All posts by bsullivan

GB Mystery Boxcar Wreck… Solved?

As some of you may or may not know, there are remains of a wrecked boxcar located on the Georgetown Branch just a bit north of the Dalecarlia tunnel. The wreckage has been somewhat of a mystery as to how it happened, where the car came from and why it was partially scrapped in place. I first got wind of this discovery in 2014 when some photos were shared online:

The underframe center section sat further in the woods and was dragged closer to the right of way during a cleanup event by locals. Lots of folks (including myself) developed theories on just how the car came to be where it lay. In 2019 I visited the site with my friend Kelly and snapped many photos of the wreck. This past Fall I circled back on my notes and spent some serious time studying the photos I had taken and correlating details on the wrecked car with photos of other steam era freight cars. My goal was to hone in on what type of car it is and where it may have came from. I created a presentation (which you can download below!) that outlines my findings. The TL:DR is that I believe it’s a B&O class M-26 (X-29) boxcar that was wrecked in the flood of 1942 near Fletcher’s Boathouse. The car was likely loaded on a flatcar, useful sections scrapped from the car and the flood-mangled carcass tossed by the wayside in an area away from the National Park land (C&O Canal) which is where it rests today.

Here is a download link to my presentation:

I hope you enjoy my journey to solve this riddle and I welcome any and all questions or comments. If you think there’s something I may have missed or got wrong, it would be great to hear from you! I am not an expert in freight cars, but over the last few years have taken a major interest in studying steam era freight cars and prototype modeling. (I now own a couple ORERs and various other reference books which are wonderful resources!) Please have a look at the presentation and leave your comments below!

Then and Now: 1954 Georgetown Branch Excursion Train in Silver Spring

Yesterday I had lunch in Silver Spring with a friend and was reminded of the fine photos taken by Dr. Ira Pearlman on Sunday, Ocrober 24, 1954. This NRHS excursion traversed the Georgetown and Alexandria Branch lines. The train was pulled by B&O GP7 743 and consisted of three passenger cars. Here we see a couple shots from 1954 and the view as it looks today. Enjoy!

Here Dr. Pearlman captures GP7 743 leading its train west, about to cross over Georgia Ave. on the morning of October 24, 1954.
Today, the bridge is still in place but now a second span supports both the CSX tracks as well as the Metro tracks. Station platforms are still evident and the original lamp posts as well. The nearby Silver Spring Metro station opened in 1978.
Dr. Pearlman snaps the train as it picks up passengers at the Silver Spring station. The train was scheduled to depart Eckington around 8:45am, so I imagine this was a scheduled stop for others to hop on before heading to Georgetown. The station was built in 1945.
The same view, Nov 28, 2021. The photographer was a bit closer to the station. The single-fixture lamp post (seen in the “then” photo) is in storage on the ground on the other side of the station.

I’d like to get back one day to take more detailed/composed shots, as these snapshots were serendipitous after we had lunch across the street. To view the rest of Dr. Pearlman’s wonderful photo set, please visit my Gallery. Hope you enjoy them! I snapped a few additional photos:

Quick Visit to Georgetown Junction

Today I had the good fortune to be in the Silver Spring area and decided to take a side trip over to the Junction to see how the construction has been going. It was heartening to see much of the old layout still intact but at the same time sad to see much of it has changed so much. Some of the preliminary Purple Line grading seems to have been halted while other areas are moving forward. The long siding CSX replaced is the spot where the eastbound interchange track was located, which was fun to see.

The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail Photo Collection

A couple years ago I met Chris Brown who was writing a book on the history of the Washington Canoe Club. He was one of the founding members of the CCCT and had accumulated a very large collection of slides documenting the early years of the CCCT’s efforts to convert the Georgetown Branch into a rail trail. In the early 1990s, the rail trail concept was a relatively new one and converting the Georgetown Branch would prove to be a great challenge. The efforts of the CCCT members paid off and the success of the Capital Crescent Trail is a testament to their hard work. I spent a few years in the early 2000s commuting from Bethesda to Rosslyn via the CCT and its during that time that I really fell in love with this little branch line.

Chris generously involved me in the slide review and cataloging process which was eye-opening, with many views of the right of way as it existed in the 1990s before being and during its conversion to a rail trail. I hope you will enjoy this large collection of slide scans!

Rock Creek Trestle on Google Street View

Found this great creek-level view of the Rock Creek Trestle just before it was demolished over on the BridgeHunter website. Some of the bents have been removed, and it is shown in its final days, but it’s great to have a visual time capsule of the bridge and surrounding area.,-77.0624045,0a,73.7y,203.95h,91.02t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sAF1QipMdLzidy4H3IwbI6yxJXaJEhmiV5twvOhdOf5x7!2e10?source=apiv3

Mystery Caboose in Bethesda

I have long heard legend of a caboose that sat forlorn on a siding in Bethesda in the years after the railroad was abandoned. Apparently a private owner had parked the caboose there for future restoration or display, but instead it sat, torched by an arsonist and rotting away until finally being removed.

Caboose on a siding in Bethesda.
Date unknown – likely ca late 1980s/early 1990s. Collection of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail.

I have no idea of the disposition of the caboose or of its heritage. The only B&O caboose I could find that resembles this one is an I-10 class, but it may be a stretch. There appear to be numbers on the side of it, but the only one I can definitively read is an eight and perhaps a five to the left. I believe it sat on the siding just south of River Rd. on the west side of the tracks; the location of the old oil unloading siding.

If anyone knows any additional information about this caboose and its heritage, I’d love to hear it!

PS. I have a large collection of images shot in the years after the Branch had been abandoned and during its conversion to a rail trail that I will be sharing over the coming months. Stay tuned!

The Washingtonian, Westbound at Georgetown Jct., ca 1942

Westbound Washingtonian at Georgetown Junction, 1942.

July 26, 1942, 10:32am. Newly-shopped B&O V-2 class 4-6-4 locomotive 5340, the “Lord Baltimore,” heads up a westbound train #21, “The Washingtonian,” as it pounds across the crossover at Georgetown Junction. The iconic locomotive was built by in 1935 by the B&O at its Mt. Clare shops in Baltimore, MD. In 1942, it was shopped and assigned #5340. The locomotive was scrapped seven years after this photo in April, 1949. The Washingtonian ran between Baltimore, MD and Cleveland, OH from 1914 to 1956.

Photo by Bruce Fales. (A recent eBay purchase.)

Catching Up: Oct 2021

I normally don’t like catch up posts, but I figure I should give everyone an update on what’s been going on. Earlier in the Summer I began a class in Cinema4D which occupied nearly all of my free time. Besides the weekly train club meetings, my hobby time shrunk to zero. The class wrapped up a few weeks ago so between catching up on email, attending the GSMTS as a vendor, and attending the NMRA NER convention and visiting family, I have had little time to spend on the GB project.

That is not to say nothing has been going on! Nay! In the small bits of free time I have had, I have been researching various photo mysteries, objects, buildings, freight cars and more. One thing I have spent a significant amount of free time on is working on the operations scheme for the railroad. This involves studying what information I do have, namely photographs of freight cars, first and second-hand stories about how the railroad operated and various other documents. (My life for a stack of waybills!) I will likely be using JMRI Operations Pro to handle movements on the layout. I have really enjoyed tinkering with the software and am impressed in the flexibility and utility it offers.

I have plans in the works to share several things here on the blog in the near future as well as push more to get some progress made on the layout. My Rock Creek trestle model is soldiering along, bit by bit. In the near future, I will be attending an Audi Club HPDE at VIR in Nov so I have a ton of car prep work to tackle for that! Busy busy.

In the meantime, I wanted to leave you with a teaser. I finally found a photo of the 1954 National Christmas Tree when it was parked down in Georgetown:

At some point I will try to write up a full article on this phenomenon, as I find it really fascinating and a super interesting facet of operations on the railroad. And to answer your question, yes, I will definitely be modeling this! 🙂