire.
In 1981 or 1982, this siding was re-connected and the first 100′ was used by Jack’s Roofing Co to unload Cedar Shingles. They’d get a box car about every two weeks, sometimes less. UP, BN, BCOL, SP. Jack’s
Roofing also used piggyback service (unloaded elsewhere) to get a truckload of shingles every day. Jack’s Roofing company was located a bit behind Roy Rogers, a few buildings away from the tracks. I recall
them using a two axle flatbed truck and forklift.
So there you have it – the siding had multiple purposes and served a few industries over the years. It’s a neat story and a neat relic! I should really get down there and see it myself, because the fact that someone cleared the brush and put up those small red survey markers leads me to believe it won’t be around for long. 🙁
Have been really making some great progress on the layout these last few weeks and it feels great. I last updated that I had got my DCC system up and running and after a little tweaking it is working flawlessly. I power up the system, turn the layout power on, open WiThrottle on my phone, acquire a loco and away I go! And on that note…
I’ve completed the Junction area as well as nearly all the trackage in the first section of the layout. Bus wires and feeders are in place and trains are running! There are a few trouble areas that I am working on- the biggest being the sharp curve leading from the Junction on to the branch. Not sure how I’m going to solve this but I’ll work on the major issues when I get closer to them. I can see my steam engines having a hard time negotiating that tight turnout. In the meantime, here’s more…
I created the temporary bridge from some plywood with an old 2×2 screwed to the bottom for rigidity. The bridge is easily removable with two wood screws. Feeder wires are screwed into a terminal block for easy removal. Right now track is laid semi-permanently on top of the bridge for operational purposes. Once I have the trestle model complete, I will “cut out” the old bridge and replace it with the model. Since that is far off, the temporary bridge is solid.
The drop down area is where the creek bed will be located. The trestle will be built to scale, an exact representation of the prototype as it stood in the 1940s.
In this wide view you can make out the approximate location of the long coal trestle which will branch off from the main right after the junction. I really like how the re-worked grades turned out for the junction area. Originally I had the mainline up very high and it presented some real challenges down grade. My friend Matt helped to re-work the Junction completely. We spent a few hours looking at photos and studying maps to come up with the existing layout, which more realistically follows the prototype, where the Branch drops off quickly from the Metropolitan Branch mainline and is sunken between sidings. (E.C. Keys and the coal trestle) So far, everything is working smoothly. It feels great to make real progress. It feels even better to be able to run a locomotive on the layout! 🙂
Next up I’m going to continue track laying into Chevy Chase and on into Bethesda. If I stay on track, I should make my goal of completing all of the upper-deck track work before Christmas. 🙂
This view is facing geographic East, looking from beneath the Aqueduct Bridge down Water St along the tracks. Here, the switch opens up to dual trackage laid in the cobblestone streets of Georgetown. In the distance one can see old brick warehouses in disrepair; remnants of an era that was coming to a close. A wood sheathed box car sits alone to the right and various automobiles and motorcycles line the street. The Potomac Boat Club is just visible to the right, nicely done up with shrubberies out front. Through the haze in the background we can make out the Wilkins-Rogers Milling plant and the Lone Star Cement plant on the right. An arch of the Key Bridge dominates the scene.
One interesting thing to note is the double-track “telltale” which spans the tracks just beyond the bridge. The little dangling “whiskers” were there to warn any railroad brakemen raiding atop the cars that the overhead structure (in this case, the Aqueduct) was approaching. There was a matching set on the other side, behind the photographer. Also of interest is the cobblestone street and the girder rail, used to ensure a flangeway in the shifting cobbles. In the early 1940s the road was paved with concrete and the flanges were cast as part of the right of way. Surprisingly, several structures remain today that are in this photo; the small brick building to the left, the Brenizer Brewery building straight ahead, the Key Br. (obviously), Wilkins-Rogers Milling (although altered), Potomac Boat House and the Aqueduct arch.
I was alerted to this film over on Archive.org by an alert viewer who pointed out to me that at the very beginning of this home movie from October 6, 1958 there is a twenty-second view of Georgetown Junction from the rear window of a passenger train! Now, videos of the Georgetown Branch are exceedingly rare, so this is particularly special! The train is moving relatively slowly as it rounds the curve past the team track yards at the Junction. You see cars parked on the sidings, and as it proceeds further you see B&O hoppers, some box cars and a ubiquitous covered hopper. Then a view down the Georgetown Branch appears and the Talbot Ave bridge appears overhead. Nice! The shot closes shortly thereafter.
It’s only twenty seconds long, but for me, it’s all gold. Anyone who conducts research for building model railroads will tell you how important the details are. The colors of ballast, the amount of scrub brush and grass that has grown up along the right of way, the height of trees, the discoloration on the ties, the placement of switches and track alignment, buildings and signs… all of those things inspire and help to fill in the scene. Since photos & videos are uncommon, it really is special to see an actual film of the area. There is a legend of the NRHS having a film of the 1958 fan trip down the GB but I have not been able to locate it yet. The folks over there didn’t have a record of it. I will keep hoping!
Another image I found on DCDIG. From a story in the Washington Post, there was a large, popular regatta in Georgetown out on the Potomac and a pleasure boat sank, with ten drowning victims. The helpless crowd that gathered was large and there were photographers covering the race who also managed to photograph the scene of the tragedy.
The images are fascinating for me, as they portray what the waterfront was like just prior to the introduction of the B&O railroad to the scene. Six years after this photo was taken, B&O trains would be plying the street trackage along this waterfront. In fact, there are buildings in this photo that are still extant today! See this image from Google Maps showing one of the oldest buildings in DC still standing. Unfortunately it’s just the facade, but still impressive! The location of the photographer is approximately 32nd and Water street, but out in the Potomac. (obviously)
I just stumbled on this image over at DCDIG which shows the flooding in Georgetown on Mar 19, 1936. The Georgetown Branch ran from the right side to the bottom, through the arch of the old Aqueduct bridge and toward the photographer. If you look carefully you can see the old cast iron DUAL telltales in the foreground! They span the right of way and warned brakemen of the approaching arch. Remember, brakemen rode the roofs of cars back in the older days. The Potomac Boat Club boathouse survives to this day, as does the arch of the Aqueduct bridge.