Category Archives: News

New and interesting items.

Talbot Avenue Bridge is Closed Indefinitely

December 28, 1959. B&O E-7A #1415 heads up a race track special, headed Westbound for Charleston, WV. The photographer stands on the front of the Georgetown local, doing its switching before heading down the line to Georgetown. Photographer: Ray Mumford.

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:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/historic-maryland-bridge-is-closed-after-failing-inspection/2017/05/02/90f6ba70-2f71-11e7-8674-437ddb6e813e_story.html

Purple Line Funding in Question After WH Budget Released

It looks like the funding for the Purple Line construction is in jeopardy after the release of the White House budget this morning. As many of you know, the Purple Line will connect Bethesda with Silver Spring (and beyond) and will be built on the Georgetown Branch right-of-way between Bethesda and Georgetown Junction.

The state will likely miss a March 31 deadline for clearing trees before the migratory bird nesting season begins. That will delay by another five months any major construction from starting on most of the trail.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/federal-money-to-build-purple-line-in-question-under-trump-budget-plan/2017/03/16/d9023ab4-09ac-11e7-b77c-0047d15a24e0_story.html

Custom Google Map of the Georgetown Branch

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!

Georgetown Jct Update: Brush Clearing for MoW Access

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

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.

GB, looking toward Geo. Jct.
Approaching Geo. Jct., Feb 22, 1958. © R. Mumford photo.
Switching at Geo. Jct.
Making the train for the trip back down to Georgetown. Feb 22, 1958. © R. Mumford photo.

Layout Progress Update

It’s been too long. Over a year. I haven’t touched the layout since the summer of 2015. There, I said it. There have been many, many factors and excuses to explain this lapse, none more compelling than inertia and laziness. I’ve taken on lots of other side-projects and tasks and found many other ways to distract myself and burn time doing fun things that don’t involve working on the layout. Well, I’ve got the bug again and I’m back at it. I spent the holiday weekend cleaning out the layout room, reorganizing and getting myself mentally back up to speed with my progress on the layout.

I’ve posted a few photos of my progress here on my Flickr page.

When I had last left off I had completed much of the track in Bethesda but ran into a snag when on of my train club friends pointed out that there was a nasty S-curve in the yard entrance. I had also installed some spline roadbed at the Geo. Jct. area and that worked out quite nicely. Much of the rest of the layout was covered with “stuff”, and became staging for painting trim for our office renovation as well as other random projects. All of that stuff was cleaned up, moved out or reorganized to optimize space. I completely cleared the upper level of the layout so I could continue working on the track work I had started over a year ago. Once I got cleaned up, things really moved along nicely. I realized a few things:

  1. I really love this project and I’m excited to see where it takes me.
  2. I need glasses – reading glasses at least. My vision is not what it was.
  3. I need to set some goals and stay on task.
  4. I need to flesh out the layout design a bit more; I came across some issues that are going to prove to be challenging to overcome and will most likely require reworking some of the track plan. (oh well!)

All in all, it’s been a productive weekend and I’m moving ahead with a good head of steam. I just hope I can keep the momentum!

The Famous Talbot Ave Bridge is Slated for Demolition

Talbot Ave bridge, 2/7/2015. © Ben Sullivan
Talbot Ave bridge, 2/7/2015. © Ben Sullivan

A sad, sad day indeed. A couple of weeks ago I learned about the eminent demise of the famous Talbot Ave bridge which has spanned the Metropolitan Branch and Georgetown Branch of the B&O for nearly 100 years. The bridge was built back in 1918 and is somewhat of a special legend among railfans being that the girders appear to be sourced from an old turntable, giving it the distinctive profile. This shape is recognizable in so many photos shot over the ages at the Junction. I, myself, have visited the bridge many times, shooting photos of it and from it and enjoying it as a landmark. I’m terribly sad to hear of its eminent demise and will miss seeing it at the Junction as it altered forever with the Purple Line destruction not far off. At least it will live on in my basement, as I plan on modeling it on my railroad. Here are a couple links covering its history:

Talbot Avenue: a bridge in black and white

A Montgomery bridge that linked black and white neighborhoods during segregation soon will be lost to history

On February 7, 2015 I visited the area and took many detail photos of the bridge. You can find them here on my Flickr page. (Scroll down a ways, they begin around IMG_6582)

Talbot Ave Bridge in the distance as a CSX freight approaches
Talbot Ave Bridge in the distance as a CSX freight approaches. © Ben Sullivan

The Georgetown Branch in Train Simulator 2017

I was contacted by a really nice gentleman named Mark V. via the B&O Yahoo Group who indicated he had some photos of the GB that he had shot ages ago (more on that later). What really piqued my curiosity is that he mentioned he is working on a model of the GB for Train Simulator 2017! We exchanged a couple emails and he sent me a link to a video showcasing his progress. Wow! This is incredible. I will update more when I get it. Have a look for yourself here:

So far he has completed from the Junction with the Met all the way down to the crossing over Rock Creek. The details are fantastic. The track layout is a more modern arrangement, what existed near the end of the branches life. I am really excited to follow his progress and see more of the development! I may have to pick up a copy of Train Simulator 2017 myself! If you’d like to contact Mark V., you can reach him at straypacket@gmail.com.

Georgetown Yard Limit, 1966

A really wonderful photos was posted to the Maryland Division Railfans group on Facebook. The photo was taken in July 1966 at the west end of Georgetown yard, along the Potomac, and is one from a location that I have never seen before; at the end of the passing siding/yard track at the west end of Georgetown. There is a “YARD LIMIT” sign placed at this location that I never new existed. I’m so thankful as it provides a peek at something I never would have known had I not seen the photo. When I model this area on my layout, I will be sure to add that sign! Thanks so much, Guy Span!

July 1966, B&O GP9 6503 appears to be heading west (RR East) out of Georgetown as it passes the yard limit. The caboose is tucked behind the locomotive, per RR practice. Guy Span photo.
July 1966, B&O GP9 6503 appears to be heading west (RR East) out of Georgetown as it passes the yard limit. The caboose is tucked behind the locomotive, per RR practice. Guy Span photo.

RIP Barry Rubin

Barry Rubin passed away earlier this year on Feb 3, 2014.

2003 was a hallmark year for me in my research on the Georgetown Branch. Up until that point, I had spent much of my time hunting around online for Sanborn maps, looking at old aerial photos and maps of the line, trying to decode the various phases and stages of the construction of the line. Unraveling the mystery, as I like to say, which I still am doing to this day. Around this time I became involved with the B&O RR Historical Society and joined the popular related Yahoo group. Worlds opened as I met many new B&O enthusiasts eager to share information, ideas and recollections. I had members mailing me photos, form 6’s, maps, drawings and other pieces of data that I had never seen. The web was growing.

One day I heard that there was a B&ORRHS member, Duane Carrell, who was planning on writing an article about the Georgetown Branch. Imagine my excitement. I mean, here I was, trying as hard as I could to dig up information on the line, and there was another nut just like me who was writing an article about it! I was thrilled. Then came the emails that really locked everything in for me. Barry Rubin, who at the time was involved with the Society, decided that with all the interest in the Georgetown Branch, perhaps we should have a get-together, a sort of meet-and-greet. He offered up his house as a location and we put it on the books.

On a very cold January morning, I showed up not knowing what I’d find or who I’d meet, or that it would be the seminal turning point for opening up my eyes to the depth of the history of the Branch. Duane, who was writing the article, showed up and brought with him all of his source materials. There were original track chart blueprints, maps, huge collections of black and white photos, overhead aerials, notes, and a variety of other plans and documents. ALL about the Georgetown Branch. I was just overwhelmed with excitement and remember poring over each and every page and photo, knowing that none of these were going home with me so I had better soak it all up now.

Barry then led us, caravan style, from his home in Chevy Chase down to Bethesda, where we parked at River Rd. and walked a short distance both North and South down the old right-of-way, describing track alignments, old buildings that remained, remnants of sidings and ghosts of operations gone by. We had a GREAT time and we all became friends as we shared in an enthusiasm for this little old railroad branch line.

Jan 18, 2003, Bethesda MD. The first (and only) Georgetown Branch get-together. From left to right: Kelly Regan, C.E. Close, Duane Carrell, Barry Rubin, Daniel Rubin and Joe Nevin.

Barry was the impetus for that meet-up. He took the time to get everyone together, offering his house and his leadership. He did so much outside of this silly little meeting, but for me it was one of the most important in my quest as a historian and a fan of the Georgetown Branch, the B&O and the people of the B&ORRHS. It’s the people that I meet, who put in time and effort to share and foster that energy and excitement that carries the legacy of the B&O on for future generations to enjoy and discover. For this, I thank you, Barry. Safe home.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Rubin

Duane Carrell wrote the following obituary on the B&ORRHS Yahoo Group:

I wanted to let the members of the chat know that Barry Rubin, titular editor of the Sentinel, passed away this morning in Tel Aviv.  He had been fighting cancer for over a year-and-a-half.

I met Barry when we entered 7th grade in 1961 at Alice Deal Jr. High in Washington and we became fast friends in the ninth grade when we discovered that we each had an interest in railroads.  I was with him when he bought his first train set in downtown Washington on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated.  A year later we joined the Rockville Society of Model Engineers and his father often drove us to meetings.  By our senior year our interests had diverged somewhat although we remained friends.  He went to Georgetown Univ. and became a history professor and also worked for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate.  I saw him briefly at our 20th high school reunion in 1987 and then lost touch for another 14 years.  In the meantime he had developed a deep interest in Israel and Mideast affairs and moved to Tel Aviv, although he kept a residence in Chevy Chase for lengthy visits here.  In 2001 I happened to see his name in the masthead of the Sentinel as the editor, wondered if it could be the same person and emailed him.  Lo and behold it was and we re-kindled a long-dormant friendship and became very close.  It was Barry who made me aware of the yahoo group and encouraged me to write for the Sentinel.  And, as history sometimes repeats itself, Barry took part in his first Civil War reenactment with me three years ago in Olustee, Florida.

 Barry became an authority on Middle East Affairs, founded the Global Research in International Affairs Center, wrote close to 20 books – most on the Middle East – and traveled the world, speaking to government and private groups about the state of the Middle East.  He was extremely professional in his analysis and did not let his opinions get in the way of the facts.  He did not back away from stating the truth and made some enemies for it.

 He was diagnosed with cancer in July, 2012, appeared to be beating it and more appeared in recent months.  He married somewhat late in life and leaves his wife, Judy, an 18-year old daughter who is performing public service in Israel and a 14-year-old son.  I have no word on funeral arrangements yet.

 He will be missed.

 Duane Carrell