Sunday Trip Up The Potomac – Part 1 of 3

by Jim on 2011/07/12

[Jimbaux walks alone.]

These pictures were taken more than a week ago.  I’m falling behind the one-week lag I normally have for posting pictures, but due to the fact that I haven’t taken many pictures since then, this problem should abate.  Then again, this essay will be given in three parts, due to the quantity of pictures (45), and this is only the first part.

I’ve been busy as hell lately for plenty of reasons.

What It Be?

I took a trip up the valley of the Potomac on Sunday 3 July (which is a good reminder to me to remind you that you can get “caption” information for all pictures on this site by holding the mouse over the pictures, which should cause the filename for the respective picture to show on your screen.)  Rather than tell you now what I did, I’ll let you figure it out as I go along, but I did have some specific places in mind to visit, and I visited all of them.

I arrived in Brunswick, Maryland, for reasons that you will soon learn.  Brunswick High School was the first place I took out my camera as I approached the city, and Brunswick’s role as a railroad town soon became evident to me when I saw the school mascot and other things there.

I’ve never seen that as a mascot before!  The CSX is the big railroad in town today, but this is the original line of the famed and fabled Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which, about a hundred years ago, built a large yard on the flat area along the Potomac River.  The yard will be seen soon in my pictures.  For now, I’ll show more of the school.

So, what’s up with the old depot and the caboose on campus?  What are the stories behind these things?

Interesting, eh?  Maybe I could/should get a teaching job here.

Hard Poor Corn

Remember this view of the corn in front of the Brunswick water towers.  You’ll have another picture to which to compare it soon.

It was almost entirely cloudy, but, as we will soon see, the sun did break through the clouds on this day.

A Railroad Town

I found the yard.  (Did you doubt that I’d find it?)  Here we see an interesting mix of equipment for the CSX as well as MARC, the state of Maryland’s commuter railroad.

And here we can see some MARC trains parked for the holiday weekend.

Note the yard tower at right in the above picture.

Sighting A Rare Bird

An inspection a little farther west in town revealed a very interesting find!

Well over a half-century old, a Maryland Midland GP9 was trailing the CSX power in what turned out to be parked CSX train Q401.  Check out the size comparison between it and the more modern locomotive to which it is attached.

I quickly realized the bridge over the Potomac River which also crossed the yard would give me a good vantage from which to take pictures.  I drove across it and realized it had no foamer lane (i.e. – shoulder), meaning I had to park my beast at street level and climb up the bridge to get the shots.  I could use a good, small hike anyway.  On the way there, I got this:

Here’s a shot I thought about turning to grayscale.

Look, Ma, no fences!  No electrical lines!  Wow!

I Wasn’t The Only One Shooting This

Note the foamer in the below picture.  If you’re out there, man, and have landed at Jimbaux’s Journal, please identify yourself!

The Q401 originates in Cumberland, Maryland, and terminates at Hamlet, North Carolina.

Yard Air

If you look closely at the above pictures, you’ll see an air hose attached to the lead locomotive of the Q401.  That’s a clear indication that no crew is aboard this train.  (Had you been there in person like I was, the total lack of noise coming from the locomotives, meaning the engines are off, would have been a better sign!)  The hose is attached on one end to pipe coming from a compressor in the yard.  The compressor pumps a constant stream of air through the pipes and into the train’s braking system.  See the air pipe parallel to the rail at the bottom of the picture.

Pumping air through a parked, crewless train is an alternative to leaving the locomotives running for several hours on a train, which, absent of yard air, would be necessary to keep the compressors on to maintain the air pressure through the train’s braking system.  If pressure is not maintained, CSX rules dictate that a walking inspection be made of the entire train if it is “off air” for more than four hours.  In today’s world of mile-and-a-half-long trains, this is a very time consuming process, and it’s also a pain on the knees, feet, and backs of railroad conductors who have to walk 8,000′ of ballast to make the inspection.

One Last View of the Q401

Here’s one last view of the parked Q401, and it’s my favorite shot of this post, despite the distracting brightness radiating from the parking lot in the foreground.  Notice the town in the background as well as the other tracks with the parked coal loads to the left.  Is this also your favorite picture in this post?  If not, what is?

How did I do with the color correction on these?  Is it better than I did here, as we discussed last week?  I went to the sliders, but I only upped the hues slightly and left the saturation alone.  Better?

The Other Direction

To end today’s episode, here’s a view in the other direction, this time to the east of the yard.  This is a Sunday, but on a normal weekday, this parking lot would be full of the vehicles of MARC commuters, most of them bound for work in Washington, DC, or nearby.

Look about dead-center of the above picture, and then look just slightly up and slightly to the right.  That interlocking tower is supposedly the last interlocking tower in the state of Maryland and maybe the last on the CSX too!

That’s all we have time for for this episode.  Stay tuned for more pictures from Brunswick as well as farther up the Potomac.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Howard Bunte July 12, 2011 at 17:53

Nice pix… not ‘foaming’ but documenting a suburb on a Sunday afternoon. With a great set of shots of its high school…
very nice, indeed…
(another retired teacher and ferrocarrilist…)


2 Ray Duplechain July 13, 2011 at 21:21

I like the mascot, good choice, bet it only one in the US, neat photos, good collection, caboose “beautiful”. Lotsa memories if only it could talk, eh?


3 Tom Becket July 14, 2011 at 14:00

In reponse to Ray’s post, he’s probably right about the Railroaders. But out here in Watts, Okla, the high school team is the Engineers, a tip of the hat to the KCS, which now has a small yard there, but once had a shop and roundhouse, and was a much larger presence than it is now.


4 EDITOR - Jimbaux July 14, 2011 at 14:17

Tom, Does the KCS’s H-train still setout there? Didn’t the Siloam Springs Dodger and maybe another dodger move to Watts? The last time I was there (maybe 2005), there wasn’t local based there.


5 Tom Becket July 14, 2011 at 14:58

Yes, the Dodger moved to Watts. It’s been working there since, I believe, 2009, but I’ll have to check my notes. There’s a 4 track yard there to the east of the main and controlled siding. They work through Siloam and up as far as Decatur, maybe farther.The train works weekday afternoons; since I have to work weekdays as well, I usually only see it in Gentry or Siloam on its way back to Watts. I understand the same power works to Sallisaw the other half of the day. Good utilization, I’d say.

The H train does set out and pick up there. I caught it Saturday heading south. You can’t see them in the first shot, but it picked up the dodger power to take to Heavener for service, then return on a northbound H train on Sunday.

Just south of Watts, at Ballard Creek:

At Westville OK, dodger power behind the SD 70M’s.

Here’s another H train at CP South Watts, with dodger power in tow. The yard is out of the picture to the right rear.


6 EDITOR - Jimbaux July 14, 2011 at 15:07

Thanks, Tom. Yeah, I seem to remember the the creation of the Watts Dodger was a consoldation of two other dodgers, one to the north and one to the south, I think Siloam Springs and Sallisaw. Back when I was in Sallisaw in the summer of 2005, the intermodal yard was still there. KCS apparently got rid of that, but I wonder if rising fuel prices will cause it to reopen it one day, especially now that Lázaro Cárdenas and Rosenberg are open for business. I guess the same crew that worked the intermodal yard also was the dodger in Sallisaw.


7 Tom Becket July 14, 2011 at 15:51

I can’t see them opening a ramp there, but a lot of things happen that don’t make sense to me!! There is reasonably easy access-US 59 comes right through Watts, and it was just widened to 4 lanes from West Siloam where it meets US 412 down to just north of Watts-and there is room on the property. It’s closer to Tulsa than KC, and there is also access to the rest of NW Arkansas, where some decent sales work could build some business. The question is, would there be enough to justify the expenses of a ramp there, versus KC and dray??


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