Saturday, April 4, 2015

"Westward ho... The long and winding railroad."

In the early 1800's, like other east coast cities, the port of Baltimore's  commercial viability was challenged by New York's construction of the Erie Canal. The canal would soon link the Hudson River with the Great Lakes and thus, the country's major north-south rivers, giving New York dominant shipping access to much of the country.

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was incorporated in 1827 and a path for the Old Main Line was plotted to the Potomac River and points west. The earliest version of the line twisted and turned mimicking the adjacent Patapsco River as it climbed westward towards the midpoint town of Mt. Airy and a problematic elevation. From there it descended across rolling farm land until it reached the Potomac just southeast of Harper's Ferry, WV at Point of Rocks, MD.

This layout will focus on the eastern end between Ilchester and Sykesville. It will feature busy mill operations at Ellicott City, Oella and Daniels. A set-out yard just east of Ellicott City is used for the holding and classification of trains for all of these operations.
The iconic scene at the Ilchester tunnel/bridge @ MP 10 represents the entry from east end staging onto the layout. The depot, which was demolished in 1964, is currently being modeled to depict its 1960 appearance.

The first 13 miles of track were completed between Baltimore and then-Ellicott Mills in 1830. The station building is the oldest in the nation and originally served as engine house, freight house and passenger depot. It currently handles commuter traffic and houses an annex of the B&O Museum, including a layout of the OML.

The company houses for the Dickey textile mill in Oella are still in use today, although the mill is not. Located one mile up  the river from Ellicott City, the mill operated 24/7 during WWII supplying military uniforms for the effort. It is now luxury condos with river views!

The main mill building at Daniels  featured considerable church imagery in its architecture. Located at MP 19, the textile mill produced sails and other nautical items utilized by the shipping industry operating out of the Baltimore harbor.

The farming community of Sykesville is at MP 28 and features a Baldwin-designed masonry depot that still exists today as a restaurant. Built in the mid-1800's, the design represented the beginning of the B&O's signature look for its depots across its network. Just west of here is the Sykesville tunnel where trains exit the layout into west end staging.

We'll look at much more history from time to time, but for tomorrow, it's time to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Lumber, power tools and other assorted manly things. Lots of photos of the bench work. Promise.

The B&O rushed the OML to completion ignoring what crucial issue?
A) Torrential rain just might cause rivers to overflow their banks.
B) Sharp curves become problematic as trains grow in speed and size.
C) Shallow track grades are always preferred to steep ones for transit.
D) All of the above

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