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Updated March 2003
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, has just reopened after the disasterous collapse of the roundhouse roof. I haven't yet had a chance to revisit it. The admission price has gone up considerably, but it now includes a train ride out to the "cornerstone" (assuming CSX hasn't blocked the tracks).

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

The Baltimore 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 inside 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. Unlike the trolley museum near Washington most of their rolling stock is original to the city. A fairly active CSX line passes overhead a short distance down the line.

The Stations

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.)

Camden 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. For some puzzling reason its most recent restoration took it all the way back to its original appearance, but in fact the central tower was reduced almost immediately.

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.

Penn Station

This extremely undistinguished Beaux Art box houses both Baltimore's Amtrak station and a station on the MARC "Penn" line. Exterior photography is 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.

Transit

Baltimore used to have an extensive trolley system, which one can see preserved to a degree at the trolley museum. There is also a historical site run by Adam Paul.

MTA has recently reorganized their website again, this time to emphasize the "system" they have. This is more or less nonsense. The various lines were built (or started operation) at various times without any real relationship between the parts.

Subway

For some reason or another, it was decided to build a subway line starting in Owings Mills and terminating at the Johns Hopkins Hospital campus. I know next to nothing about it except that it is a conventional "heavy rail" system with third rail power.

Light Rail

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 precise, 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 northern part follows the southernmost part of the old Northern Central line (ex-PRR); on the way out of town to the south it follows parts of the old WB&A and B&A grades at various points.

Heading South

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.

Carrollton Viaduct

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.

Halethorpe

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 Northeast Corridor. This is one of several places to watch Amtrak and MARC travelling at somewhat reduced speeds.

St. Denis

This is a MARC station-- no building, unfortunately. (It used to have one 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 stolen.

Rails In Town

There's not a lot of places in town that I would describe as exactly amenable to train watching. Over on the North side of the harbor, to the East, lies the Canton Railroad, a switching road with a really snazzy paint scheme. (Follow the link for more info.)

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.

Leaken Park

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.

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