* Note: this post was originally made on 7/9/2015 but seems to have disappeared into the ether.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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
This is very much a work in progress. It’s not complete, and I’m aware of the shifting nature of various structures, track placement and equipment placement that changed over the many years the Branch was in service. There are many labels that are incorrect or missing. It’s meant to be a nice reference point, so that if you are curious just where the track crossed the streets of Bethesda, or maybe where that yard was in Georgetown, you can have a look and see. I’ve used multiple sources for this project including B&O Valuation maps, photographs, historic aerial imagery and maps. I hope to update it more (photographs would be nice!) when I have the opportunity. Enjoy!
A recent brush clearing effort has revealed some of the original Georgetown Branch trackage and switch leading up to the E.C. Keys / recycling plant siding at Georgetown Jct. According to folks on the CSX “Cap, Met, and OML” subs, Railfans Facebook Group the clearing is being done for MoW equipment which will be utilizing the trackage. It’s neat to see tracks reappear after so long! Here is a photo taken by Janusz Mrozek showing the recent clearing. Thanks, Janusz!
Ostensibly, in my lifetime, the Purple Line of the Washington Metro system will be built, connecting Silver Spring and Bethesda, MD. Laying atop the Georgetown Branch right-of-way from Bethesda to the Metropolitan Branch, the construction effort to create this modern rapid transit line will all but eradicate any remaining surface remnants of the beloved B&O branch I have been researching for so many years. Bridges, rail fragments, grading, ties, leftover sign posts and hints at where the tracks led will be eliminated by heavy earth moving equipment. Over the years I’ve attempted to capture pieces of this history by visiting various sites and photographing what’s remaining which leads me to the purpose of this post.
A post on the Atlas Obscura website which covers some stones hidden away in Rock Creek Park, long-forgotten, dumped there after a renovation project on the US Capitol, got me thinking. It reminded me of something similar I had seen while on my last GB tour. On my last visit to the B&O’s crossing at Connecticut Ave., I noticed a curiosity hidden away in the overgrowth near the end of the team track, (much of which is still extant!) a large pile of cut, shaped stones.
I am not an expert when it comes to building stones, but these really caught my eye. The pile is located just off of the Crescent Trail path and is hidden in some thick brush. They vary in size and shape, some being long, others much stouter. There are carvings on some of them. I regret not going in for a closer look but at the time I didn’t think to do so. If you’d like to see my photos from that trip, you can see them here.
And here is where the mystery begins. It has long been legend that much of the stone used in construction on the National Cathedral was delivered here by rail and then trucked up Conn. Av to the Cathedral, which is located at the intersection of Mass. Av. & Wisconsin Av. Construction on the Cathedral began in 1907 and continued steadily until the early 1990s. I would imagine that in the early days of construction the thought of stone being delivered for the massive project probably was brought via rail and it makes sense that it was delivered here at Connecticut Av. and trucked to the building site. There aren’t many other feasible options considering that long-distance trucking was a long ways away. So the possibility is there.
Where did these stones come from? Is there a way of figuring that out? Will there be quarry marks on them? When I first saw these stones, I thought that perhaps they were the remnants of the gantry crane that was once located here on the team track at Connecticut Av.
If you look carefully, to the left of the tail of the train is the old gantry crane. This crane shows up in photos that I have seen from the 1920s, 30s and on into the late 50s and early 60s, possibly. The pile of stones is located near to where the crane once stood. Interestingly, the “team track” is actually to the *left* of the gantry crane in this photo, behind it. Unless the entire mechanism can rotate 180 degrees that rear track would not be serviceable by the crane. It’s a bit clearer in this photo:
One can see the crane, with its tailing arm coming off the top, with the swing arm retracted to the side to allow trains to pass by. The team track is much more clearly visible to the far left. There is a suspicious pile near the team track in this photo, but you’ll notice that in the newer photo above, it’s gone. I believe the location of the stone that I found in the woods is further back, behind the crane, just out of view of these vintage photos.
So, further research is necessary to figure out this mystery. Perhaps the folks at the Cathedral could identify the stones. Or, perhaps there’s someone with a story behind how they got there. Maybe they’re just landscaping stones for a fancy building/home that a builder dumped there illegally. Or, just maybe, they were surplus stones intended to be delivered to the Cathedral site, long-forgotten and hidden from memory. All I know is that in a short amount of time; months, maybe years if we’re lucky, these will be gone. Picked up, dropped in a dump truck, and hauled away for fill, to be buried somewhere forever. I hope someone can shed some light on it before then!
While visiting the B&ORRHS Archives building in Eldersburg, MD today I noticed an interesting depiction on the large Valuation Map “key” hanging on the wall in the collections room. This is a comprehensive view of the entire B&O RR system, with indications for major sections, distances and locations. On the map, the Georgetown Branch is indicated. However, there is a junction point at “Dalecarlia Tun.” where the Branch continues on down along the Potomac River into Georgetown. However, at the junction, there is also a dashed line that proceeds across the Potomac River and on into Virginia, terminating at “Fairfax Sta.” I have highlighted it in yellow on the photo I snapped with my phone, below.
I have researched this proposed line before, in fact I purchased a map off of eBay that showed the same proposed line and shared it on this blog. The curious thing to me is that the proposed line, which was one of the early visions/purposes for the “Georgetown Branch” was never actually built. But, it is indicated on this map, which means there are likely official Valuation maps associated with this right of way. Looking at the map, I see 8-DC-13, 1-VA-23, 13-DC-22 and 12-DC-21. I believe those are all references to maps and will have to check with the Archives to see what they have on hand. Onward…
Another photo from my collection. I believe I purchased this on eBay but I’m not certain. The location is the far East end of the Georgetown Branch lead on the main line. B&O loco #4437 is on point as a crewman climbs aboard. The double-wide section shed is to the left, and still has its decorative trees in place. My best guess is that either they are dropping cars off at the team tracks or, more likely, picking them up from the yard. It appears the rest of their train is waiting on the Eastbound main of the Met. Looking at this photo just makes me feel cold! Enjoy!