Instead of me rewriting what’s already been said, I recommend that you obtain the following issue of The B&ORRHS “The Sentinel” and read the online history linked below. Probably the best history of the Georgetown Branch can be found in an article written by Duane Carrell, published in the B&O Railroad Historical Society’s quarterly magazine, The Sentinel. It is Volume 25 #1 and can be purchased from the society on their website. Just go to the “Company Store” and then click on “The Sentinel” (Item #60251) . For anyone interested in the GB, it’s a must-have.
Another excellent source is Impossible Challenge (and Impossible Challenge II, the updated version) written by Herbert Harwood, Jr. IC II is available through the B&ORRHS company store (Item #10007) and the original IC can be found on eBay from time to time. This book is a wonderful read and very informative. The chapter on the GB is excellent and concise with some wonderful photos.
As far as online resources there is another good one written by the Capitol Crescent Trail on their History page. For some perspective on how the GB fits into the grand scheme of things in the DC Metro area railroads, see the Washington DC Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society’s Washington, DC Railroad History page.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it is extensive and still growing.
- The Sentinel: A Wraith In The Backyard
By Duane Carrell.
Vol. 25, #1, First Quarter, 2003, Published by B&O RR Historical Society. A history of the GB complete with lots of photos and some maps.
* for sale at B&ORRHS company store. Click “The Sentinel” at left ans scroll down to 60251, Vol 25 #1. http://borhs.org/Shopping/index.html
- The Sentinel
Spring, 1996, Published by B&O RR Historical Society.
Contains a short article w/ 2 B&W photos of the GB and text about its future.
- Impossible Challenge
Herbert Harwood, Jr., 1979, Barnard, Roberts & Co., ISBN: 0-934118-17-5.
One of the best written histories of the B&O RR. Has a chapter on the GB with several excellent photos. Out of print, available from dealers and on eBay.
- Impossible Challenge II
Herbert Harwood, Jr., Dec 1994, Barnard, Roberts & Co., ISBN: 0-934118-22-1.
Updated version of Impossible Challenge. Contains slightly different material. Currently in print.
- Baltimore & Ohio, Reflections of the Capitol Dome
Stephen J. Salamon, David P. Oroszi, Published by Old-Line Graphics, 1993, ISBN 1-879314-08-8. Several photos of the GB.
The Washington Post
There are many articles related to the GB published in the Washington post over the years and their online search function makes it easier to find them. Each one of these is an abstract from WashingtonPost.com. Here are many that I found:
- A NEW RAILROAD PROPOSED, A Permit for Tracks Along Water Street, in West Washington
Washington, D.C.: Feb 6, 1889. pg. 8, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 483 The Commissioners have issued a permit for the construction of another railroad–the Georgetown Barge, Dock and Elevator Railway Company. This company is authorized to build and maintain docks on the Potomac River west of Rock Creek, and to receive and dispatch vessels, cargoes and railway cars,
- THEY WANT A RAILROAD: West Washingten Merchants Have a Big Scheme on Hand
Washington, D.C.: Sep 16, 1889. pg. 7, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 1434 The proposed railroad from Frederick, Md, to West Washington is a live topic among the merchants of the latter place. They feel the need of some method of transportation to take the place of the canal. which is now practically abandoned, and over this road grain and heavy freight can be shipped to market.
- THEY WANT A RAILROAD: The Business Men of Georgetown Express their Views
Oct 21, 1889. pg. 7, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 978. The question of canal or railroad is agitating the merchants of Georgetown again. After the freshet last spring, when the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was wrecked throughout its entire length, the question of allowing it to remain idle-was broached, and a railroad was talked of in its place.
- TRACKS BY THE RIVER: To Connect the Pennsylvania Railroad with West Washington
Mar 14, 1890. pg. 8, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 710 A number of prominent Georgetown property-owners and other who are interested in the Georgetown Barge, Dock, Elevator and Railroad Company appeared before the sub-committee on railroads of the House District Committee yesterday to present arguments in favor of the proposed amendment to fits charter.
- DISTRICT MATTERS IN CONGRESS: A Proposition to Create an Inspector of Charities for Washington
Apr 3, 1890. pg. 7, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 123 The House District Committee has received two petitions one signed by the merchants of this city and the other by those of Georgetown, urging favorable consideration and passage of the bill amending the charter of the Georgetown Barge, Dock, Elevator, and Railroad Company so as to permit an extension of the road along the river front and connecting with the Pennsylvania Railroad.
- The B. & O. Georgetown Entrance
May 2, 1890. pg. 4, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 79 Messrs. J. G. Walter, J. W. Cissel, Robert Toney, A. B. Cropley, Thomas Cropley, and Messrs. Liffey, Boteler, and Hall, of West Washington appeared before the Commissioners yesterday in favor of a branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad entering Georgetown at a point near the Chain Bridge.
- THEY WANT RAILROADS: Action of the Citizens of Georgetown Last Night
Feb 3, 1891. pg. 6, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 1053. A half a hundred of Georgetown’s leading citizens gathered in Mr. King’s insurance office, at 1231 High street, last night to talk over the vexed railroad matter. In the main the meeting was harmonious, though there was some discussion a s to details.
- GEORGETOWN IN A DEAL: A Railroad at Last to the Business Center of the Town
Dec 9, 1891. pg. 6, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 726 Georgetown is agitated over the prospect of becoming a railroad terminus. After many vanished rumors of railroad deals in the past ten years, the important manufacturing concerns and wholesale dealers of the western section of Washington are on the eve of secnring an adequate channel of transportation.
- TO GEORGETOWN BY RAIL: Baltimore and Ohio to Complete the Washington and Western Maryland
Dec 11, 1891. pg. 2, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 268. A map of the proposed route of the Washington and Western Maryland Railroad Company was submitted yesterday of the District Commissioners for approval, in compliance with the previous proval, in compliance with the provisions of the act passed March 2, 1889. This is the projected road which will serve to give Georgetown railroad facilities and assist in booming the town.
- GEORGETOWN IS HAPPY: Business Men Predict a Boom When the New Railroad Comes
Dec 12, 1891. pg. 8, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 1090 The entrance of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad into Georgetown, which was first announced in THE POST. is the only thing talked of in that end of the city. While the purchase of the Stock, Barge, and Elevator Company’s property has not yet been formally announced, the stockholders of the concern speak of it as an accomplished fact.
- THEY WANT ANOTHER ROUTE: The New [R]ailroad Entering Georgetown Not Satisf[i]ed with Their Charter
Jan 30, 1892. pg. 5, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 291 A number of persons interested in the new West Washington and Maryland Railroad, which will connect with the Baltimore and Ohio, and give a rail outlet to Georgetown, were before the District Commissioners yesterday in advocacy of a bill to give the road power to acquire land by condemnation proceedings to be used for another route than the one for which the charter was granted.
- RAILROADS TO GEORGETOWN: Report of the Citizens Committee to a Meeting Held Last Night
Jun 9, 1892. pg. 5, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 382. Building Association Hall on Thirty-second street. was well filled last night with citizens, who assembled to receive the report of the railroad committee appointed at the meeting two weeks ago to take steps toward furthering the entrance of team railroads into Georgetown.
- THE ROAD WILL BE BUILT: Alarm Over Removal of Ties for the Washington and Western Railroad
Aug 28, 1893. pg. 8, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 350 Georgetown residents who have become interested in the project of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway Company to construct the proposed Washington and Western Railroad, Saturday felt that their hopes were blasted.
- ASK A PERMIT FOR TRACKS: B. &O. Officials Want to Secure an Entrance Into Georgetown
Oct 3, 1895. pg. 10, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 834 A delegation from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, including General Agent William Alvey and Attorney Hamilton, appeared before the Commissioners yesterday, with President E. J. Stellwagen, of the Georgetown Barge, Dock. and. Elevator Railroad Company, to urge the granting of the application by the latter for a permit to lay a double track on Water street.
- WATER STREET TRACK: Georgetown and Tennallytown Company Ask a Permit
Oct 8, 1895. pg. 12, 1 pgs. O. T. Crosby and Charles A. Lieb, president and vice president respectively of the Georgetown and Tenallytown Railroad Company, applied to the Commissioners yesterday for a permit to place a tr[a]ck 125 feet long Water street, so they might extend the line to the river.
- Mysterious Railroad Engineers
Oct 20, 1895. pg. 10, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 68. A number of railroad engineers are conducting mysterious work at the Virginia end of the Aqueduct Bridge. They are probably Baltimore and Ohio men carrying out the plans for the Southern connection, which is contemplated by that company through the Barge and Dock Company, of Georgetown.
- Georgetown Branch of the B. & O.
Apr 16, 1896. pg. 10, 1 pgs” (?)
- COMPLAINTS FROM GEORGETOWN: Status of Proceeding Against Western Maryland Railroad Company
May 4, 1902. pg. 12, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 274 The Commissioners have received many letters from persons in Georgetown relative to the unused railroad tracks on K street, between Twenty-eighth and Thirty-sixth streets, and the unfinished trestle and grade and right of way from Aqueduct Bridge to the District line. One of these communications was received through Senator McMillan, chairman of the Senate District Committee, from Mr. R.H. Phillips.
- B. & O. IN GEORGETOWN: West End Shippers Confident of Better Traffic Facilities Soon
Jul 5, 1903. pg. E4, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 287 Consultations were held this week by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad officials and several of the leading shippers of Georgetown regarding the proposed entrance of the Baltimore and Ohio. The Georgetown people are confident now that the long-expected entrance is about to materialize.
- Georgetown’s First Railroad
Jul 28, 1910. pg. 6, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 358 Half a century ago direct communication by rail would have meant much to Georgetown. Coming at this late day, the rumbling of the iron horse through Water street, once vibrant with business life, only hastens the mile of tottering piles or masonry to their fall. Even were the thoroughfare to show signs of reviving energies, the old structures, with their rust-eaten machinery, must needs give …
- BRICK PLANT PLANNED AT LOUGHOUGH, MD.:Washington Clay Products Company Purchases Six- Acre Site. 150,000 CAPACITY DAILY
Aug 10, 1924. pg. R1, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 332. The Washington Clay Products Company has purchased a six acre tract at Loughborough, Md., on which will be constructed one of the most modern and complete brick manufacturing plants in the country. The company will manufacture shale brick in two grades, common and face brick;
- Crest Sweeps Waterfront; 120 Families Are Homeless: Chain Bridge Battered by Potomac; Navy Yard Is Inundated. Traffic Jammed; Airport Submerged Dikes Protect Federal Triangle; Tidal Basin Overflows
By Edward T. Folliard. Mar 20, 1936. pg. 1, 2 pgs, Text Word Count 2332 The Flood of 1936, as it will be known to history, reached a thundering crest in Washington at 7 o’clock last night and then began to recede.
- Freight Kills Man, 50, Near Chain Bridge: 12-Car Train Fails To Stop in Time on Georgetown Branch
Nov 5, 1949. pg. B1, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 390. A man tentatively identified as Morris Brown Widenhouse was struck and killed yesterday by a freight train on the Georgetown branch of the B. & O. Railroad just below Chain Bridge.
- Man, 34, Drowns Shooing Children From Boat House
Aug 2, 1951. pg. 1, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 171. A 34-year-old railroad brakeman drowned in the Potomac River above Key Bridge yesterday afternoon as he chased four children from a boat house. He was identified as Joseph H. Rector of Delaplane, Va., an employe of the Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
- Council Eyes B & O Spur In County
Mar 2, 1955. pg. 15, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 128. The Montgomery County Council yesterday agreed to ask the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad officials about the possibility of turning the Georgetown freight spur into use as a commuters’ route to downtown Washington.
- Heavy Industry Hits Georgetown Rezoning
Jun 28, 1956. pg. 21, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 269. Proposals to rezone heavy industry out of the Georgetown waterfront area drew sharp fire last night from half a dozen firms. They said the shift would result in tax losses to the District because they’d have no place else in the city to go.
- B&O Georgetown Local Has Run for 100 Years
By Alan L. Dessoff Staff Reporter. Oct 25, 1960. pg. 27, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 657 A matron in Kenwood called the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad one day to complain that the freight train which ran by her backyard barbecue pit sounded its horn in a most disturbing manner.
- Ride a Rail-Bus From the Suburbs
Jun 28, 1968. pg. B4, 1 pgs. Text Word Count 287. The bus picks you up in your North Bethesda neighborhood, drives to Bethesda, lowers a set of flanged wheels and rides railroad tracks to Georgetown.
- Sleep Disturbed By Wailing Horn Apr 23, 1969. pg. A24, 1 pgs, Text Word Count 65. The wailing horn of a parked Baltimore and Ohio Railroad engine kept many residents of Georgetown and Arlington awake for 90 minutes last night. Police reported receiving numerous complaints.
- The Little Train That Still Can
By Carla Hall. Jun 19, 1976. pg. B1, 2 pgs, ISSN/ISBN: 01908286, Text Word Count 679 Now when we start the big engine, the sky falls in and the stars shake in their orbits, but that doesn’t happen with the small engine here,” chuckled Southern Railway official James Bistline as he watched the small steam locomotive and two-car train prepare to wind along the B&O Railroad track in Georgetown yesterday.
- Carrying Coals To K Street BY EDWARD O. WELLES JR.. The Washington Post Apr 26, 1981. pg. SM28, 5 pgs, ISSN/ISBN: 01908286, Text Word Count 1740 THIS IS THE TRAIN THAT BRINGS THE COAL THAT STOKES THE FURNACES THAT HEAT THE WHITE HOUSE MILLER TOOK THE NAME IRVING ON HIS SECOND DAY IN AN AMERICAN SCHOOL WHEN THE TEACHER SAID EVERYONE HAD TO HAVE AN AMERICAN NAME. SHE LISTED 20 NAMES AND ASKED EACH STUDENT TO POINT TO ONE
- Chessie Seeks To Close Tracks In Georgetown: Chessie to Ask ICC to Close Rail Spur
By Ann Mariano, Staff Writer. Sep 16, 1985. pg. WB1, 2 pgs, ISSN/ISBN: 01908286, Text Word Count 1294 Daily convoys of coal trucks may soon be rumbling past the rows of fancy expense account restaurants and office buildings on downtown K Street if Chessie System Railroads Inc. succeeds in closing a rail spur that supplies coal for heating the White House and other government buildings.
- End of the Line
By Jack Eisen, Staff Writer. Apr 1, 1986. pg. C2, 1 pgs, ISSN/ISBN: 01908286, Text Word Count 438. The other shoe is about to drop. First was last year’s announcement that the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, part of the Chessie System, planned to seek permission to abandon its Georgetown branch. Now the B&O says it will file the formal application a week from Thursday.
- Abandoning a Rail Line
By Jack Eisen, Staff Writer. Jun 13, 1986. pg. B2, 1 pgs, ISSN/ISBN: 01908286, Text Word Count 455. When most American railroads were built, nobody ever thought of filing an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS.
- Montgomery Asks ICC for Rail Land: Montgomery County Asks For Chessie Right of Way
By Ann Mariano, Staff Writer. Washington, D.C.: Jul 19, 1986. pg. E1, 2 pgs, ISSN/ISBN: 01908286, Text Word Count 1097″ (?)
- Chessie Land Yields Prehistoric Artifacts: Contested Chessie Land Yields a Wide Variety Of Prehistoric Artifacts
By Ann Mariano, Staff Writer. Washington, D.C.: Dec 27, 1986. pg. F1, 2 pgs, ISSN/ISBN: 01908286 Archaeologists have discovered what they say is an unexpectedly rich lode of prehistoric artifacts on the Chessie System railroad right of way in the District of Columbia, a development that could delay the company’s plan to sell the property.
- Study Favorable to CSX Rail Plans
By Ann Mariano. Washington, D.C.: Jun 13, 1987. pg. e.03, ISSN/ISBN: 01908286, Text Word Count 895 The study also recommends that the commission require CSX to wait six months before selling the land or removing railroad tracks and other equipment, so that the government and private groups will have time to buy the property “for public purposes.” CSX has told the ICC it “intends to salvage track and appurtenances” if abandonment is approved, the study noted. An environmental statement was ordered …
Note: In the late 1980’s & 90’s there came a barrage of articles and op/ed pieces in the Wash. Post about the rail trail vs. trolley/transit line on the old GB. Since there is so much and it doesn’t really pertain to the common carrier history of the rail line, I’m leaving it out. If you want to read them, go to The Washington Post Archives and search for “georgetown branch” in the “1987 – Current” section.