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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
* 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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
Another project I’ve been working on is creating a custom Google map that shows the route and history of the Georgetown branch. Here is what I’ve come up with:
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!
Brush Clearing at Georgetown Jct. – © Janusz Mrozek
Here are a couple photos of the same general area, nearly 48 years ago to the day! The first is looking back at the Jct, from where Janusz took his photo and the other from about the same spot. Two photos © Ray Mumford.