Sunday, March 21, 2010

Return to Georgetown Junction (March 19, 2010)

It had been years since I visited the infamous site in Silver Spring, Maryland where outbound  Amtrak 29, the "Capitol Limited," had collided with inbound MARC #286 during a snowy afternoon rush on February 16, 1996. Eleven people died in that collision, three MARC employees and eight MARC passengers. The MARC crew, apparently inattentive, ran a stop signal at Georgetown Junction just as Amtrak 29 was crossing from track 1 to 2 to avoid a stopped K951 ahead. MARC 286 collided with the nose of the lead Amtrak engine, which raked down the side of the MARC cab-control car. The rest is a horror story that's best read in the Washington Post, or better, the NTSB report, available on their Website.

My interest on Thursday, March 19, 2010 was simply to see if anything had changed at Georgetown Junction since my last visit some half-dozen years ago. As it turned out, little had. There were still CPLs at the interlocking between the junction and the 16th Street highway overpass, where the 1996 collision had occurred. I discovered after getting home and studying track charts that since the accident, CSX had moved the Georgetown Junction switch from the interlocking (near 16th Street NW) to a point some 200-300 yards west, specifically, about 50' west of the one-lane Talbot Avenue overpass.

The track that ran from the Junction down to Georgetown, D.C., i.e. the 11-mile-long Georgetown Subdivision, was pulled up several years ago and has been made into a hiking and biking trail. What remains of the original track is 0.3 miles long. It runs from the Junction switch to an industrial area near Kansas Avenue.

While driving around the Beltway in Maryland I spotted a rare sight, an eastbound coal train crossing above all the traffic on that railroad bridge near the Georgia Avenue exit. I don't think I had seen a train on that bridge since moving to Washington in 1976, so I considered this a good start to my visit. By the time I arrived at the junction the head end had already passed, so all I got was a going-away look of V842. There were to be three other trains during my visit, however: Q751, the rock runner; inbound P030; and an outbound MARC train. These three gave me a bit of a shiver as their predecessors had been involved in the 1996 accident.

V842 heads east through the Georgetown Junction interlocking.

 Q751, the rock runner, westbound through Georgetown Junction interlocking.

 P030, the "Capitol Limited," on track 2 eastbound. The Georgetown Sub track is on the left.

MARC 871 passes the switch for the Georgetown track.

Those were the trains I saw. Now, let's look at what remains of the old track down to Georgetown, now called the "Georgetown Industrial Track" by CSX. First, here's an east-facing telephoto view of the interlocking at BA8.3 (CSX Metropolitan Sub). That's the 16th Street highway bridge in the background. The Georgetown Branch switch tied in here at the time of the 1996 collision:

Today, the switch is west of the above location by 150-200 yards (my guess), and can be seen here, camera still facing east. The bridge, a single-lane affair, carries Talbot Avenue left (north) to Grace Church Road. Note the dwarf signal, not illuminated, and the unusual derailer (?):

Now, spin around on your heels and face west. The CSX Metropolian Sub curves off to the right toward Kensington as the old Georgetown Branch heads off into the weeds on the left. Let's walk it and see if we can find the end of track:

This switch controls a spur that leads into a junky warehouse or storage yard straight ahead. The Georgetown Branch continues off to the left:
 End of track for the Branch (left):
 The gravel road below is the former Georgetown Branch right-of-way. It leads to that parking area in the distance:

Next, I walked around the warehouses to that distant parking lot in search of the north end of the "Crescent Trail" (named for the crescent shape of the branch line) and found its entrance on Stewart Avenue:
 As the trail continues toward Georgetown, we spin around and head back to Stewart Avenue. The parking lot across the street is the one we saw from that end-of-track location above:

With that, it was time to go home. On my next visit, I hope (He said, ambitiously) to take the bike along and ride the trail in search of railroad structures. Whew!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Update (March 9, 2010): CSX bridge replacement project on RF&P Sub at CFP102, Cameron Run


On my most recent visit to this site (March 9) progress appeared to have slowed, probably from several successive winter snow storms. Even though this was a sunny, mild day free of snow, for some reason there were only a few men working. The most obvious change was crossbeams had been laid across the steel columns of the framework on which the new bridge will be assembled. For comparison, see my previous posting on January 29. Trains shown are Amtrak 92 and Q406.
And then there was this rig, stationed on the railroad about 50 yards RR north of the bridge:
Any idea what this is, or what it's for? Through the trees it looks like a pile driver, but . . .

Update on Anacostia, D.C. streetcar project (March 9, 2010)

Repeated snow storms this winter played havoc with rail construction projects in the D.C. area. Thus, little progress was evident when I revisited the track-laying project for the new Anacostia streetcar system on March 9. Near as I could tell, all they had finished was the S-curve track under I-295 where Firth Sterling runs into South Capitol Street:

I could not see any progress, however, along South Capitol Street. These scenes look much like my last posting on January 29:

Moving under I-295 to Firth Sterling and looking back southwest, the finished portion can be seen from this side of I-295, where the contractor has begun installing "retro"-style lamp posts:

In the opposite (northeast-facing) direction on Firth Sterling, however, there had been no progress pushing the line beyond the intersection with Suitland Parkway:

I did see a newly-posted sign, however, announcing with hopeful precision that the project is to be completed August 17, 2010: