Updated January 2000
This is pretty incomplete in terms of tooling around Baltimore and looking
at actual railroads. Ironically, it is both very easy and somewhat difficult.
The easy part is that, if you are anywhere in the south part of town, it's
almost impossible not to run across trackage. The hard part is trying
to find a place to watch from where you won't get robbed, run over, or
arrested. With three kids I can't afford to experiment.
The B&O Museum
The B&O museum, which
is one of the USA's great rail museums, is now operated by the Baltimore
City Life Museums, although it is still owned by the non-profit foundation
set up by CSX. It costs money ($6). Expect to spend most of a day. It has
a highly quirky shop. the C&O Allegheny (2-6-6-6) which used to be
in a nearby mall has "returned" to the museum (it actually came from Roanoke).
They run a trip down the original line to one-time location of the railroad's
cornerstone; at least they do if CSX hasn't blocked the track with something.
Incoming material is stored along the way, on the left side of the track
heading out, so you can see what sorts of presents CSX has for the museum
if you take the trip. Equipment from this varies a lot, but is most often
a set of retired RDCs. They also have a snack bar set up in the only diner
RDC ever produced and an ancient HO setup which will distract the kids
for quite some time.
If you have time for only one museum trip in the area, this is the one
to take. The Pennsylvania State museum in Strasburg
is the only one comparable that is less than an all-day trip away. You
can get there by going to Camden Station
(MARC or light rail) and walking west on Pratt St.; to drive, use Lombard
St. from MLK Blvd. instead and follow the signs.
The Streetcar Museum
Streetcar Museum, located a bit to the north of Penn Station. It is
incredibly difficult to find due to the way it is tucked beneath the Jones
Falls Expressway. The exhibits are nothing special,but the trip is wonderful, as it goes by
a lot of the old Md. & Pa. RR buildings, including the roundhouse. A fairly active CSX line passes
overhead a short distance down the line.
Of the four stations in Balto., one remains in active use (Penn), one semi-active
(Camden), one is now an arts center (Mt. Royal), and the last, and oldest,
is only a facade (President St.). (None of the existing Mt. Clare buildings
was ever a station.)
This is the oldest B&O station in Baltimore, and in the course of the
Camden Yards development it have been brought back, more or less, it its
original appearance. It represents the terminus of the "Camden Line" MARC
trains (althought the actual MARC station is separate) and is also served
by the light rail; if you drive
in on I-395, you will be deposited right next to it. There is ample parking
in the area, unless there is a game going on. On its west side stands the
immense warehouse which was retained as part of the Camden Yards development.
It's all very photogenic, but bear in mind that it looked as it does now
for very little of its 150 year history.
Mt. Royal Station
Mt. Royal station has not been used in forty years, but it has been converted
to an arts center and is well-preserved. Its appearance owes nothing to
any other B&O station in the area. Like Camden, it is relatively easy
to get to; it has a stop on the light
rail, and if you follow MLK Blvd. to where you are forced onto Howard
Ave., its tower will rise up at you shortly after you turn.
This extremely undistinguished Beaux Art box houses both Baltimore's Amtrak
station and a station on the MARC "Penn" line. Exterior photography is
extremely problematic, since it literally sits in a hole. It is fairly
close to Mt. Royal and the streetcar museum.
President St. Station
The only remnant of the President St. Station is little more than a facade,
and contains some sort of Civil War museum. It is right downtown, but at
an extremely difficult spot to get to on the far eastern end of the Inner
Harbor. It is hardly architecturally distiguished.
Baltimore used to have an extensive trolley system, which one can see preserved
to a degree at the trolley museum.
More recently, two lines have been added, seemingly with no relationship
to each other or, in the case of the subway, to anything else.
For some reason or another, it was decided to build a subway line starting
in Owings Mills and terminating in the downtown area. I know next to nothing
about it except that it is a conventional "heavy rail" system with third
The light rail, on the other hand, although also a single line, is considerably
more rational in its route. It starts in Timonium and runs down along Jones
Falls, down Howard St., and thence to BWI Airport and Glen Burnie, passing
Camden, Mt. Royal, and Penn stations in the process. (To be preciese, there are actually
two lines: one from Timonium to the airport, and the other from Penn Station
to Glen Burnie. But since they share all trackage from Mt. Royal to Linthicum, and given
that Mt. Royal is the first station after Penn, it makes more sense to look at it as
a single line with a fork at the south end.)
It is a typical modern
light rail system, with cantenary and self-service ticketing. Be advised
that the police are near to fanatical about ensuring that passengers are
properly ticketed. I haven't ridden the southern section of the line, but
the trip from Timonium to Camden station is pretty scenic and passes a
lot of interesting old industrial buildings.
The B&O main line heads south out of town and splits at Relay, with
the main trunk continuing south to Washington
and the Old Main Line heading west. There are
several points along the way which may be of interest.
This is the oldest railroad bridge in the country. I haven't visited it,
but Harwood describes how to get there.
Gwynns Falls Viaduct
Same story here as with the Carrollton Viaduct.
This is where the Old Main Line joins up, even
though the rails don't diverge for another mile. There is a big signal
bridge and a (non-working) tower. I have never found a good way to get
close to this.
If you follow the signs to "Halethorpe Station" you will end up on the
Corridor. This is one of several places to watch Amtrak and MARC travelling
at somewhat reduced speeds.
This is a MARC station-- no building, unfortunately. (It used to have matching
that at Germantown.) You can see the
signals from Halethorpe off in the distance. It's one possibility for watching
traffic of all sorts, since everything passes through here.
If you head south along the tracks here (trespassing, of course) you
will come to Relay. At this point the line to Washington
curves off to the left and crosses the Thomas
Viaduct, while the Old Main Line curves
off to the right on the north bank of the Patapsco. There really is nothing
left of any real interest anymore (other than the classic North end Thomas
Viaduct photo spot), since virtually everything was torn down in the late
fifties, and the plaque erected in place of the hotel has long since been
The Northern Central Trail
One of the oldest right-of-ways in the country is now preserved as the
Northern Central RR trail. This is a classic rails-to-trails conversion,
using the old RR bridges as much as possible. A lot of other RR stuff was
allowed to remain, such as the signal masts and some stations, so there
is more interest here for the railfan than one might think at first.
Utterly unrelated to all this real trains stuff, in Leaken Park on southeast
side of town there is an extensive live steam setup run by
the Chesapeake & Allegheny Live Steamers. It is open to the
public on the second Sunday of the month, April to November, and they give
rides for free (please donate, of course). They also appear from time to
time at various local real fairs.