All posts by bsullivan

June 6, 1948 – The MSME Excursion Train

B&O MSME Special at Eckington Yard, Washington, DC, engine Q-1c 4320 with two passenger cars and four cabooses prepares to depart. E.L. Thompson photo, B&ORRHS collection.

Early on while conducting research on the Georgetown Branch I came across photos of a B&O steam excursion that took place on June 6, 1948 labeled as the “MSME Excursion.” From what I can tell the train was commissioned by the Metropolitan Society of Model Engineers, a prolific and very active model railroading group in the DC area. The train was assembled at the B&O’s Eckington, DC coach yard, where it departed and traveled west on the Metropolitan Branch, to Georgetown Junction where it entered the Georgetown Branch. The train made several stops, on its way to Georgetown and then would return to Eckington, DC. The MSME itself formed at some time in the early 1930s and resided in the “attic” of Union Station where they had a permanent model railroad layout. They would host National Model Railroad conventions, local model contests, other meetings and events, including railfan excursions. For this post, I will share what I know about the train that ran that day in 1948.

So far, I have yet to uncover a detailed account of the excursion events. My assessment is based on the photos that I have discovered and that have been shared with me. From what I can tell, the train was assembled in the B&O passenger or coach yard in Ivy City. The loco, 4320, was coupled up and the train headed out, engine-first, toward Georgetown Junction. There was a stop at the Rock Creek Trestle, where some chose to photograph the loco from below as it crossed this impressive trestle.

B&O Q1-c 4320 crossing Rock Creek, Jun 6, 1948. Collection of W. Duvall.

The next stop was at Chevy Chase, MD where the train paused on its way west, just past Connecticut Ave. Note how overgrown the yard was at this time.

B&O MSME Special at Chevy Chase, MD. E.L. Thompson photo, B&ORRHS collection.

From here, the train continued west, passing through Bethesda and on to Dalecarlia. Whether or not the train stopped in Bethesda, I do not know. The next stop seems to have been Dalecarlia Tunnel for a photo run-by of the train emerging from the tunnel. (photo below.) The train continued down along the palisades and would next pause at Fletcher’s Boathouse along the C&O Canal. I believe the train likely backed up as patrons hiked the short distance to the bridges over the Canal where they did a run-by or simply staged a photo.

I believe this is from the MSME excursion train. Photo from Impossible Challenge, Herbert H. Harwood, Jr., 1979, Barnard Roberts & Company publisher

After this pause, the train then continued on to Georgetown, where it terminated near the “new yard” for a break and a photo op.

Jun 6, 1948, James Martin collection, B&O RR Historical Society Archives collection.

At this point, the railroad did a bit of switching of the train, changing the order from:
<<West <[4320][baggage][4602][C-2312][C-2250][C-1995][C-2806]
[C-2312][C-2250][C-1995][C-2806][baggage][4602]<[4320] East>>
The loco would run tender-first back up the branch, at the head end of the train. You can see the rearranged train in these images:

B&O MSME Special mustering for departure from Georgetown, DC, the west end “long siding”. E.L. Thompson photo, B&ORRHS collection.
B&O MSME Special heading West, Jun 6, 1948, Photo by Lawrence Winnemore, B&O RR Historical Society collection.

This last image is a really special action shot, taken from the window of caboose C-2250 as 4320 works hard to pull the excursion uphill back toward home. If I had to guess, I’d say this was in the area of Dalecarlia, but I really can’t be sure. So let’s take a look at the individual players on the train.

B&O Q1-c 4320

Built in September, 1913 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, Mikado 4320 weighed in at 284,500 lbs. The loco was retired a few years later June 19, 1951 at the Mt. Clare shops, Baltimore, MD. When the excursion happened, it was likely one of the few steamers in the area still in service and probably only used for special occasions like this. At this point diesels were really becoming ubiquitous in the DC area.

4320 Emerging from Dalecarlia Tunnel, 6/6/48. Photo by Paul Westhaeffer, B&ORRHS Collection.

B&O REA Express Car, 17xx

B&O MSME Special at Chevy Chase, MD. E.L. Thompson photo, B&ORRHS collection.

Troop sleeper cars were built by Pullman during WWII to facilitate the movement of troops during the war. Afterwards, many were rebuilt into express baggage cars. Shops would cover and modify window and door openings, ends and other features to suit their needs. Unfortunately I don’t yet have a good side view of this car, so its actual number remains a mystery but is likely 17xx. Here’s a couple similar cars, found in the wonderful Barriger Library collection:

Thomas Underwood Coll B&O711
Railway Express Agency Car 1737 Camden Coach Yards, Baltimore, MD 10/27/1963
Thomas Underwood Coll B&O710
Express car 1722 ex-ww2 troop sleeper. Camden Station, Baltimore, MD 8/30/1968

B&O Coach 4602

B&O MSME Special at Georgetown, DC. E.L. Thompson photo, B&ORRHS collection.

Joe Nevin clued me in on this car. This is a class A-13, of vintage pre-1910 construction. The car sides had steel sheathing installed over the wood siding. By WWII these cars were in excursion and special use until returned to full service during the war. By 1947, they went back into special ops (like an excursion on the Georgetown Branch).

B&O I-16 Caboose C-2312

B&O C-2312 at Eckington Yard, Washington, DC. E.L. Thompson photo, B&ORRHS collection.

The I-16 class was converted from old M-13 class boxcars, for use during wartime service when steel was restricted. Many railroads built composite “wartime” cabooses during this period. Car is red, with white lettering and is looking fresh!

B&O I-5 Caboose C-2250

B&O C-2250 at Eckington Yard, Washington, DC. E.L. Thompson photo, B&ORRHS collection.

I-5 subclass, constructed ca 1929.

B&O I-5 Caboose C-1995

B&O C-1995 at Eckington Yard, Washington, DC. E.L. Thompson photo, B&ORRHS collection.

I-5 subclass built ca 1926. This caboose was spotted on freights that served the Georgetown Branch.

B&O I-12 Caboose C-2806

B&O C-2806 at Eckington Yard, Washington, DC. E.L. Thompson photo, B&ORRHS collection.

C-2806 I-12 subclass, built in 1945, all steel construction. Red with yellow lettering.

As for modeling this train, I have begun putting together my representation. Here is the approach so far:

  • Q1-c 4320: Precision Scale Q1-c. An exquisite model and really the “first” brass loco that I’ve owned. It needs a bit of work, as the mechanism is not super-smooth and it needs DCC/sound installed.
  • Express Baggage Car 17xx: I found an old Roller Bearing Models – Troop Baggage Door Car kit, #501 (see pic below), but it’s completely incorrect for this car. Joe N. told me that the Walthers model is from a C&O prototype and not quite correct for the B&O (the window spacing and door placement are wrong), but I think I’m going to seek one out and use it as a stand-in for now.
  • A-13 Coach 4602: To do this properly will be a challenge, as no models exist of this type of car. I have a stand-in Bachmann Spectrum heavyweight to use in the meantime.
  • I-16 C-2312: So far I have collected an old Pro Custom Hobbies wood/metal I-16 kit, and an Accurail 40′ double-sheathed boxcar and some additional detail parts to do my build. The B&O Modeler magazine (Vol 7, Number 4, Pg 5) featured an article by Chris Tilley on kitbashing an I-16 which I plan to follow.
  • I-5 2250 & 1995: I’m holding out for the Spring Mills Depot models, which I have faith will be coming in the future. I do have an I-5 Pacific Mountain Shops resin kit that I will build and use as a stand-in.
  • I-12 2806: I have a gorgeous SMD I-12 lettered correctly which I will use.

If you have more info on this special excursion train, I’d love to hear from you! I also welcome any comments and feedback on my own observations as well as my modeling choices/plans. I have additional photos of the train, but not the permission to publicly share them, so hopefully in the future I’ll get that book written and can get them out for all to enjoy.

Ditching Crew at Georgetown Junction, 1940

John King recently shared this absolutely magnificent photo of a ditching crew at work near Georgetown Jct ca 1940. The photo was taken by Leonard Rice.

Georgetown Jct Work Train with caboose C-1925, ca 1940. Leonard W. Rice photo, Collection of John King. All rights reserved.

John notes: Interesting to note that the 2-8-0 was NOT an E-27 but an E-31 which to my eye looks similar to an E-27 but was originally a C.H.& D. locomotive.

I tried placing the location of this photo and the best I can fathom is that it is East of the Junction (crossovers), closer to Silver Spring. I believe the track that the work train is on is the “Silver Spring Lead”; the long siding that extended from Silver Spring yard all the way along the mainline to a point just East of Talbot Ave bridge. The Georgetown Branch would be out of sight to the left, a mile or so ahead. Thank you, John, for sharing this rare and special color image!

Hot Shoppes HQ in 1959

This neat photo from 1959 of the front of the Hot Shoppes Inc. (later Marriott) HQ at 5161 River Rd was shared on the Bethesda Chevy Chase Back In The Day Facebook Group, by P. Wilson (Thanks!). The Georgetown Branch passed just behind the photographer, the siding that served the building was located just to the left of the building. In the distance to the right, we can see a boxcar spotted at the industry located next door on Landy Ln. I’m not certain what this industry was but they had a large loading hopper.

J. Willard Marriott and George Romney standing in front of the offices of Hot Shoppes, Inc. , 1959. Multimedia Archives, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, P0164 J. Willard and Alice Sheets Marriott Photograph Collection

Mystery Refrigerator Car in Bethesda, ca 1973

Rich Pearlman shared these four photos with me that he shot as a kid in Bethesda. The car is sitting on what was the passing siding/team track in Bethesda. Thanks to some wonderful sleuthing by folks over on the Freight Car Enthusiasts Facebook Group, the car was identified. This is a General American Railcar 40′ mechanical refrigerator car, built 9/1957. I can’t read the rebuild date but similar cars have dates in the 1971-75 range. I also can’t make out the reporting marks, but I believe they are URTX based on what the FB group revealed and other photos that are online of similar cars.

This is an oddball to me. This refrigerator car parked in the yard in downtown Bethesda. Why? At this point, I don’t know what industry was left in Bethesda. I don’t think Maloney was even receiving rail cars at this point and most of the others had departed long ago. There was some LCL service and I’m assuming that’s what this was. But for who? And what was it transporting? A mystery that will likely go unsolved. Would love to hear your thoughts! And, thanks again, Rich!

The Georgetown Branch as a Shelf Layout

Over on Lance Mindheim’s wonderful blog, he developed a track plan design for the Georgetown Waterfront that fits on a small L-shaped shelf. I really like this plan and think it captures the essence of the waterfront in a very small space. For me, the most fascinating thing about the waterfront in its heyday was the multitude of industries and how the B&O served them.

The track plan covers a lot of the industries and yards represented in Georgetown and would make for engaging and interesting operations. I could see the Georgetown Turn has left its string of cars on the long siding (staging) and the switcher is tasked to pull the cars onto K St. and begin classifying them. Meanwhile the empties are being rounded up and built into a train for the Turn to bring back to Eckington. These cars would be spotted on the staging track. The switcher then goes back to focusing on spotting all the loads that just came in. If another track could be added to the staging yard, a second “Georgetown Turn” train could be spotted there for the switcher to pull into town and work on, as the cycle would start again. Hours of work here to do. I dig it!

Quick Update: Layout Visit Projects, and More

I know I haven’t posted in a while but as the Spring approaches, things are getting busy around here. Work has been nuts. HPDE season is upon us and I’ve got my first event at Summit Point with the Audi Club this coming weekend. Track prep time! Here’s the update:

Layout progress has been focused on cleaning up, organizing and working on the Rock Creek trestle, as well as devoting a large amount of time to working out the operations scheme in JMRI Operations Pro, with lots of help from Kelly R. The cleaning and organization tasks were accelerated by a visit from Ken & Bill from Spring Mills Depot. Ken and I chatted at the Springfield show and decided to get together to see each others’ layouts and share progress and lessons learned. It’s been very motivational seeing what Ken is doing and having them visit my layout to talk about my own process and future goals. I’ve got lots of good energy to move forward with.

I drove up from MD to Springfield to attend the big show with my cousin Eric. Here’s the status on the evening of the first day. It wasn’t too bad in Springfield compared to eastern MA, but it was still an adventure!

Coupled with the layout visitors, I have also been selling a lot of extra stuff on eBay. Over the last year or so I’ve really culled a lot of rolling stock and material from my collection. Much of it was sold at the GSMTS Timonium show, but much of it has been sold via eBay. As I clean and dig through my things, I find more and more to list for sale which really helps motivate me to continue to refine my focus and standards for the layout. Also, the sales help pay for the layout materials and new freight cars that I come across. Here’s a photo of the layout from a month or so ago:

The layout became staging for eBay sales for a few weeks.

JMRI progress has been a real roller coaster. Yesterday morning, in a fit of frustration, I was ready to swear off the program (both literally and figuratively) after running up against a string of constant, baffling errors. Kelly talked me off the ledge and offered to help rebuild and refine my layout concept in the software. I’ve realized that JMRI is going to be the best solution for what I want to do with the operations scheme on my layout; it offers pretty much all that I want, even though I have a long way to go before I get to my goal. I do have a document which outlines all of my “givens & druthers” as well as rules, specs and other details about my scheme. This will be published later for anyone who’s interested. Also, if anyone wants to talk Operations or JMRI, please reach out! I’m neck-deep.

A byproduct of the layout visitors and the JMRI work I’ve been doing was that I put together manifests for four trains that I refer to as the “Bethesda Turn”, since Bethesda is as far as the track currently goes on my layout. After the visit, I ran these four trains as I intend to run most of my trains, and it was fantastic. Yeah, not all the switch machines are in place, and some of the frogs aren’t wired, but the overall feeling of what it will be like to operate the layout was there, and it was really cool. A taste of things to come.

I find that in this hobby it’s important to have active projects in different areas of the hobby to keep things interesting. Last month when I got tired of installing DCC decoders and building trestle bents I switched over to building a freight car kit. The one I chose from my shelf-o-unbuilt-kits was an old Intermountain PS-1 50′ Double Door Box Car lettered for Southern Pacific #650159, kit #40607-10, with a 1955 build date; just inside my era. I found this kit on the shelf at the Annapolis area LHS, Star Hobby, for a had-to-have-it price of $10. Side note: I-M seems to be taking reservations for a re-release of this kit right now!

Photo of my boxcar kit.
Trimming the grab irons from the sprue. A fresh blade was a necessity here.

I hadn’t put together a challenging kit like this in many years and I had a blast. I upgraded it with a Kadee Apex running board, some Tichy end grabs and Tangent ASF A-3 wheel sets. (The prototype apparently had Symington-Gould A-3 trucks, but I haven’t found a manufacturer for those in HO.) The kit didn’t come with instructions, but thankfully I found some on the I-M website. It’s really nice they put the instruction manuals up on their site!

Tiny bracket.
This particular bracket decided to liberate itself into thin air as I was attempting to install it. I searched and searched and eventually gave up. The next day, I found it nearly straight away below my workbench. Huzzah!

Car weights came in the form of wheel weights I collect off the ground at track day events, which I glued to the interior floor with Liquid Nails. The body was badly warped at the top and required careful attention to straighten when gluing to the roof. The doors were also ever-so-slightly warped but once in place looked fine. All in all, a neat car. I don’t have many 50′ cars so this one will look nice delivering lumber to Galliher Lumber in Georgetown.

Lastly, a word about the NMRA Achievement Program (AP). Over the winter I was inspired to begin participation in the various AP areas. A few of the folks in my club are diving in and working toward their MMR so I figured I’d join the journey. So far, not a whole lot of movement on my end. I’ve started organizing and reading through the materials but that’s about it for now. I just haven’t been making this a priority, as I’ve had other things going on requiring attention. However, I have been taking photos of some of my projects in preparation for writing up articles. I will definitely post links here once that materializes. For now, I’ll keep planning and aligning my modeling efforts with the various AP certification qualifications. I think of it like merit badges for adult model railroaders. I’m enjoying the challenge!

Like I said, this is just a quick, off the top of my head update. I am hoping to be able to post more, but with work being so busy and other things vying for my time, I do what I can when I can. Be well and keep in touch!

B&O FM H12-44 9725 Heading East at Georgetown Jct., April 5, 1966

B&O 9725-1 Silver Springs MD 04-05-66, By RNS
B&O 9725-1 Silver Springs [sic] MD 04-05-66, By RNS

This wonderful photo by Russ Strodtz on Flickr came via Jeffrey Sessa over on the Maryland Division Railfans FB group. My money is on the train likely being a load of empties coming off the branch, perhaps from Maloney in Georgetown or Bethesda. Curious if they’ll pick up some cars from the Junction and head East or pick up loads and head back to Georgetown. REALLY neat view of the E.C. Keys lumber shed in the background. Gives me some great info for when I build that model! Thanks, Jeffrey!

Georgetown, Jan 20, 1949, East End

Selection from image: National Archives Identifier: 68153293 Series: “Airscapes” of American and Foreign Areas, 1917 – 1964,

While perusing the wonderful Airscapes of American and Foreign Areas collection on the National Archives site, I came across this image of the Lincoln Memorial and vicinity. In the back corner, we get a nice view of some new buildings at the East end of the Branch as well as seeing construction on the Whitehurst Freeway well underway. In this image from January, 1949 we see the new West Heating Steam Plant and associated Coal & Ash House, which was turned out to be the last customer on the Branch until the last train in 1985. We see that the spit of land at the tail end of the yard, known as “The Mole,” has been nearly fully vacated save for a stiff-leg derrick crane.