Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Updated June 1999

The Metropolitan Sub: Washington to the West

Except for the single tracking of the Old Main Line, this was the last B&O line in the area to reach its final form. Ironically, that has meant that much more survives.

This line is served by the MARC "Brunswick line", as well as by AMTRAK's "Capitol Limited". Unfortunately for the railfan, there is at present only a single MARC train in the middle of the day, leaving Union Station at 2:00 PM for Brunswick. This basically means that a car is required to see much. Our tour will progress west from Union Station in DC to Brunswick; the line continues through Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg on the way to Cumberland, but that's beyond the scope of this. I've included some material on Cumberland simply because it is within reach as a (long) day trip and offers enough to warrant the trip.

Silver Spring

A few blocks from the Red Line station in Silver Spring is the ex-B&O station; when you leave the Metro, head up from the taxi area up Bonifant St., turn right on Georgia Ave., and you will soon see the station on your right, adjacent to the RR bridge. It was heavily damaged in an auto accident a few years back, and is presently surrounded by a thicket of chainlink fence which renders photography all but impossible. Also, the team tracks have been ripped up and all the cars removed, including the Dover Harbor, which now lives in an industrial park north of Laurel. It has been announced, though, that the station is being transferred to a preservation group and will be restored. It is unlike any other B&O station in the area, and by far the youngest; it replaced an early station almost identical to the surviving station at Rockville.

If you're willing to take a walk in the evening, head west on Wayne/Second Ave. to Spring St. and turn left. The bridge over the tracks (ex-B&O) is a good place to watch the evening rush. You can also see the Cap. Ltd. here before it gets up to speed. If you stand on the NW side of the bridge (away from DC) you can see the Georgetown Jct. signals in action. You can get down to the track at those signals (under the 16th St. bridge), but there's not a lot of point to it. You can also get to the other end of the junction, legally, by following Brookville Rd. over the tracks and immediately turning left. This road shortly ends up paralleling a sweeping curve, and if you follow it to its end you can see the feeble remnants of the Georgetown Branch. The problem here is that there is no real place to park. Georgetown Junction was the site of the dreadful MARC accident in which the crew and eight passengers were killed.

I have some picture of the station here.

Kensington

Kensington has a small frame station which once closely resembled that in Germantown, but which was expanded somewhat when the original, rediculously tiny freight station proved inadequate. It can be reached by driving up Connecticut Ave. from the Beltway and turning right at Knowles Ave., just before you cross the RR tracks.

It is possible to get some reasonable pictures here, and there are block signals right in front of the Connecticut Ave. bridge. Beyond the bridge there is a defect detector, but I have never ventured in that direction. The whole area retains a more '40s/'50s appearance, and there are a number of antique shops along Knowles.

Rockville

There is very little to see at the present Rockville station. The old station building, however, was moved out of the way of the Metro construction and can be easily reached on foot from the Rockville Metro station. Head out of the station to Hungerford Rd. and turn left; then turn left again at Church St., aiming for the tracks. You should shortly see two smallish brick buildings, one somewhat plain, the other a riot of polichrome stonework around doors and windows. The former is the old freight station, the latter the passenger station. It is a mirror image of the original Silver Spring station.

Gaithersburg

Gaithersburg has another station exhibiting E. Francis Baldwin's vigorous style, here executed rather eccentrically. This is an excellent spot for photography, and the station and its accompanying freight house are photogenic. I understand that there are some railroad-related exhibits in the freight house. There is also a static display which (at present) features an NW and a B&O caboose, a bunk car, an RPO, several other assorted cars, and Buffalo Creek and Gauley #14. (Readers of Don Ball will remember this engine.) Right next to the parking lot, there is a nice little model train shop.

You can see some pictures I took in 1984 here.

IF there is some sort of carnival or midway at the county fairgrounds, it's worth taking a peek at the fairground siding to see if they arrived by train, as some do. This is difficult to reach without actually entering the grounds, but it might be possible to go around to the west end of the fairgrounds and get a peek.

Germantown

Germantown's station is not original; it was burned by vandals in the late '70s and has been exactly replicated. This is the only station design of Baldwin's that was done in any number (the others were all one-offs).

Barnesville

This "station" is a real oddity. It started out life as nothing of the sort, but was, rather, the first gas metering station in Washington. For some reason, it was brought out to Barnesville in the interests of preservation.

Point of Rocks

Unquestionably the most famous B&O station, this carpenter Gothic pile is easy to photograph and a great place to watch the action. It sits in the center of a wye at the junction of the Metropolitan Sub and the Old Main Line; it is frequently used as a storage space in the course of M-O-W projects, so there can be some interesting equipment parked there. I have a picture here.

Brunswick

Brunswick has a long history of rise and decline. The last time I updated this, the western yard had been removed entirely, the western portion of the eastern yard had been replaced by a large commuter lot, the roundhouse and it outbuildings had been razed, and the only occupant was MARC. Since then, the station has been renovated, and, as seems to be Brunswick's perpetual fate, yard work has filtered back down from Cumberland, occupying the southern portion of what remains.

Getting to Brunswick is fairly easy; just turn off US 15 before you reach Point of Rocks, where you see the sign. It's not the easiest town to get around in, and the best solution is to park in the commuter lot. The main problem here is being able to see anything without trespassing. There are lots of interesting things in the MARC yard, but most of this is concealed by a brushy fence line. If you turn right onto the street that parallels the yards, you will eventually come to a basketball court on your right. You can see through the fence here, although you may not be able to see much. If you have binoculars or a spotting scope, you can look out over the yard from opposite the turntable. You can also follow the C&O canal back along the south side of the yard. Here the problem is that the towpath is much lower than the yard.

The station itself is one of Baldwin's odder products, what with the Palladian windowed gables tacked on the roof. It has been massively restored of late. It sits right next to the yards, with a maze of crossovers in front of it. There is also a tower (or was, at my last visit) a bit to the east.

Up the hill from the station and to the left along West Potomac Street is the Brunswick Railroad Museum, which has a huge HO layout among its exhibits. Adjacent to this, and sprinkled around the area, are some remarkably odd antique shops. Brunswick also has a railroad fair in the spring and in the fall, which in the past has featured short MARC excursions up to Martinsburg and back.

Cumberland

There is an awful lot to see in Cumberland, including the huge yard, the old Western Maryland station and the museum housed within it, and the Western Maryland Scenic RR, also housed at the old WM station. I'm not going to go into great detail here because I haven't had a chance to do the area properly.

The former Western Maryland station is another big Beaux Arts box, much less elaborate than Union Station in Washington, of course. It houses a transportation museum (dealing with both the railroad and the canal) as well as the Western Maryland Scenic RR. The WMSR has a big old steam switcher from the Great Lakes area which they use to haul excursions up to Frostburg and back over the ex-WM main. This trip takes most of a day. They have from time to time run shorter trips using diesels and cabeese, and on some occaisions they offer cab rides (in the diesels, of course).

The CSX yard is huge, and while you can get right up to it, its layout doesn't exactly make viewing easy.

It takes a good chunk of the day just to get to Cumberland from the Balto.-Wash. area, so the best way to see the sights is to stay over a weekend. There is a Holiday Inn in the center of town, within walking distance of the WM station.

To Main Train Page