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May 2003


Post Office Opened in Sykesville's Interlocking Tower

[By Allen Brougham] . . .


The town of Sykesville, Maryland, lost is post office several years ago. The office kept its name, but it was moved to nearby Eldersburg. But the void left by the post office's departure from Sykesville has now been made up with the establishment of a "satellite" office, housed on the bottom floor of the town's recently-acquired interlocking tower. Doubling as a visitor and information center, the office (a contract station) performs the duties of a regular post office except it does not provide box service and does not accept bulk mail.

Sykesville's historic presence along CSXT's Old Main Line is not lost, either. The facility is now officially known as the "Old Main Line Visitor Center & Post Office."

The town of Sykesville acquired the interlocking tower (in pieces) from the city of Bowie, Maryland, in 1999. Bowie, which already had an interlocking tower of its own, rescued the old B&P Tower to prevent its demolition in 1995. B&P Tower, which closed in July 1988, had served since 1910 at the south end of Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station. Named for the old Baltimore & Potomac Railway, the building stood vacant following its closing and was slated for demolition to make way for the Penn Station light-rail extension. To the tower's rescue came Bowie, which decided to acquire the building for its "historical and esthetic value," but not necessarily to use as a railroad-related artifact. There were plans to use B&P Tower in one of the city's parks, possibly as a boat house, but the plans never materialized. The tower's pieces were stored in an unprotected state.

Sykesville entered into the picture in 1999, and the salvageable parts - those that had not deteriorated too badly for use - were moved for reassembly in the town's downtown area just a short distance from its former depot (now a restaurant) along CSXT's (former B&O) Old Main Line. Space in the second-floor office portion of the tower was opened in 2001 as meeting space and for a layout for members of the Sykesville & Patapsco Model Railway. [See "B&P Tower Comes Back to Life," Bull Sheet, May 2001.] The ground floor was equipped with restrooms, and now it includes the visitor center and post office.

Interestingly, only the second-floor of the tower is original. The ground-floor consists of a reconstructed base; the original base (which was somewhat generic) was never demolished, and still stands on the Penn Station site where B&P Tower served its railroading function until 1988.

Grand opening of the new post office was April 11, although it was actually in use since November of last year. With a pair of benches (pews from a church), the post office has become an informal gathering place for members of the community.

The public area is also adorned with historical photographs and captions about the town's history, and books about the area can be purchased from the postal clerk.


A Ma & Pa Pilgrimage

[By Allen Brougham] . . .


It was 15 years ago when rail historian Stewart Rhine organized an impromptu gathering of fellow enthusiasts to commemorate the anniversary of the end of an era. June 11, 1988, marked the precise date that Maryland & Pennsylvania "Extra-82" had set out 30 years earlier as the final run of operations from Baltimore on one of the nation's most unique shortlines. Stewart's 1951 Chevy led the way for a pilgrimage to Ma & Pa sites, using public roads as close as possible to the route of the twisting former right-of-way. I joined the group, too, but had to leave to go to work at mid-day. (See "A Sentimental Journey," Bull Sheet, July 1988.) The event was repeated five years later - this time with a gathering of 22 folks, more than five times the attendance of the earlier event - with Stewart's 1951 Chevy once again leading the way. (See "A Sentimental Journey," Bull Sheet, July 1993.) But again I had to split from the group at mid-day, this time to attend a wedding. In five more years the event was again repeated. But, oops, I was out of town that time (Amtraking), so I missed it altogether. Still, the plan was to stage the pilgrimage in five-year intervals. So I marked my 2003 calendar accordingly.

But a few things changed in the interim. For starters, Stewart no longer has the 1951 Chevy. Oh, it had served him well - even landing him and his car roles in a couple of movies - but he sold it a while back. Also, though 2003 does mark the immediate next five-year interval (or 45th anniversary), the pilgrimage has now developed into a semi-annual spring and fall event. Moreover, since June brings with it more of an abundance of foliage and underbrush along the parts of the right-of-way to be explored (not to mention the presence of snakes), it was decided to stage the spring event earlier than it had been in the past. No complaints here!

Such as it was on Sunday, April 13, as nine hardy folks assembled near the Pennsylvania state line for yet another "Sentimental Journey." Actually, it was the second day of a two-day event. While I was indisposed the day before (working my part-time job), I had covered much of that day's territory on the previous outings, and by attending just the Sunday portion I more or less picked up where I had left off. The other participants, all of whom had attended the Saturday event from as far away as Scotland, along with eight others, included Stewart, Greta Hittle, Greg Halpin, Rudy Fischer, Nanette Ferreri, Paul Kulishek, Norman Des and Joe Bower.

In two cars we departed, Stewart, Nanette and I in Greg's car - the rest in the lead car. The cars kept two-way radio contact with each other; Greg's GPS unit coming in handy in the process. Still, we made a wrong turn, eventually doubling back to our first stop - Minefield. The place got its name, not from a military purpose, but from a surface ore deposit. It once had a "carpenter gothic" waiting shelter, its site being pointed out from old photos of it adjacent to the still-extant grade.

Next we made our way to the village of Street. Here, from a lofty vantage point we could clearly see the former right-of-way as it had snaked its way from the south, but a rather deep cut in the village itself had been filled in to eliminate an overpass and, evidently, to shore up the bank behind a local car dealership. Just north of this point is the former general store, now a residence, but the station is no longer there.

Our next stop was Pylesville with a bridge abutment to a former girder bridge still clearly visible, and a fill just south of the of the abutment which we walked for about 300 feet upon a path of cinder ballast appearing almost as fresh as the day the rails were removed. Just north of this point we stopped once again, there being met in short order by a property owner attracted by our presence. He obligingly showed us the site of a creamery foundation along with some insights into the area's history he had researched in recent years. There had been talk of converting that portion of the right-of-way into a trail, he said (which he was not opposed to), but he added that the idea had been dropped due to the amount of incursion onto the line and the difficulty in creating alternate routes around them. This could change some day, but not for now.

Then it was on to Whiteford, stopping first at the old Staso spur south of town, site of a former mill which had been the southernmost point served by the Ma & Pa after the line was abandoned between there and Baltimore (it then being served to this point south from York). The spur had been in use until about 1965, according to Stewart, but rail was in place until as recently as 1988. In Whiteford itself, we paid a visit to the Whiteford station, a frame structure still standing that had been repainted by the Boy Scouts in 1980 and adorned with a sign that had been previously displayed at the station at Fallston (and repainted with the name of Whiteford).

Following a break for lunch, it was on to Cardiff, the northernmost location of the Ma & Pa in Maryland, parking upon the precise site of the right-of-way adjacent to the now-abandoned and flooded green marble Electric Quarry. From an industrial architectural point of view, the highlight of this stop was the quarry's massive, rusting boom crane supported by eight huge cables extending in all directions. This was a real treat!

Next we went to Delta, just north of the state line, the junction point of the original Maryland Central's Slate Hill branch. We parked next to the site of the old Delta station (destroyed by fire in 1969), and we hiked from here a short distance through a cut along the old Ma & Pa right-of-way to the Wye Trestle, one of only two major Ma & Pa wooden trestles still standing today. Crossing Scott Creek with two girder spans, Wye Trestle was quite visible through the still-mostly-barren trees. We spent the better part of an hour exploring the trestle from all directions. Actually there had once been two trestles at this location - consequently its name - with the two forming a wye to access both the line to York to the north, the Slate Hill branch to the east, and the line to Baltimore to the south. Abutments to the east leg remain, but only the trestle of the west (or south) leg remained in later years.

We then returned to our cars and made a pit stop in town at an eatery with a plaque saying, "On this site in 1897 nothing happened." This was followed by a visit to the site of a former turntable in the east part of town across a narrow street from a tiny slate building that had at one time been the town's jail. Next we went to Broad Street where a station (now a house) once served passengers at the junction of the Peach Bottom Railway and the Maryland Central. In fact, the house has a sign on its south side reading, "Peach Bottom Railway Company 1868," but the sign is probably not original.

Heading east adjacent to the former line to Peach Bottom (still showing as a railroad on Greg's GPS unit), we stopped at the site of the former Funkhouser Quarry. Silos and stacks remain at the site, and just over the hill the old quarry, now flooded by deep green-colored water with a backdrop of graffiti-painted rocks rising high above.

Our final stop was the "concrete bridge," a structure built in the final years of the Ma & Pa to access for purpose of construction the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant. While here, a couple of locals stopped by to ask what we were doing. Satisfied with our response that we were exploring the old right-of-way for historical research, they left. But they were being "vigilant."

The pilgrimage ended about eight hours after we had begun. It was a fun and eventful day!

A "Sunset Scramble" Bike Ride

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

One of the true "rites of spring" is doing fun things outdoors. This is especially so following the brutal winter that just passed. For me, thoughts of biking were foremost on my mind throughout that recent ordeal. Now it's payback time...

On April 22, I ventured into Pennsylvania to join up with a group of wonderful folks whose interests are similarly inspired. The event was a Tuesday evening bike ride called "Sunset Scramble," sponsored by the York County Department of Parks and Recreation, along the Heritage Rail Trail. The trail follows the right-of-way of the former Northern Central Railway for 21 miles between York and the Maryland state line (at which point the trail continues another 20 miles as part of Maryland's Gunpowder Falls State Park).

The April 22 adventure began at Glatfelters Station, one of five assembly points on this season's Heritage Rail Trail schedule. Eight other folks were on hand. Chris, who works with computers for a pharmaceutical company in York, was the volunteer leader. Others in the group included Carol, Deb, Marie, Louise, Todd, Keith and Spider. They, I am told, were most of the regular participants in the biking program last year, and have every intention to attend each of the events this year as well. For me, I was the "newcomer" to the group.

We began at 6:30 in the evening. While it was not the ideal kind of weather for biking (temps dipping into the 50's and a little breezy), by dressing in layers it was not uncomfortable. As is the custom, the group first went south, thereby biking the upward grade on the going portion to achieve the downward advantage returning. This was not a particular issue from this assembly point, but it will be as the schedule advances in subsequent events when the grade becomes more challenging.

The group biked along at a leisurely pace, stopping periodically to rest and socialize. About midway between Hanover Junction and Glen Rock, we reversed direction. It had gotten dark before we got back to Glatfelters Station - two hours after we had left - and a bike light was a real requirement. There is a mystique to biking upon a darkened trail, one which can be described as pure serenity. It was great! For this outing, we had gone a total of 13.7 miles, round trip.

Similar evening biking trips will be offered by the folks of the Gunpowder Falls State Park in Maryland beginning later this month. Their program will include rides on Wednesday evenings. With those being offered by York County on Tuesdays, there will be no conflict. I'm planning to attend as many of both as I can.


Jason Roberts Dies

Jason Philip Roberts of Bannock, Ohio, has died. A noted rail enthusiast and long-time reader of the Bull Sheet, he was trained and served in the law enforcement profession, and also worked for the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad as a conductor, engineer and yardmaster. He was 29.


Amtrak Announces $8-Billion Recovery Plan

Amtrak has released an $8-billion, five-year recovery plan, to include $4.5-billion in capital funding and $3.5-billion in operating subsidies. Major projects in the plan include work on tunnels in Baltimore and Washington, major repairs to two bridges in Maryland, stabilizing the foundations of catenary poles, and replacement of dispatching centers. No new train services are planned, unless states underwrite their costs, according to a news account.


Amtrak's Caltrans Routes Reach Record Ridership Levels

Ridership on all three California routes operated by Amtrak in cooperation with Caltrans reached record levels during the first quarter 2003. Pacific Surfliners recorded a 29.2 percent increase over the same period last year, while San Joaquins and Capitol Corridor trains recorded 12.7 percent and 6.3 percent gains respectively. These three corridors rank in Amtrak's top five busiest routes, according to an Association of American Railroads news report.


MARC Adds "Quiet Cars" to Eight Morning Trains

The Maryland Transit Administration has added "quiet cars" to eight morning MARC trains. The quiet car is located on the end of the train, and its rules prohibit use of cell phones, pagers and loud conversations.


Union Pacific to Test "Evolution Series" Locomotives

Union Pacific will test five prototype "Evolution Series" diesel-electric locomotives during the next 18 months. These locomotives, developed by General Electric Company's GE Transportation Systems, are expected to significantly reduce atmospheric emissions.


Union Pacific Expanding its Refrigerated Boxcar Fleet

Due to the growth of its "Express Lane" train service for perishable goods, Union Pacific has announced that it is expanding and upgrading its refrigerated boxcar fleet. UP has finalized the purchase of 500 new refrigerated cars and is underway with the upgrade of more than 2,600 currently-owned cars.


Kansas City Southern Agrees to Become Part of "NAFTA Rail"

The Kansas City Southern Railway Company; the Texas Mexican Railway Company; and TFM, S.A., de C.V. have agreed to be placed under the common control of a single transportation holding company - NAFTA Rail - to be headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. As part of the transaction, KCS will change its name to NAFTA Rail. The agreement is subject to the approval of the Surface Transportation Board.


Legislation Introduced in Senate to Re-Regulate Railroad Industry

Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) - joined by six cosponsors - has introduced legislation to re-regulate the railroad industry. The purpose of the measure, S.919, is to "enhance competition between rail carriers in order to ensure efficient rail service and reasonable rail rates," according to the Association of American Railroads. The association opposes the legislation.


Rice Yard Celebrates 25th Anniversary

[CSXT Midweek Report, April 24, 2003]... Seaboard Coast Line chairman emeritus W. Thomas Rice and former Waycross superintendent Gus Karle were special guests of honor recently as Rice Yard celebrated 25 years of safety and service to customers. "The W. Thomas Rice Special" - No. 5107, a 4400-horsepower GE locomotive - was commissioned and rumbled on stage to applause from more than 125 employees and public officials. "This is an honor to be back in Waycross and to reaffirm our decision to locate one of the Southeast's primary classification yards here," Rice said. "It is also an honor to be here with Gus Karle, who first established this yard's reputation for safety and productivity - a tradition that continues today." Karle, joined by his family, was commended for his service both to the railroad and the Waycross community, where he continues to play an active role. Rice, who served on CSX Corporation's original board of directors, conceived the location and layout of the 4.5-mile long Waycross yard that covers 850 acres. Today, Rice Yard handles 28 inbound trains and 25 outbound trains daily, and classifies almost a million rail cars each year. It is one of CSXT's most productive hump yards and its employees have an excellent safety record. The terminal also includes a major locomotive repair facility and service center, and running repair facility for rail cars.


CSXT Reporting System to go Live in North Jersey

[CSXT Midweek Report, April 17, 2003]... A team from the CSXT Customer Service Center, CSX Technology, and representatives from Norfolk Southern and the Conrail Shared Assets Area soon will complete the conversion to the CSXT reporting system in northern New Jersey. The conversion project, called the Conrail Information Service Provider Project (CRISP), is a follow-up to the June 1999 acquisition of Conrail by CSX and Norfolk Southern. Conrail continues to operate in much of New Jersey and portions of the Philadelphia and Detroit areas. Both CSXT and NS have access to customers within the shared areas. After June 1999, Conrail's Customer Service Center continued to use Conrail's TRIMS reporting system. But that system is now being phased out in favor of Norfolk Southern and CSXT reporting systems.. Here's how the conversion is taking shape: Conrail customer service representatives located in Mount Laurel, N.J., who handle the Detroit shared area, converted to Norfolk Southern's system (TYES) on March 18. On April 15, customer service representatives handling the South Jersey area also went to NS's TYES system. Conrail customer service representatives handling North Jersey will go to the CSXT reporting system on May 4. Yards such as Oak Island and South Kearny, N.J., among others, will be using the CSXT system. "Many people at CSX Transportation and Technology, working with the CRISP team, did a good job organizing this changeover, making system modifications, and seeing that the appropriate employees were trained and ready to use the new systems," said Margaret Downey, general director- customer service administration and project manager of the CRISP team for CSXT.


CSX Intermodal Growth Twice That of NS

[CSXT Midweek Report, April 10, 2003]... CSX Intermodal's business in 2003 is growing at more than twice the rate of its principal rail carrier competitor, Norfolk Southern. Figures available through March 15 show that CSXI's overall business is nine percent above last year, compared with a growth rate at NS of 4.2 percent. "This is good news for both CSX and the NS," said Adam Bridges, CSXI's marketing vice president. "We both are having success taking business off the highways and onto the rails." Bridges said that CSXI's impressive growth rate is due to two main factors: "CSXI's aggressive load board program to compete for truck business brokered over the internet, and CSXI's expanded domestic container program that has added several thousand 53-foot containers, the preferred equipment of many shippers who are shifting to CSXI from over the highway. Everyone at CSX Intermodal is committed to growth," said Bridges, "and it is beginning to show." He also said CSXI's success is due to teamwork with CSX Transportation employees. "Without CSXT's operational excellence, we can't grow. It's that simple." Some of CSXI's largest customers are United Parcel Service and Pacer (base loads); HUB Group, PGL and Alliance (domestic containers); C.H. Robinson and Crossroad Carriers (loadboard internet business).