All posts by bsullivan

Layout Update: Templates, Grades & DCC++

My progress on the layout has been minimal for the last year, but over the last month I’ve cleaned up and made some great progress, figuring out solutions for some issues I was having. My friend Kelly helped me figure out track arrangement and grades at Georgetown Junction. I am planning on further reworking the track arrangement to be a bit more prototypical and easy for construction/structures. My friends Joe & Matt helped me visualize how to lay in the area West of Rock Creek and East of Bethesda which includes Chevy Chase. I had originally made a mistake of not figuring the grade separation between the trestle at Rock Creek and the level tracks at Bethesda. I decided to create one long grade from the trestle and Bethesda, cut from plywood out of a cardboard template. I’m working on this now.

I’ve also been experimenting with DCC++, a free, open-source, full featured DCC system. It uses an Arduino Uno, Arduino Motor Shield and a 15v power supply. I managed to get it up and running in an evening and will use this moving forward until I am ready to purchase a full featured DCC system… or maybe not! We will see how it works for me. Here’s a short video:

I’m recently enrolled in school at UMUC going for a Computer Science degree, so much of my time is devoted to class work, but I’ve got a reinvigorated interest in the layout so I’m hoping to make steady progress.

eBay Find: April 16, 1982: B&O 4131, 4248 at Georgetown Jct

I purchased this slide a few weeks ago on eBay. 1982, April, Spring has sprung, and the Georgetown Branch is three years away from abandonment. The branch lead is to the left, with the Talbot Ave bridge in the distance. The photographer is facing NW and the train is heading East on the Metropolitan Branch with auto racks in tow.

19820416 BO 4131 4248 at Georgetown Jct - Carl Perelman
April 16, 1982, B&O 4131 and 4248 at Georgetown Jct – Slide label: Carl Perelman

eBay Find: July 23, 1972 B&O 6476, Stranded in Georgetown

July 23, 1972 B&O 6476, Stranded in Georgetown after Hurricane Agnes damaged the Branch.
July 23, 1972 B&O 6476, Stranded in Georgetown after Hurricane Agnes damaged the Branch.

I purchased this original slide off of eBay a few weeks ago. Here’s the story behind the image. On June 19-22, 1972 Hurricane Agnes made its way across the Southeast USA and on up the coast to the Mid Atlantic, wreaking havoc along its way. DC saw its share of major flooding, with the Georgetown Waterfront being particularly badly hit. At the time, traffic on the Georgetown Branch had dwindled to a train every few days or once a week, depending on conditions. The rumor was that the B&O was looking for a way to get rid of it and had it not been for this locomotive, the branch may have been abandoned right then and there. Why, you say?

About five years prior, arsonists had set fire to the beautiful long wooden trestle crossing the creek. The spectacular blaze damaged the trestle, but they were able to salvage it.

1967, Rock Creek Trestle burns
1967 – Arsonists set fire to the Rock Creek trestle. G. Fred Stork photo, collection of the late Wm. Duvall.

When Agnes came through, it wrought havoc with incredibly heavy rains and destructive winds. The Georgetown Branch did not just suffer in Georgetown along the waterfront, but probably most significantly in its crossing of Rock Creek. The already-weakened trestle was devastated by flooding at Rock Creek and collapsed into the creek below.

The B&O had to figure out what to do: rebuild, or just call it a loss and seek abandonment. But there was one big problem. Engine 6476, now isolated in Georgetown along the waterfront.  The engine was too valuable to scrap and too heavy to haul out, so the railroad opted to rebuild. This time, the bridge was repaired with steel. New bents were laid in and the whole structure was shored up.

1972 - Rebuilding Rock Creek Trestle
1972 the B&O trestle across Rock Creek is rebuilt following destruction from Hurricane Agnes. Note the charring from the arsonists damage five years prior.

The branch is still in use today, as part of the Crescent Trail, having been cleaned up a bit and had a second deck laid on top of the rails so cyclists and pedestrians can enjoy the beautiful views of the creek valley. (Yep, the rails are still there! Next time you’re there, peek under the walkway and you’ll see the original rails and wood decking) So next time you are in Georgetown or strolling across the Rock Creek trestle, remember the story of the loco that saved the railroad. The Georgetown Branch would live on in service for another 13 years, until 1985.

Photo of Work Train in Georgetown, ca 1910

ca 1910, Georgetown Waterfront, B&O D-2 #25 0-6-0
B&O #25 0-6-0 D2 engine with work train parked in Georgetown, ca 1910

I found this photo on the DCDIG website a few weeks back. It’s a very nice photo of the waterfront, showing a few of the boathouses which line the shore West of the aqueduct bridge, which this photo was taken from. Of particular interest is the B&O engine (#25 I believe), flat car and caboose parked on the Georgetown Branch main. How cool is that? It gets even cooler.

ca 1910, Georgetown Waterfront, B&O D-2 #25 0-6-0
Closeup, B&O #25 0-6-0 D2 engine with work train parked in Georgetown, ca 1910

I believe this engine, car and caboose is the work train that was sent down the newly-opened Branch to complete a very special project; the widening of the Aqueduct Bridge arch, to allow trains to pass beneath. In a couple photos shared to Facebook a year or so ago a Mr. Ulles posted a couple photos of his ancestor who was part of the team who completed the work on the arch. The photos are really windows into the past that I never thought I’d see. Based on the number on the engine (which I believe is #25), the configuration of the engine (0-6-0, class D2), the train consist (flat car + caboose) and the general surroundings, I do believe this is the work train. This would put the photo at some point in the spring/summer of 1910 and paints more of the picture of what Georgetown looked like when the B&O finally arrived.

Montgomery County Historical Image Viewer

Montgomery County Historical Image Viewer
Montgomery County Historical Image Viewer

I just came across this link via Facebook and it’s pretty cool. The Montgomery County MD Geographic Information Systems (GIS) map viewer. There are many maps available on the site, but this historic aerial collection is particularly interesting. The resolution is not that great, but it suffices. The earliest images are from 1951, and show the Georgetown Branch route quite well. Have a look for yourself!

Talbot Avenue Bridge is Closed Indefinitely

December 28, 1959. B&O E-7A #1415 heads up a race track special, headed Westbound for Charleston, WV. The photographer stands on the front of the Georgetown local, doing its switching before heading down the line to Georgetown. Photographer: Ray Mumford.

A sad day, indeed. This has been coming for a while, but is nonetheless tough to swallow. The iconic Talbot Avenue bridge, which has spanned the Metropolitan & Georgetown Branches of the B&O for so many years is closed indefinitely after failing a safety inspection. The bridge has been on the chopping block for a while now, being in the way of the Purple Line construction which is on hold while a lawsuit is reconciled.

I, for one, am most sad to see the bridge go because it is so iconic in all of the photos I have collected and seen showing action at Georgetown Junction. The bridge is always there, in the background, off in the distance in the shots of B&O trains switching the Branch or screaming off East or West, hauling passengers or commuters. The bridge witnessed the 1996 tragedy and remained. The bridge has been rebuild after most of the iron rotted away from years and years of salt and weather corroded the supports to frail remnants.

It will be a sad day when they finally remove the bridge and there is a hole where it once was. There is a grassroots effort to preserve the bridge as a symbol of the legacy of segregation in the local area; let’s hope they are successful. Read more here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/historic-maryland-bridge-is-closed-after-failing-inspection/2017/05/02/90f6ba70-2f71-11e7-8674-437ddb6e813e_story.html

What’s in a Map? (repost)

* Note: this post was originally made on 7/9/2015 but seems to have disappeared into the ether. I’m reposting it from memory b/c it’s a VERY interesting map, not just for Georgetown Branch research, but for the DC area. Enjoy!

Baist's map of the vicinity of Washington D.C.
This “Baist’s map of the vicinity of Washington D.C.” shows the proposed extension across the Potomac into VA. ca 1904. From the Library of Congress

Maps are so often used to base opinions when it comes to historic interpretation. The B&O planned on extending the Metropolitan Southern branch all the way into Northern VA to connect with the Southern RR and points South. At the time, the B&O was in some financial stress and the plan was never realized. They did, however, connect with the port of Georgetown, consolidating three railroads into one. (Metropolitan Southern, Washington & Western Maryland and the Georgetown Barge, Dock and Elevated Ry Co.) This became the Georgetown Branch of the B&O after 1908.

Read more about this history here on the Capital Crescent Trail website: http://www.cctrail.org/history_georgetown_branch

The plan to continue across the Potomac was a serious plan by the B&O. So serious, in fact, that it appears on many maps and documents that I have come across, including official B&O track maps! (there is one hanging on the wall at the B&ORRHS Archives in Eldersburg that shows this very thing) I came across this Baist map of DC and the extension is very clearly shown. So much so, the line continues on into VA for quite a while.

Take a minute to visit the Library of Congress website and see this for yourself. It’s a stunning map with lots of history to explore. Enjoy!

https://www.loc.gov/item/87691445/

You can view the map on this page or you can download the original. They even have a .TIF file that is nearly 1GB in size! Here’s a wide view to give you an idea:

Baist map showing B&O line through VA
This Baist map shows the proposed B&O line crossing the Potomac and traversing Northern VA. The line was, of course, never built.

B&O 9035 Switching in Georgetown

I just picked up this original slide image depicting a chilly winter afternoon with the Georgetown switcher doing its thing downtown. The date indicated on the slide is Jan, 1965 and the location is the “new  yard” at the intersection of Wisconsin Ave. & Water St. B&O Alco S2 9035 is about 20 some years old, having been built between 1943-48 by Alco. The unit has been repainted our of the classic serif “BALTIMORE & OHIO” into the more modern, sans serif “B & O” scheme and appears to be resting on this cold day. The slide is an eBay find and the photographer is unknown.

Jan 1965, B&O 9035 at Georgetown, Washington, DC
Jan, 1965, B&O Alco S2 9035 at Georgetown, Washington, DC. Photographer unknown. (eBay purchase)

Purple Line Funding in Question After WH Budget Released

It looks like the funding for the Purple Line construction is in jeopardy after the release of the White House budget this morning. As many of you know, the Purple Line will connect Bethesda with Silver Spring (and beyond) and will be built on the Georgetown Branch right-of-way between Bethesda and Georgetown Junction.

The state will likely miss a March 31 deadline for clearing trees before the migratory bird nesting season begins. That will delay by another five months any major construction from starting on most of the trail.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/federal-money-to-build-purple-line-in-question-under-trump-budget-plan/2017/03/16/d9023ab4-09ac-11e7-b77c-0047d15a24e0_story.html

Aerial Photos of Georgetown from the 40s and 50s

Aerial photo of Georgetown from 1940s
Aerial photo of Georgetown from 1940s

I scanned these eleven images, which are 11″x14″ B&W photos, which were originally part of the H. Smith collection. They now reside in the B&O RR Historical Society Archives in Eldersburg, MD. These photos are housed in an old photo album and are completely unmarked. I’m not sure of their original purpose but I suspect it has something to do with development along the Waterfront including the Whitehurst Freeway. If you are interested in the industrial area of Georgetown, these are a treasure trove of information. For me, they answer many questions about track alignment, industries and the state of the city during the time frame I am modeling. Jackpot! Enjoy!

http://gallery.sluggyjunx.com/railroad_and_industrial/georgetownbranch/gb_prototype_photos/March-6-2017-Georgetown-Aerials