Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pappa at the Paw Paw - A Father's Day Trek with Kristen

A few years ago I purchased a book titled Weird Maryland. Yes, there are books for other states in the series, and for the USA as a whole. A sharp marketing concept for sure. Anyway, in the Maryland edition, space is given to the Paw Paw tunnel, the largest structure on the C & O Canal, and a major engineering feat when it was dug in the mid 1800s.. Why it should be designated as weird rather than interesting or historic, I don't know. I guess they had to fill the book, and there weren't enough truly weird places in Maryland.  But, Paw Paw got my lovely daughter's attention. She was seized by a desire to go there and suggested it as a Father's Day adventure for the two of us. It fits right in with my railroad hikes and the tunnels on the Old Main Line of the B &O Railroad. So, off we went. It was a return trip for me. I had walked the tunnel before, about 50 years ago, when I was a Boy Scout on a canoe trip along a parallel stretch of the Potomac river. The walkway is the towpath used by mules that towed the canal boats. It was dark then, and it's still dark in there. Not like this long exposure. More like the one below it.

Take a flashlight, or a headlamp. The tunnel is 3,118 feet long and unlit.

More photos here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Henryton to Sykesville and Baldwin Station

Started out this morning about 9:25 at the rail crossing on Marriottsville Road which is about the 24.5 mile mark on the Old Main Line. About a half mile west you hit the 25 mile mark and the Henryton tunnel is in view. The tunnel is short, 430 feet, and you can see clearly through to the other end. It is also one of the oldest railroad tunnels in the world in continuous use. Unlike the terrain at  Dorsey tunnel,  this location has a decent walkaround path along the river. As soon as you pass through or around the tunnel you come to an old power plant that contained the boiler for the Henryton State Hospital that was originally built for tuberculosis patients and was later used as a hospital for patients then described as mentally retarded. The buildings are now in ruins and are slated for demolition. Fuel, probably coal, for the power plant was obviously delivered by rail. The siding tracks running up to the side of the building can still be observed in places.

Along the rails I saw a huge white tail buck, a red fox, a great blue heron and a ground hog. Only the ground hog moved slow enough for me to get a photo. I also observed a large stand of bamboo at Henryton, just off the rails on the flood plain of the Patapsco. It looked out of place. I believe bamboo is an invasive specie of plant, and I wonder who started this stand and how far it will spread. Now all we need are some pandas.

The historic Sykesville train station is now a restaurant, Baldwin Station, named after the architect who designed the station along with several other on the Old Main Line, including the one at at Point of Rocks, the subject of a previous post. Sykesville and its station are at the 28.5 mile mark. My hike was eight miles, four in each direction. It took me about four and a half hours, which included time for a beer at the restaurant. I was back to my car by 1:55 pm. The rail bed really hugs the river most of the way along this stretch of track. The right of way is very narrow for much of the distance. I saw only one train, eastbound to Baltimore. More photos can be seen here.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tagged Rolling Stock

Generally I am not a fan of graffiti, but it seems to me that certain canvasses are so bland or ugly that graffiti actually enhances the object that gets tagged or decorated. This piece of art on a piece of CSX stock caught my eye as it rolled by on one of my recent hikes. There was just something about the colors and the textured background that I found appealing. The photo does pose a question. Did the artist work around the stock number on the bottom edge of the carriage, or did CSX re-stencil it while leaving the rest of the art intact?