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.
Ostensibly, in my lifetime, the Purple Line of the Washington Metro system will be built, connecting Silver Spring and Bethesda, MD. Laying atop the Georgetown Branch right-of-way from Bethesda to the Metropolitan Branch, the construction effort to create this modern rapid transit line will all but eradicate any remaining surface remnants of the beloved B&O branch I have been researching for so many years. Bridges, rail fragments, grading, ties, leftover sign posts and hints at where the tracks led will be eliminated by heavy earth moving equipment. Over the years I’ve attempted to capture pieces of this history by visiting various sites and photographing what’s remaining which leads me to the purpose of this post.
A post on the Atlas Obscura website which covers some stones hidden away in Rock Creek Park, long-forgotten, dumped there after a renovation project on the US Capitol, got me thinking. It reminded me of something similar I had seen while on my last GB tour. On my last visit to the B&O’s crossing at Connecticut Ave., I noticed a curiosity hidden away in the overgrowth near the end of the team track, (much of which is still extant!) a large pile of cut, shaped stones.
I am not an expert when it comes to building stones, but these really caught my eye. The pile is located just off of the Crescent Trail path and is hidden in some thick brush. They vary in size and shape, some being long, others much stouter. There are carvings on some of them. I regret not going in for a closer look but at the time I didn’t think to do so. If you’d like to see my photos from that trip, you can see them here.
And here is where the mystery begins. It has long been legend that much of the stone used in construction on the National Cathedral was delivered here by rail and then trucked up Conn. Av to the Cathedral, which is located at the intersection of Mass. Av. & Wisconsin Av. Construction on the Cathedral began in 1907 and continued steadily until the early 1990s. I would imagine that in the early days of construction the thought of stone being delivered for the massive project probably was brought via rail and it makes sense that it was delivered here at Connecticut Av. and trucked to the building site. There aren’t many other feasible options considering that long-distance trucking was a long ways away. So the possibility is there.
Where did these stones come from? Is there a way of figuring that out? Will there be quarry marks on them? When I first saw these stones, I thought that perhaps they were the remnants of the gantry crane that was once located here on the team track at Connecticut Av.
If you look carefully, to the left of the tail of the train is the old gantry crane. This crane shows up in photos that I have seen from the 1920s, 30s and on into the late 50s and early 60s, possibly. The pile of stones is located near to where the crane once stood. Interestingly, the “team track” is actually to the *left* of the gantry crane in this photo, behind it. Unless the entire mechanism can rotate 180 degrees that rear track would not be serviceable by the crane. It’s a bit clearer in this photo:
One can see the crane, with its tailing arm coming off the top, with the swing arm retracted to the side to allow trains to pass by. The team track is much more clearly visible to the far left. There is a suspicious pile near the team track in this photo, but you’ll notice that in the newer photo above, it’s gone. I believe the location of the stone that I found in the woods is further back, behind the crane, just out of view of these vintage photos.
So, further research is necessary to figure out this mystery. Perhaps the folks at the Cathedral could identify the stones. Or, perhaps there’s someone with a story behind how they got there. Maybe they’re just landscaping stones for a fancy building/home that a builder dumped there illegally. Or, just maybe, they were surplus stones intended to be delivered to the Cathedral site, long-forgotten and hidden from memory. All I know is that in a short amount of time; months, maybe years if we’re lucky, these will be gone. Picked up, dropped in a dump truck, and hauled away for fill, to be buried somewhere forever. I hope someone can shed some light on it before then!
I picked up this photo via eBay a couple years ago and finally got around to scanning and posting it here. The photo caption (on the back) reads: “Cap Ltd Georgetown Junction, Eastbound, after wreck.” I don’t have a date so any input would be much appreciated. My best guess is some time from the teens to the thirties. Any guesses? Note the Talbot Ave bridge in the distant background as well as the track crew hard at work repairing the fill on the far side of the rails.
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
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)
Saw this video this morning, posted to the CSX “Cap, Met, and OML” subs, Railfans group on Facebook. I know it’s not Georgetown Branch related, specifically, but it’s hyper-local and shows some amazing detail shots of the track and some equipment in the 1950s. I don’t have many details about the wreck, only what’s found in the description. Anyone got more info? Post it here in the comments. Also, note all the people on the live tracks! Nowadays that would never happen.
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!
I just stumbled across this really neat photo from the GWU Special Collections showing the mule stables located along the Rock Creek. What’s interesting from a B&O perspective is that just behind it you can see the terminus of the Georgetown Branch as well as what may be the extension of the line built to serve the construction of the Lincoln Memorial.
In the foreground we see a canal boat, docked next to the mule stables. Not sure if the railroad ever provided any service here, but perhaps they brought new animals in stock cars and perhaps feed for them. In some very old Sanborn maps I have, there are stock pens indicated in this location.
Behind the pens, to the left, you can see a few box cars. One has a circular logo. Look carefully for the roof lines. Above and behind them, you will see the roof of the old B&O RR freight station, which was in service until the late 40s when they tore it down and built the coal and ash house which stood until 2006 when it was torn down to make way for the Swedish embassy expansion. The original freight house was a wooden timber affair, built to the B&O Standard Plan.
What interests me most is the prospect that the bridge in the background is the one which was built to serve the Lincoln Memorial construction. The Georgetown branch was completed to Georgetown in 1908-1910. The C&O Canal stopped service some time around 1924. The Lincoln Memorial was constructed between 1914-1922. Being that the bridge appears to be a heavy duty type, and the smaller connecting section to the right appears to have ties and rail on it, and no railing for pedestrian safety, I’d say it’s a good chance. If you look carefully you can see a second bridge, just beyond the first one, behind the light-colored house to the right. This one appears to have sides. I have some other photos of the area that I will have to study more carefully. Enjoy!
Alert reader Christopher R. emailed me to share this wonderful view of the waterfront in 1939. Probably the most interesting thing in the photo is the B&O Georgetown local switcher, at work! If you look above the Aqueduct Bridge abutment, you will see the smoke pouring from the smoke stack of the venerable 0-6-0. It appears to be reversing and has just passed the scale house and is passing beneath the footbridge to the Washington Canoe Club. There is a long passing siding that begins just behind the Club. Other items of interest are the buildings lining the waterfront, beyond the boathouses, Canal Rd./M St., and the old pilings for the Aqueduct Bridge, now gone. About ten years later the pilings would be demolished by the Army Corps of Engineers.
* interesting note: About ten years ago I found this very same photo in the LoC online collection “American Memory” and gleefully posted a zoomed in view of the lower res image from the site: http://gallery.sluggyjunx.com/railroad_and_industrial/georgetownbranch/gb_prototype_photos/g-town_steam_switcher-wide