Category Archives: History

Items of historical interest and relevance.

More Georgetown Branch Christmas Cheer

I found this neat photo on the Forest History Society website while searching for more info on the National Christmas Tree. The 1960 National Christmas Tree from Oregon is received in Georgetown by an enthusiastic Santa and … railroad employee? That striped jacket is something else. A policeman and excited little boy look on. Note the diesel engine at the end of the car. The shield-shaped sign the man is holding reads “Seal of Approval, Santa”

Georgetown Branch, Washington, DC, 1960 – National Christmas Tree is delivered. Photo from Forest History Society.

Lone Star Cement Sign

Lone Star Cement plant in Georgetown, DC on the waterfront. Date unknown, most likely early 1960s. Photo from DC DoT Archives. (

As I prepare to model various structures along the Georgetown Branch, my attention turns to recreating various details such as signs, vehicles and small details which establish the scene in historical context. Of course I have to pick and choose these details because I don’t have room to model the entire branch line.

One of the structures I plan on modeling is the Lone Star Cement plant. This large structure sat at the west end of the industrial waterfront in Georgetown. The silos towered above the Whitehurst Freeway and were emblazoned with a very large Lone Star logo. Using some photos and Adobe Illustrator I re-drew the logo as best I could, to be a relatively decent representation of the one painted on the silos of the plant. Here is a JPG of my attempt.

Lone Star Portland Cement Georgetown sign
The Lone Star Cement sign, re-drawn by me.

A Christmas Surprise on the Georgetown Branch

Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season. My friend Nick alerted me to this awesome photo from the Mansfield Library Archives  which shows the 1958 National Christmas Tree being received down in the new yard on the Georgetown Waterfront. How cool is this!? I know it’s slightly outside of my era, but I will have to figure a way to model this on my layout.

1958 National Christmas Tree
The location is the “new yard” along the waterfront in Georgetown and the year is 1958. The National Christmas tree is being received . Photo from Mansfield Library Archives (

The Great Northern flatcar bears a large sign on the side which reads:


1958 sign on the National Christmas Tree in Georgetown, DC
The sign on the National Christmas Tree delivered to DC via the B&O in Georgetown, 1958

Apparently it became a tradition in the early 20th century for a tree to be donated by lumber companies and state forests across the country. Anyone with more information or background on this, please chime in! Also, if you know where I can locate a manufacturer of that particular model of flat car, I’d appreciate it! 🙂

EDIT: Since I’m planning on modeling this I took a stab at drawing the sign. Comments welcome! I drew it in Adobe Illustrator using a combination of Source Sans Pro and Montserrat fonts, customized and altered a bit to match the original more closely. Enjoy!

Rendering of 1958 National Christmas Tree sign
My rendering of a sign that was placed on the side of a flat car carrying the National Christmas tree.

Another edit – I found a reference to the J. Neils Lumber Co. (which had merged w/ St. Regis Paper Co. in 1957) in the Minnesota Historical Society. Interesting short read:

Maloney Concrete Sign Design

At the Maloney Concrete plant in Bethesda, MD there was an iconic lettered sign up high on both sides of the main tower of the plant. The beautiful Art Deco lettering was painted red at one point and really stood out  among all the industrial machinery that surrounded it.

Maloney Concrete, early 1980s. M. Vurek photo.
The Maloney plant, with the deco lettering painted red. Photo by M. Vurek, early 1980s.

I plan on modeling one face of this concrete loading hopper and as such need to include the gorgeous sign. Unfortunately the font is different than anything I have. The font “Broadway” is a close match but has significant differences. I contacted a friend who also confirmed my suspicions about its design and decided to draw it myself using Adobe Illustrator. The process was not too bad as most of the letters are geometric and consistent. Thankfully there’s some repetition, too.

Maloney Concrete sign drawing
my re-drawing of the Maloney Concrete sign in Bethesda, MD

My plan is to laser engrave this onto a piece of very thin wood which I will then paint and install in the model, eventually. This is a first draft, so comments are welcome!

Thinking About Track Layout in Bethesda

I’ve outlined many of the tracks in Bethesda as I plan for the track arrangement on my own layout.

I’m tossing ideas back and forth on how to represent the town of Bethesda on the layout. I have already laid much of the track and am fine tuning the details. I’ve yet to decide on the East end of the town (where the track heads under Wisconsin Av) and placement of building flats. I’m doing more research looking at photos of the area to decide exactly where things will go. Above is a quick sketch I did showing the various tracks in the town.


Waterfront Mystery: What Type of Truck is This?

Mystery truck in Georgetown, 1950s
Anyone know what this is?!

A new-to-me photo depicting the Georgetown waterfront in the mid 1950s has a really interesting truck parked in the freight yard. In fact, the truck appears in a few of the photos from the new images. I’m not an expert on old trucks but I’m hoping someone out there can identify this vehicle. My hunch is that it was used by the railroad as a way to offload boxcars and flatcars for folks who did not have their own vehicles. Maybe it made local deliveries as well. Unfortunately the image quality is not great, and as such any faded lettering is missing. I’m going to peruse other waterfront images I have to see if I can find any additional images that may give more clues, but until then, does anyone have any info on what type of vehicle this is?

Mystery truck, another view
Another, obstructed view.

A Treasure Trove of Historic Imagery: The DDOT Photo Archive

Recently the DC Dep’t of Transportation published thousands of images  on a new photo archives page. It’s a wonderful peek back into transportation history in the District and includes many, many wonderful photos featuring the Georgetown Branch, specifically in the area around Georgetown. Photos date from the 30s and 40s all the way to the 80s and beyond in some instances. There are too many to share here, but with a little time and patience you can browse through the tagged images and enjoy these steps back in time. Have fun!

The New Yard, 1950s. Georgetown, Washington, DC
This view of the Whitehurst Freeway and B&O yard shows a yard bustling with activity down on the waterfront. The photo was taken some time in the 50s or 60s, by my guess. Photo credit: District Department of Transportation (DDOT)

Purple Line Construction to Begin on Tuesday; RIP Georgetown Branch

Feb 7, 2015 A look toward Rock Creek Trestle from Jones Mill Rd.
Feb 7, 2015 A look toward Rock Creek Trestle from Jones Mill Rd.

This is the end…

The portion of the Georgetown Branch between Bethesda and the connection to the Metropolitan Branch is about to be changed forever. This coming Tuesday the line will be closed as construction begins in earnest on the controversial “Purple Line”, a Maryland rapid transit line to connect Bethesda to Silver Spring and beyond. The shut down of the trail means that they will bring in cherry pickers to eliminate a wide swath of the beautiful foliage we have all come to love along the trail. They will bring in bulldozers to re-grade and erase the historic 127 year old right-of-way. They will bring in cranes to pull up and destroy remnants of the railroad which existed in that same spot for over 92 years. In essence, what was left of the Georgetown Branch will be no more.

It’s bittersweet; trains will once again ply the right-of-way where the Georgetown Branch local did its business, which is a sort of rebirth and an item of pride and joy to those who wanted this. It’s painful to see so much history AND a beloved trail go the way of progress. It’s never easy, moving forward. It’s always a challenge to figure out and brings with it difficulty and pain to those affected by it. The neighbors losing gorgeous, old tree canopy and a quiet, peaceful yard space. The trail users who will no longer have such a peaceful and bucolic place to exercise and make memories. And dorks like me, who are losing a tangible historic place that is loaded with remnants of a time gone by. One that I don’t remember myself, yet still enjoy deeply. I’m going to miss having a place that I can go to take photos and dream about what was and the men and women who came before to build and run such an interesting piece of railroad history. I’m hoping to make it down this weekend to have one last ply of the right of way as it existed in its final state before rebirth.

In February, 2015, I took a trip with my friend Kelly to seek remnants of the old railroad before it was destroyed. I’m happy I did, and those photos will be crucial in remembering how the railroad ran, existed and looked in its heyday. You can view my photos here:


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