Category Archives: History

Items of historical interest and relevance.

Talbot Avenue Bridge Preservation and Park

One of the great things from all of the Purple Line destruction/construction is the preservation of the historic Talbot Ave bridge that once spanned the Metropolitan Branch at Georgetown Junction. As you may recall, back in 2019 the bridge was removed in preparation for the installation of the additional two tracks and a new overpass. The County planned to save the bridge for a future installation in a park, and we finally have some renderings of what it may look like.

Lyttonsville Park rendering with the Talbot Ave bridge feature

At the Lyttonsville Park community meeting, a slide presentation outlined the current designs and status. Link to the slide presentation:

In the presentation are several really neat photos of the current state of the bridge. The girders, one of the only parts of the original 1916 construction, are preserved, sitting atop the pedestrian bridge sections that once topped the Rock Creek trestle. Not sure of the current location; probably in a Purple Line storage yard.

A hundred years of weather, deferred maintenance and punishment has not been kind to the old steel, and it shows. I’m so grateful it will be refurbished and preserved; a small piece of railroad history that will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come. I’ll take it. Plus, I can actually go and get more measurements if I need them! 🙂

Where Trains Once Ran; A Georgetown Branch Documentary

Well, this was a special project that I can finally share with everyone. A few months back I was contacted by a Georgetown University graduate student who was putting together a brief documentary on the Georgetown Branch; specifically its history and transformation into a rail trail. We initially shared stories and historic reference material and eventually I was interviewed on-camera at home. I think the project turned out brilliantly and my hats off to Evan, the director, producer, writer – well, everything! He did an awesome job capturing the entire story of the Branch. I hope you enjoy!

Where Trains Once Ran

1959 B&O Crossing the Cabin John Trolley Line

I found this print on eBay recently and am quite pleased to add it to the Georgetown Branch collection. The caption on the back of the 8×10 print reads: “1/59 Washington, DC – Line #20 – B&O RR trestle – crossing over Cabin John line.” The photo was taken from the west side of the trestle, facing to the east.

Jan 1959 – B&O trestle crossing Cabin John trolley line. Photographer unknown. Personal collection.
Approximate location of the photographer, facing East. Historic Aerials.

At the time, the Dalecarlia Reservoir was undergoing a massive expansion project. Aerial photos from 1949 and 1957 show the scale of the expansion.

1949. Historic Aerials.
1957. Historic Aerials.

The last trolley on the Cabin John Line was on Jan 3, 1960, and the entire system was fully closed in 1962. Congress revoked its charter in 1956, so likely seeing the writing on the wall, the Dalecarlia reservoir began expansion in the mid 1950s. The right of way was repurposed and is where some major buildings and two of the settling ponds exist today.

The old Cabin John trolley line is outlined in light green on this map. You can see how much has been built on the old right of way.

A link to my Georgetown Branch Google Map

Hope you enjoy this brief view of the bridges over the trolley line. If only there was a train passing by! 🙂

Smoot Sand & Gravel Tug Boat

I have long-wondered what type of tug boat operated at the Smoot Sand & Gravel plant in Georgetown. While searching in some old newspaper snippets I saved over the years, I came across the following image from the Washington Evening Star, April 6, 1960, of a census-taker working at the wharf by Smoot. In the background is a nice view of the tug that was working at that time.

April 6, 1960 Washington Evening Star

Here’s a cropped image, a bit zoomed in:

Back in January, at the Amherst Model RR show in Springfield, MA I picked up one of these lovely 53′ Harbor Steam Tug models by Seaport Model Works:

I’d say it’s a pretty good relative match for the one seen in the photo, size and shape-wise. I’ve already got a Sylvan Scale Models HO scale coal barge kit to use with the tug. Should make for a very nice scene.

1993 Action at Georgetown Junction

Al Moran kindly shared these two wonderful photos over on the CSX “Cap, Met, and OML” subs, Railfans Facebook Group of a local servicing Mason-Dixing Recycling, which occupied the old E.C. Keys property for some time. Once the Branch was abandoned, a small amount of track remained near the Junction, servicing the plant.

Thank you, Al, for allowing me to share these here on the blog! He writes: B731-08 (possibly D780-08 not sure when the change occurred) with CSX 4234/CSX caboose 904130 at Georgetown Jct after working the last remaining customer on the Georgetown Branch (a recycling place) on 09/08/93. 29 years ago today.

GP30M, CSX 4234 (ex BO GP30 6904, blt 10/1962) heads up the local coming off the branch on 9/8/93. Photo by Al Moran. The photographer is standing on the Talbot Ave. Bridge. Note the new ballast on the branch. Looks like some ties had been recently replaced as well. (Shared with permission from photographer.)
C27A Caboose, CSXT 904130 caboose with Operation Lifesaver & Operation RedBlock livery, brings up the rear of the local having just served Mason-Dixon Recycling; the last remining customer on what was the Georgetown Branch. Date is 9/8/93, photo by Al Moran. (Shared with permission from photographer.)

Bethesda Aerial, ca 1953-57

I picked up this print off of eBay a couple months ago. Based on comparisons with this image, my notes and Historic Aerials, I believe this dates between 1953 and 1957. I could probably narrow it a bit more with more time, but that’s pretty good for now.

Aerial photo of Bethesda, MD ca 1953-7. Photographer unknown.
  • Cave Ford and Bradley Shopping Center were constructed in 1953 and are visible in the photo.
  • The RR bridge over Bradley Blvd was still 2 lanes wide and there are no signs of construction so this is likely before 1958-9.
  • There are structures visible left over from the Griffith Consumer Co. fuel dealer. These were gone in the late 50s.
  • Between 1957-8 the Eisinger Lumber yard was demolished and converted to parking. It’s still very visible in the photo.

If you have additional information about the image, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

On Line: Briggs Filtration Co. & Hot Shoppes

Hot Shoppes warehouse (center), Briggs Filtration Co. factory (right), from the 1955 Hot Shoppes Annual Report, Univ. of Houston Library

In my seemingly never ending quest to discover and decipher industries that were served by the B&O on the Georgetown Branch I have often had to put pins in things until more information comes to light or I have the time to delve deeper into said customers. A few months back a chance photo on Facebook did just such a thing; opened the door to some brand new views of industries that I know very little about.

We’re going to take a look at two industries; The Briggs Filtration Co. (aka Briggs Clarifier Co.) and Hot Shoppes (which eventually became Marriott Corp.) which were located next door to one another in Bethesda, MD at River Road, yet were served by completely separate sidings. Let’s start with an overhead view from Historic Aerials, ca 1949:

Hot Shoppes in the center, Briggs Filtration Co. to the right. Ca 1949. Historic Aerials

Briggs Clarifier / Briggs Filtration Co.

Briggs produced valves, hot water heating boilers and oil filters. A simple Google search will turn up various patents (1) and law suit filings, along with some trade catalogs and maybe even an advertisement. A bit of a digression to Georgetown: while I don’t have a detailed history worked up, what I can gather is that their office was located in Georgetown at 3262 K St, right across the street from Wilkins-Rogers Milling Co. The 1916 Sanborn map reads “Flour & Feed Ware Ho” located at 3262 K St.:

Sanborn Map, 1903-1916.

The 1927 Sanborn Map:

Sanborn map, 1927.

I checked a Sanborn map that has a 1932 date and it does not show Briggs Clarifier listed, but rather Mutual Building Supply Co.:

Sanborn map, 1932.
A 1938 Briggs Clarifier Co. advertisement. Via eBay.

Ok, back to Bethesda. At some point they either moved or expanded (or perhaps were co-located) to a location in Bethesda at River Rd. off of Landy Ln. This fairly large facility, on the East side of Landy Ln. included several warehouse / manufacturing structures. Here is the Sanborn Map ca 1957:

Sanborn Map, 1927-1957.

As you can see from the map, the B&O siding ran down Landy Ln, passing alongside the factory complex. Later advertising shows the name changed to The Briggs Filtration Co. and also had a Bethesda, MD address:

September, 1949 – Modern Railroads magazine. Briggs Filtration Co. advertisement. Google Books.

Hot Shoppes / Marriott Corp.

I’m not going to go into detail on the history of Hot Shoppes & Marriott because it’s been done before in lots of detail and with great imagery! The Streets of Washington blog did a great post on it some years back. Check that out to get a feel for the background of this local DC institution. I posted this photo last April of the Hot Shoppes HQ located at 5161 River Rd, with the Briggs Filtration Co just off to the right.

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
Area around Hot Shoppes. Note the siding passing behind the building and serving an overhead crane, for unloading heavy items. Also note the coal house & boiler room in the far North corner. Sanborn Map, 1927-1957.
Hot Shoppes warehouse (interior). I believe the view is facing North, with the railroad siding outside the structure on the left side. From the 1955 Hot Shoppes Annual Report, Univ. of Houston Library

Judging from the photo, it’s obvious that Hot Shoppes would receive all sorts of perishables related to the bustling restaurant industry. Machinery, furniture and other supplies related to the expansion of the business would also probably pass through the warehouse. There was also a coal house & boiler room at the north end of the building.

May 30, 1956. B&O switcher crossing River Rd. In the background, the Hot Shoppes warehouse is visible. Note the lead for Landy Ln just off to the right side of the loco. Photo by R. Mumford, B&ORRHS Collection.
May 1973 – B&O EMD GP9 6589 (blt 1958) is Crossing River Rd heading East toward downtown Bethesda.Photo by Wm. Duvall.

In this fantastic photo from Mr. Bill Duvall there’s a lot to see. The view is facing away from the Marriott warehouse, standing on Landy Ln. The yellow & white sign next to the loco reads “Marriott Corporation, 5161 River Road.” The fast food restaurant behind the loco is none other than a JR Hot Shoppes restaurant. The slogan reads “Happiness is Eating Here.”

As a side note, I attended Fourth Presbyterian Church throughout my teen years. We would go to Roy Rogers (which succeeded JR Hot Shoppes) every Sunday after church with friends. It is now a McDonald’s. Note the WDCA20 studio and tower in the background. I may or may not have some friends who climbed to the top of that tower one hot summer about twenty years ago.

BONUS: If we look to the other direction from the photo of the two gentlemen above, we see additional industries just out of view that were also served by rail. There was an auto body/repair shop and more. The siding went between the larger structure and the two smaller sheds, spanning the entire length of the buildings.

Facing the other direction as the above photo, looking West. The GB “main line” was just behind and along that chain-link fence. From the 1955 Hot Shoppes Annual Report, Univ. of Houston Library

Back in 2003, when I went on my first Georgetown Branch exploration, we stumbled across rails embedded in the ground here where the auto repair shop was once located. We also walked around the area near Hot Shoppes / Briggs Clarifier. You can view the photos in the Gallery, here. I hope you’ve enjoyed a bit more insight into the Briggs Filtration Co. & Hot Shoppes warehouses in Bethesda.


The Hot Shoppes facility is still standing. It now houses the Washington Episcopal School. They have modified much of the facility but the overall structure can still be observed today.

The Briggs Filtration facility is now gone, having been razed and turned into a soccer field for the adjacent school. However, for the time being you can still view the old structure on Google Street View! (Until they update it.)

And as one final gasp for the old Georgetown Branch, tracks are still visible embedded in Landy Ln. Go visit them when you can.

If you have any additional information, maps, photos or stories about these industries, I’d love to hear about them!

E.C. Keys Coal & Fuel Oil Trestle Model Project

April 2, 1956. Heading west down the Branch from the Junction. On the right is the long E.C. Keys warehouse atop the retaining wall. To the left of the train is the coal trestle lead track. The old B&O MOW X-358? M-15 boxcar is sitting on a storage track.
Photo by R. Mumford. B&ORRHS Collection.

(NOTE: UPDATED DRAWING TO v2 BELOW 7/3/2022) Just about a hundred yards west of Georgetown Junction was the Enos C. Keys & Sons company that sold building materials, aggregates, merchandise, coal and fuel oil from 1889 until 1978 when it finally went out of business. On the North side of the Georgetown Branch track, a turnout branched off and climbed up a steep embankment and sat atop a high retaining wall where it served a warehouse for building materials. Aggregates would be unloaded over the side of the retaining wall via chutes, down into large sorting bins below. On the south side of the GB tracks, a turnout diverged, rose slightly, and then out on a coal trestle that was approximately 227′ long (based on aerial images). This trestle also served as an unloading platform for fuel oil. In the very far northwest corner of the property, at the intersection of Brookville Rd & Stewart Av was the scale house, which was torn down recently. In a strange twist of fate, a fellow GB-served industry, T.W. Perry, is now occupying the E.C. Keys space atop the retaining wall. The lower area where the coal dock was is now a long warehouse building. Much of this will likely (or already has) change once the Purple Line construction is completed.

Feb 22, 1958. Heading to Georgetown. Another view of the trestle lead and warehouse/retaining wall. This is the BEST photo I have of the coal trestle… and it’s not even in the photo! yep!
Photo by R. Mumford. B&ORRHS Collection.

For my model railroad, I am modeling the coal trestle, retaining wall and siding, and the long lumber warehouse.

The area around Georgetown Junction
This view of the layout should give you an idea of where things will go. The coal trestle is going where the small trestle is in this photo, the retaining wall will be along the high siding.

I decided to spend some time studying the site and develop a plan for my model of the trestle.

A snip of the 1957 aerial view from Historic Aerials. Note the fuel storage tanks to the southeast. The scale house was up in the upper left hand corner. Also note the boxcar sitting on the end of the retaining wall siding next to the lumber shed.

Using the scale tools available on the Historic Aerials site I was able to get basic measurements of the trestle. Approximately 227′ long, 15′ wide, bents (bins) about 15′ apart. This was enough to get me going, along with other details in the coal yard that I could observe. I now needed to figure out what sort of prototype to go after. Of course, without a photo I have no idea what the design of this trestle was derived from, but a good starting place was with the B&O Standard Plans book. I happened to have one that covers such things:

B&O Railroad, Roadway and Track Standards, 1945 (rev 1948); Commercial Coal Dump, Timber Construction. Book available from B&ORRHS, item 72047.

This fantastic reference book is available through the B&ORRHS Company Store, now in digital format. I highly recommend it! After some mocking up on my model railroad I realized that I wouldn’t be able to model a whole 227′ trestle and needed to reduce the size. I settled on a nice 135′ which will allow three 40′ cars, two less than the prototype would have held. This would work nicely for my small layout and even at this small size would still be a formidable structure. (I sure am building a lot of trestles on this layout… sheesh. I’ve got about four more to go, but that’s for another day!)

So, using Adobe Illustrator, the B&O plans and some photos I found online of similar structures & models, here is what I came up with:

So the image is quite wide – click for a larger view. I hope this gives you an idea of the design I’m after. I tried to stick as close as possible to the B&O design, but added a few modifications that I felt were necessary. One was the inclusion of additional supports for the walkway, a wider walkway, along with a railing. I also made some slight height adjustments but stayed within the requirements laid out in the B&O plan. All in all, I think it’s a good representation of the trestle and will make a very nice model. If you’d like a copy of the vector file, it’s below as a PDF for your own personal use. (NOTE: UPDATED to V2 7/3/2022)

The E.C. Keys facility will be a key scene on my layout. It’s a fascinating area to switch and this coal trestle will be a centerpiece of the small industrial area. Now to finish the Rock Creek trestle so I can get on with building this!

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.