Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Maryland, My Maryland

Business took me to Maryland this past weekend, where I availed myself of the opportunity to do a bit of railfanning. My first stop was at Glen Echo Park, along the north bank of the Potomac northwest of Washington. Glen Echo was originally built as a Chatauqua assembly ground and was later an amusement park for decades. Some of the original buildings have been preserved by the National Park Service; when I was there I happened upon a jazz concert put on by the U.S. Army Blues.A few years ago the PCC car pictured above was acquired from Philadelphia and put in front of the park entrance, right atop original rails from the old Capital Transit streetcar line to Cabin John. Unfortunately the car is still Philadelphia gauge and cannot be set down on the original rails, nor has it received much upkeep since its arrival. I'm not sure what the current plans for it are. The stone tower in the background dates back to Glen Echo's Chatauqua days.

Then on Saturday I had a chance to make it to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum where I met longtime IRM member - and longtime BSM member - Pete Schmidt, along with BSM volunteers John Engleman, Ed Amrhein and a couple of others. BSM's collection is mostly comprised of Baltimore cars, though a few Philadelphia cars have been acquired in recent years and regauged to run on the museum's 5'4-1/2" gauge track.
The PCC pictured above is one example; built for Philadelphia as a typical PCC, it was rebuilt by SEPTA as a line car and was acquired a few years ago by BSM for use as a work car. It has been regauged and repainted in an attractive livery based on the old Baltimore work car livery. One of its more unique features, made possible by an on-board 110v power source originally installed to ease the use of standard power tools, is a back-up camera!

Above left, the camera as seen from the back of the car (it's mounted in what was originally the operator's-side rear window); at right, above the operator's head can be seen the flat-panel TV monitor displaying the view out the back of the car. Pretty slick!

What BSM is traditionally known for, however, is its Baltimore streetcar collection - and especially its stellar collection of pre-1900 streetcars. Below, one of the museum's restoration projects is this c1885 single-trucker, Baltimore City Passenger Railway 417, which was built as a horsecar and later saw use as a cable trailer before being electrified in the mid-1890's.
And I took a couple of rides to survey BSM's attractive line, much of which was recently double-tracked. The route travels through a shallow valley along the old Ma & Pa, past that line's roundhouse, which is now used by the highway department. Below left, the double-truck hand-brake 1902-vintage open car with Ed and Bill from BSM as its crew; below right, Pete enjoys the fresh air on a beautiful evening to be riding a "breezer."

BSM is a great museum to visit - be sure to stop by if you're in Baltimore!


Randall Hicks said...

We should point out that Pete Schmidt has a famous siding named after him!

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that our track crew from IRM helped build that double track at BSM... and when we were all younger, the loops as well.

Tom Hunter