Once again, J. Shriver has graciously shared another truly magnificent collection of photos. This time it’s a nice slice of images spanning over 13 years focusing on the DC Transit’s Cabin John line where it passed beneath the B&O’s Georgetown Branch. The photos so wonderfully depict the details of the DCT right of way that I have NEVER seen and so much yearned to see in detail! The images depict several fan trips and excursions, from best I can tell, as well as a few explorations and other journeys. Photographers vary. Enjoy! To view, click here.
J. Shriver shared a handful of other really neat photos he has in his collection showing construction of the Whitehurst Freeway back in 1948. The photographer was Charles Murphy. The photos are rich with detail including the King Coal Co. as well as the Rosslyn Steel & Cement silos in the background. Check the photos out here.
A gentleman named J. Shriver contacted me via email and shared some wonderful photos (Click link to view the whole Gallery!) he shot himself back around 1976 of a Penn Central box car spotted on the passing siding at Connecticut Ave. At this point in time, the team track (which was just behind the photographer) was probably out of use and the passing siding had been designated for unloading at the freight platform. At one point, there was a gantry crane here but it appears to have been removed. I’m not sure how far back this platform itself dates, but I would wager some time in the 1940s or 1950s.
PC 161337 is an ex NYC Class 968B, “Class 968B was constructed between 1965-68 at the NYC’s Beech Grove, IN shops by stretching older 40′ cars into “new” 50′ boxcars.” (More info here: http://conrailphotos.thecrhs.org/node/21883) Note all of the discarded packing material that was likely from whatever was inside the car, strewn about on the ground and the loading dock.
A couple weeks ago Kelly R. & I spent a day hunting the Georgetown Branch. It dawned on me that the Rock Creek trestle was either gone or not long for this world. I knew that with the Purple Line construction plowing ahead (literally) much of the Georgetown Branch right of way is either gone or soon-to-be gone forever, or forever changed. So, we finally nailed down a time and made a day trip of it. (*Note – if you’d like to see all of my photos from the outing, you can visit my Gallery HERE.)
We started at the Junction (naturally) to document what was there. This was one of the more delightful spots, as much of the Junction is untouched and actually opened up due to some recent brush clearing by CSX and MDOT. You can see that they have topped many of the large trees at the Junction along Talbot Ave. The Talbot Ave bridge still stands (yay!) and is open to pedestrian traffic. We managed to locate the old team track switches (wow!) still in place in the original rails. VERY cool. We walked down the Branch and found the switch lead for the E.C. Keys (now T.W. Perry) siding. Too bad they don’t still take deliveries!
We visited several of the Branch crossings between the Junction and Rock Creek, but there just isn’t much to see besides the new Lyttonsville Rd. bridge (which had opened the day before we arrived) as well as the massive brush-clearing they have done. It was neat to see the RoW in a state closest to the original 1890’s appearance for one last time.
But then we arrived at Jones Mill Rd. and got our first taste of sadness:
They have gutted the right of way. For reference, the tracks used to sit atop that concrete abutment and continued to the level I was standing on. All of the dirt you see in this picture is fresh. It’s as if they sliced the top of the fill off. And they’re just getting started. The Rock Creek trestle (in the distance) is not long for this world. It’s already in the process of being demolished when this photo was taken.
Here is the trestle, or what’s left of it for now. The missing section on the right has been removed already and MDOT will be taking the pedestrian bridge off of the top and re-using it elsewhere. Then, the rest of the trestle will be disassembled and removed in preparation for the new Purple Line bridge and pedestrian bridge. So sad to see the end of an era that spans over 130 years in this location. (pun intended) 🙂
We then hopped in the car and visited Connecticut Ave. The carnage here is massive and I didn’t feel like taking photos or getting out due to the hostile construction zone. MDOT has set up cameras and guards in these areas to protect the NEW equipment they bought, no doubt. (wow!) I can report that the old T.W. Perry property has been gutted and is being leveled. The old bridge just South of T.W. Perry has been completely removed and nothing but a dip in the ground remains. Sad!
Our next stop was Bethesda where we drove through town on our way to lunch. Bethesda was very busy and we chose not to stop in the downtown area, as with all the construction it is particularly difficult to get park. There’s not much left to see there, anyway, as it has REALLY become so built up over the last several years. We drove across the Little Falls crossing, then to River Road where we parked and hit McDonalds to refuel. We met a Penn Central hat-wearing railfan there who was dining with family. We shared some stories about the GB and some photos of a PC box car at Conn. Ave. which he enjoyed!
We parked at River Road on the South side of the crossing there. We discovered many old remnants of the branch, which was truly exciting! Probably the neatest find was the old Metropolitan Fuel Co. siding tracks which R. Pearlman had shown me photos of from last Fall. The REALLY neat thing is we discovered the old unloading valves and apparatus which still sits in the dirt by the siding. The siding would take loaded tank cars which would be hooked up to the unloading pipes. Valves would be opened, allowing the fuel to gravity-feed down, under the GB track and down hill to tanks below at the fuel depot. Much of the remains of this operation are still in place, buried in the brush. VERY cool to find and photograph. Who knows how long this relic will be there. I think it’s pretty special!
We departed Bethesda, crossed under the Branch at Mass Ave, hooked a Left and followed the Branch through the neighborhoods that back up to the RoW. We arrived at the Dalecarlia Tunnel and hopped out to hike around the area. What fun! First stop was the “bridge over nothing” at the Reservoir.
We then walked down to the Tunnel, which is always a treat. I will have to figure out how I am going to model those large brick abutments!
Through the tunnel, past the Army Map siding and at the location where the Capital Traction Co. / DC Transit “Cabin John” branch passed beneath the GB we came to the original bridges, still in place, carrying the Capital Crescent Trail up and over a vehicle access road.
The bridge on the left is massive – a good 9-10′ height! The shorter bridge is the one that spanned the DCT trolley line.
We walked back up to the “bridge over nothing” and I remembered that there were some old freight car remains just about a half mile up the line. So we started walking. My “abandoned rails” eyes caught something out of the corner… an old right of way! We’re not sure what this was for, but best we can tell it was an old unloading trestle that spanned a small creek. There were remains of abutments, ties and roadbed. There were some concrete blocks and posts in the ground down below, perhaps for pipes or conveyors of some kind. Remember, the Reservoir project was massive and involved lots of concrete for the various ponds. I’m not entirely sure but that’s my best guess!
Walking a bit further up the Branch we came to the abandoned box car. This carcass appears to be from a wreck and exists in three pieces. The underframe and two ends. Parts of the couplers and much of the frame are all there. Even decking from the floor are still in place. My best guess is that this car was damaged in a flood down near the River at some point in the 40s. (or maybe earlier) The RR cut the car up, loaded it on a flat car and dumped it for some reason. Not sure why they didn’t just transport the entire thing back to the yard, but maybe someone out there knows. Also, we looked for more cars in the weeds but didn’t find any.
We drove a bit further and took a peek at the C&O Canal bridges but did not stop. By then it was getting late, it had started snowing (we ended up getting 14″ up in Brookeville!) and we were tired. But, wow, what a journey. We had a blast. It was bittersweet, though, to see all of the old areas being demolished and changed forever. It’s been a special part of me for the last 20 years, this line. Seeing it destroyed is a bit melancholy for me. But, rest assured, when the Purple Line opens, I will be in line for a ticket to experience the Georgetown Branch as I never was able to; a passenger. It’s the closest I’ll get! 🙂
I spent all day Saturday visiting the Georgetown Branch to see some of the construction changes. It was a glorious day. Kelly R. and I found some amazing things. I took hundreds of photos. I’m planning many future blog posts.
The impetus for the journey was that I remembered that the Rock Creek trestle was going to be demolished to make way for a new grade for the purple line. I had no idea if it was already down, but Kelly and I headed over to the site. Much to my joy, it is still partially standing, although about 8 of the trestle bents are gone from the East end.
The venerable structure is not long for this world. Massive mobile cranes are staging nearby to remove the pedestrian path atop the trestle and on the west end, well, the original right of way has been completely decimated. It’s heartbreaking for me to see. This trestle has stood the test of time. Survived fire, flood, hurricane and countless storms and seasons. Since it’s original incarnation as a long wood trestle to what it is today, a bridge has spanned this valley since the early 1890s. It’s a beautiful structure and is showing its age, with rot starting to really take its toll.
I visited today after work to take some final measurements and as many photos as I could snag with the limited sunlight I had. It’s a special bridge for me. Something of wonder. If it’s of any consolation, it will live on in model form on my layout as best as I can manage.
This neat video showing various railfan excursions from the 1950s to 1970s in the DC area shows a wide variety of subjects, including a brief, rare color film shot of the trolley approaching its crossing of the B&O’s Georgetown Branch, which crossed the trolley tracks on a deck girder bridge. The trolley last ran to Glen Echo on Jan 3, 1960 and the area beneath the bridge would be filled in later that year. (I walked the line back in 1991 and witnessed this deck girder bridge sitting only a few feet off the ground. It was a strange sight.)
Video begins at the 5:54 mark and is only a few seconds long, but it’s neat to see. In the background you can see the GB bridge crossing over the tracks. There was a second deck girder bridge to the left which extended the crossing.
Another relic from the Georgetown Branch surfaces as a siding in Bethesda at River Road emerges from the brush.
Eagle-eyed viewer, contributor and friend Rich Pearlman went exploring the area around the crossing at River Rd. and came across the tracks on the South side of the intersection. I had a sneaking suspicion there were tracks there as I had previously seen and photographed rails buried in the dirt but I hadn’t seen them listed/shown on the maps I have, nor do I have period photos of them.
Well, Rich did the heavy lifting, digging through the B&O Railroad Yahoo! Group site to uncover a comment from Christopher Parker outlining a brief history of that siding. Here is what he wrote:
The siding, which was quite long (more than 10 cars), once served Metropolitan Fuel Company, across the tracks. By 1980 it was grown over and disconnected from the main, but the pipes and connections for
unloading tank cars were all still present. Metropolitan Fuel Company was purchased by Stuart Petroleum along with next-door Washington Fuel
sometime in the early eighties.
A red wooden caboose sat on this siding all through the seventies. When I first got a look at it in the late seventies, it was quite abandoned and didn’t have a road name on it. Around 1982, give or take a few
years, it was damaged by fire.
In 1981 or 1982, this siding was re-connected and the first 100′ was used by Jack’s Roofing Co to unload Cedar Shingles. They’d get a box car about every two weeks, sometimes less. UP, BN, BCOL, SP. Jack’s
Roofing also used piggyback service (unloaded elsewhere) to get a truckload of shingles every day. Jack’s Roofing company was located a bit behind Roy Rogers, a few buildings away from the tracks. I recall
them using a two axle flatbed truck and forklift.
So there you have it – the siding had multiple purposes and served a few industries over the years. It’s a neat story and a neat relic! I should really get down there and see it myself, because the fact that someone cleared the brush and put up those small red survey markers leads me to believe it won’t be around for long. 🙁
This view is facing geographic East, looking from beneath the Aqueduct Bridge down Water St along the tracks. Here, the switch opens up to dual trackage laid in the cobblestone streets of Georgetown. In the distance one can see old brick warehouses in disrepair; remnants of an era that was coming to a close. A wood sheathed box car sits alone to the right and various automobiles and motorcycles line the street. The Potomac Boat Club is just visible to the right, nicely done up with shrubberies out front. Through the haze in the background we can make out the Wilkins-Rogers Milling plant and the Lone Star Cement plant on the right. An arch of the Key Bridge dominates the scene.
One interesting thing to note is the double-track “telltale” which spans the tracks just beyond the bridge. The little dangling “whiskers” were there to warn any railroad brakemen raiding atop the cars that the overhead structure (in this case, the Aqueduct) was approaching. There was a matching set on the other side, behind the photographer. Also of interest is the cobblestone street and the girder rail, used to ensure a flangeway in the shifting cobbles. In the early 1940s the road was paved with concrete and the flanges were cast as part of the right of way. Surprisingly, several structures remain today that are in this photo; the small brick building to the left, the Brenizer Brewery building straight ahead, the Key Br. (obviously), Wilkins-Rogers Milling (although altered), Potomac Boat House and the Aqueduct arch.
I was alerted to this film over on Archive.org by an alert viewer who pointed out to me that at the very beginning of this home movie from October 6, 1958 there is a twenty-second view of Georgetown Junction from the rear window of a passenger train! Now, videos of the Georgetown Branch are exceedingly rare, so this is particularly special! The train is moving relatively slowly as it rounds the curve past the team track yards at the Junction. You see cars parked on the sidings, and as it proceeds further you see B&O hoppers, some box cars and a ubiquitous covered hopper. Then a view down the Georgetown Branch appears and the Talbot Ave bridge appears overhead. Nice! The shot closes shortly thereafter.
It’s only twenty seconds long, but for me, it’s all gold. Anyone who conducts research for building model railroads will tell you how important the details are. The colors of ballast, the amount of scrub brush and grass that has grown up along the right of way, the height of trees, the discoloration on the ties, the placement of switches and track alignment, buildings and signs… all of those things inspire and help to fill in the scene. Since photos & videos are uncommon, it really is special to see an actual film of the area. There is a legend of the NRHS having a film of the 1958 fan trip down the GB but I have not been able to locate it yet. The folks over there didn’t have a record of it. I will keep hoping!
Click here to view the movie. Enjoy! (*The GB footage begins at about 00:39 and ends at about 01:00)
Another image I found on DCDIG. From a story in the Washington Post, there was a large, popular regatta in Georgetown out on the Potomac and a pleasure boat sank, with ten drowning victims. The helpless crowd that gathered was large and there were photographers covering the race who also managed to photograph the scene of the tragedy.
The images are fascinating for me, as they portray what the waterfront was like just prior to the introduction of the B&O railroad to the scene. Six years after this photo was taken, B&O trains would be plying the street trackage along this waterfront. In fact, there are buildings in this photo that are still extant today! See this image from Google Maps showing one of the oldest buildings in DC still standing. Unfortunately it’s just the facade, but still impressive! The location of the photographer is approximately 32nd and Water street, but out in the Potomac. (obviously)
Another interesting article: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1904-08-15/ed-1/seq-1/