Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Middle Patuxent Environmental Area - Mystery Car in the Woods

There is a car in the woods at the MPEA in Howard County, MD. Very much out of place now, but probably disposed of when the land was privately held and before it became an environmental property managed mostly for the benefit of various bird species and especially the woodcock. I met several birders on my hike there yesterday. Very nice and informative people. I also found my camera woefully inadequate for capturing small hyperactive birds. But I love a mystery. So I set out to identify the year, make and model of the abandoned auto hulk. Because all identifying markers, lettering or medalions, were gone, I focused on the bumpers and grilles of late 1950s and early 1960s, all American made of course, before the flood of foreign imports. Noboby made chrome bumpers and grilles like American car manufacturers in the 50s and 60s. The distinctive two over two headlights and turn signal sockets and the four hash marks on the fenders behind the headlights were the key markers I looked for, along with the beginning of the horizontal fin on the rear fender.  So here it is: the lovely 1958 Chevrolet Impala. I think I even found the right color. This photo I found here on an internet search. It is not one of my photos.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Woodstock to the Henryton Tunnel and Back

This morning I hiked the B&O Old Main Line from Woodstock to the Henryton tunnel, about three and half miles each way. It was a pretty stretch of track on a beautiful day. I saw two deer and a fox, which were too fast for me to get my camera ready.

The phrase "sylvan glades" captures the look of much of the track-side scenery, which included a fox's den.

The Henryton tunnel, built in 1903, is about a half mile west of Marriottsville Road and about a hundred yards past the 25 mile marker next to the track.          

There were no iron horses on rails today, probably because of tomorrow's holiday. However I did encounter some flesh and blood horses back at my starting point. It seems the "biker bar" at the Old Court / Woodstock Road rail crossing in Woodstock is as much a "horsewoman's bar" as it is a biker's. After I downed a brew with the boys, a few of the ladies let me photograph their rides.

This guy was the best looking of the herd and he just loved to pose.

All in all a very pleasant outing on a beautiful, sunny and cool day.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Another Cup of Coffee

The weekend job got cancelled this morning and I am so glad. It was a beautiful day for hiking. So, I hiked along the Old Main Line from Ilchester to Ellicott City for another cup of coffee at the Bean Hollow. Nice walk along the rails, maybe two miles covered easily in an hour.Took a break for a latte and a scone at the Hollow and walked back. Encountered three CSX trains along the way, two headed west, one eastbound. I did not expect to see anything interesting on this stretch of tracks, but I was surprised by a few items. First this interesting tipped over structure.

Obviously it was some sort of service building at one time. It's big, at least two stories tall when upright, and made of reinforced concrete. It appeared to have been tipped over backward right next to the rail bed. What the hell was it? I searched the web and learned that it was a coaling tower built during World War II at the small, but no longer existing, village of Lees to provide a coaling station away from the busy and congested rail yards in Baltimore. But what did it look like during its useful service? The answer to that question was a bit more difficult to find. But find it I did, and you can see a vintage photo of the Lee water tower penstocks and the very same coaling tower here. In the vintage photo you are looking west toward Ellicott City.

The other item of interest was a pair of maintenance of way machines parked at a dead end siding on the approach to Ellicott City.

This line of track was in a terrible state of disrepair seemed not to have been used in many years. Turns out is was a special siding devoted to the flour mill on the Baltimore County side of the Patapsco at Ellicott City. There is an old disused trestle bridge that once carried tracks from the mill to the siding along the Old Main Line. The siding is now used as a convenient parking place for rail maintenance machinery. And of course it would not be right to end without a shot of one of the trains encountered on my hike.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Woodpeckers, Herons, Bottles and Bricks

What you won't see here is a woodpecker. They were too high in the greenwood to be seen. But you should have heard them this morning along the Patapsco river between the Daniels dam and the Davis tunnel. They are thriving there. Eight o'clock must be the breakfast hour for pecker heads. They were hammering away all around me on both sides of the river for an entire hour. Then it stopped. Breakfast over. Things got quiet as a church on Tuesday morning.

This Great Blue Heron, which I stalked in both directions of my hike was a slow eater in comparison to the wood knockers. Ol' Blue was just patiently standing, strutting and strolling in the shallow river for at least two and a half hours, with an ocassional short flight to a new spot. The shallow, slow moving Patapsco must be a near perfect habitat for slow, patient, wading herons.

Even slower and more patient than herons are bottles and brick that have waited in the dirt a hundred years for me to find them. I returned today to the spot I wrote about on May 6th.  This time I looked more closely at the old bottles and bricks I noticed on my first visit. I found five antique beer bottles, all with their necks broken off. Three were from the Baltimore brewery, Gottlieb Bauernschmidt Straus (GBS), which existed from 1901 to 1920. The other two were from the Globe Brewery, that both preceded and succeeded GBS. All were embossed bottles. You can see cleaned up examples of them here as, # 11 and # 1. And a history of The Globe Brewing Company here. Based on the company history and the bottle designs I believe my previous guess that they are from circa 1906 is pretty accurate.


At this site I saw plain unmarked red clay building bricks and two kinds of white fire bricks stamped with a name. One was stamped or impressed with SAVAGE and the other with UNION. I believe they were likely manufactured by The Savage Fire Brick Company of Keystone Junction in Somerset County, PA. You can actually see illustrations of these two brick with the embossed names in the company's 1899 catalog. Again confirming my estimated dating of the site to the first decade of the twentieth century.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

View From Above The Dorsey Tunnel

Hiked from the Alberton Road lot off Dogwood Road all the way to the east portal of the Dorsey tunnel. I decided to see if there was a walk around trail to the west opening. There wasn't a real path, but I followed a deer trail down onto the flood plain of the Patapsco until the hill came all the way down to the river and I was forced up at a very steep grade. Only a few deer hoof prints were visible on what was barely a trace. I did make it to the west portal as you can see, but I do not recommend doing this. Very steep, rough, slippery going. And you have to retrace the same tricky return passage. It was a workout. The hike made clear the reason the B&O decided to blast the tunnel through this ridge, which is 400 feet high. On the return hike I ran into the fellow below. He seemed kind of lonely, so I gave him some space for a personal ad.

Kiss Me!

Go ahead! What are you waiting for? I swear. I'm a prince of a guy.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Train Station at Point of Rocks, Maryland

This beautiful station, designed by Ephraim Francis Baldwin and completed in 1876, sits at the junction of the Baltimore and Ohio RR Old Main Line out of Baltimore and its Metropolitan Branch out of Washington. It is also where the B&O met the C&O Canal. The railroad and canal, after a nasty legal fight from 1828 to 1832, shared the right of way side by side along the Potomac river as far as Harper's Ferry. I visited the site this morning with my brother Chris before we hiked a few miles on the adjacent C&O Canal towpath.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Two Snakes Along the Patapsco

A little snake

and a big snake.

The little snake was on the original rail bed, now a hiking path, on the Howard County side, upstream from Daniels, and the big snake was on the Baltimore County side just out of the Dorsey tunnel heading west toward the Davis tunnel. The little snake looks like an Eastern Gartersnake.