RAILFAN GUIDES of the U.S.

 

Todd's Railfan Guide to
BALTIMORE MD's
METRO SUBWAY SYSTEM

In General
Operations
Maps
Signals
Station by Station
Pictures
Switches, signs, etc
Floobydust

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In General

The Baltimore Metro Subway system, hereafter called the Baltimore Metro system, is a simple system.  It consists of a grand total of 14 stations, nine of which were included when the system first opened (Charles Center to Reisterstown Plaza).

The system opened for business in 1983.  It was later expanded northward to Owings Mills in 1987.  The latest expansion, in 1994, extended the downtown service to Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore.  It takes about a half an hour to traverse the route one way.

The system is 15.2 miles long, with 6.2 miles of it underground.  Of the remaining 9 miles, 2.2 miles of it are elevated, and 6.8 are at grade.  Above Old Court Road and the Beltway, the line runs up interstate 795, making it basically a commuter railroad, cause it certainly isn't convenient to anything if you don't have a car.  According to the stats on Wikipedia, the cost of the total system ran 1.392 billion bucks.

One of the more interesting things I found out while working at the MTA's Light Rail division is that above Reisterstown Road, for some unknown reason, the gauge is a quarter inch less than the standard 4"-8 1/2".  There is a 30 foot section where the two gauges "mesh".

The heavy rail shops are located between the Rogers Ave and W Cold Spring stations.  Altho shots of the yard itself aren't really possible, satisfactory pix can be had of some of the shop and yard operations from the fence line along Wabash Ave.  I've never been bothered taking pix from there, even tho it is across the street from one of the Baltimore City district courts, with plenty of police going by.  Also just down the street, is the Northwest bus depot.

The cars were built by Budd, in a now closed plant northwest of Philadelphia.  The cars are identical to those used on the Miami system, in  fact, they were ordered at the same time to lower the cost.  They draw power from a typical heavy rail third rail system, which operates at 600VDC.  The cars consist of  married pair, which never get separated unless being serviced, because each individual car has different systems needed for the two to operate as one.  The cars are 72 feet long, and 9.5 feet wide.  They have a top speed of 70mph, altho the top speed is kept to the speed limit of i795 so people won't race the trains!  Trains can have 1, 2, or 3 pairs of cars, depending on the time of day.  Each pair can handle 166 passengers, with 76 being seated, and 90 standing.

Because of cost, the only expansions to the line that have been considered were to the Amtrak NEC going straight up Broadway, and/or heading northeast to the Whitemarsh area, altho this expansion has been protested by the local residents, not wanting to go thru what the CBD went thru when they originally built the system, and when the expansion to Hopkins happened (a dedicated busway was given as an alternative, but that hasn't happened either due to the population density in the northeast area).

The map below is of both the Light and Heavy Rail systems in Baltimore, and illustrates the lack of a common station for the two systems, thereby making transfers between the two a royal pain in bad weather.

All of the aerial shots come from the birds eye view on www.bing.com/maps

The pictures were "Snagged" from Bing using Techsmith's Snagit utilty!

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! Contact info is here


Operations

The Metro System is normally run in the automatic mode, where the operators only operate the doors, or in the case of an emergency, the system can be put into the manual mode.

Operators are required to make one trip a day manually to stay in practice.

The signals exist on the system as a means of back-up, when they have to operate in the manual mode.

The OCC, Operations Control Center, is located above the Lexington Market station, and is the equivalent to Light Rail Control, located at the main shops north of North Avenue.  Everything for the Metro system is controlled and monitored from here.

Trains headed towards Hopkins are considered eastbound, while those to Owings Mills are westbound.

Trains run from 5am to midnight during the week, and 06:00 to 00:00 on the weekends.  They run on 8 minute headways during the rush hours, 11 minutes off peak, and 15 minutes on the weekends.

Fares are the same as on Light Rail, being $1.75 for a one way fare, and $3.50 for an all day pass.  The fares are also good on the bus and light rail systems, just make sure you get a ticket you can use on them before you leave, for the stupid little tickets used on the TVM's don't tell you what you paid for.


Maps

click here for the above map in PDF format


In The Movies

   

The three screen shots off my TV are from the movie No Way Out from 1987.  The story takes place in Washington DC, but I guess they couldn't work out a deal with the DC Metro system to shoot in their system.  The scene was shot at Charles Center.  In the scene following this where Kevin Costner comes out of the subway, he's in Union Station.  They made no effort to make the MTA cars look like WMATA cars.


Signals

Signals on the system are pretty simple, and not really used by the operators unless they are running manually.  Trains normally operate in the automatic ATP mode, except for a required one run a day in the manual mode to keep operators "proficient".

Signals on the Baltimore Metro System are typical of the "new" design philosophy, where they have departed from the color light signals (for instance) of the New York Subway system, and gone to basically a two aspect system with three indications.  Why, who knows, someone is always trying to re-invent things because they think their way is better.  Is this system really better?  Can't say, don't know, and there is no definitive answer.  What the designers chose was to use a three lens head, with a lunar lens in the middle, and red lenses in the upper and lower positions, or, red over lunar over red

The two reds illuminate for stop.

The lunar illuminates for clear, and at interlockings, for a non-diverging movement.

The lunar flashes at interlockings when the route is aligned for a diverging movement.

If they had gone to a GRN-YEL-RED system, they could have been able to provide their operators with a three block safety net when operating in the manual mode, as opposed to just knowing if the block ahead was clear, and they could have used a flashing yellow to note a diverging movement.  And so it goes.

  SB signal at the interlocking south of the Owings Mills station.

        Signals at the Charles Center station.


Station by Station

OWINGS MILLS
OLD COURT
MILFORD MILL

REISTERSTOWN PLAZA
ROGERS AVE
the SHOPS
WEST COLD SPRING LANE
INTO THE TUNNEL
MONDAWMIN
PENN NORTH
UPTON
STATE CENTER / CULTURAL CENTER
LEXINGTON MARKET
CHARLES CENTER
SHOT TOWER / MARKET PLACE
JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL


OWINGS MILLS


Owings Mills is the current north end of the line, and will probably remain that way since there is much fuss over extending the line any further north, mostly because of added value vs cost.  Since all of the at or above ground stations are not really located near much of anything useful, they all have parking facilities and bus lanes.


The station is on the left, and the double set of crossovers is on the right, allowing inbound trains to switch over to the SB track if needed, and outbound trains to crossover to the SB tracks if they came out of the NB station platform side.  This is normal practice for almost every Metro system at the end of a line unless  they have a loop.


The storage tracks in between the rush hours, the filled up parking lot gives it away.

   
Coming down on the southbound side of 795, you get these views of the stub tracks used for storage outside the rush hours.  SEP2010

   
This NB train is getting ready to enter the Owings Mills station.  Notice the train has switched over to the SB track for entering the station, having just passed the crossovers and a set of signals.  SEP2010

It is doubtful that the MTA will ever extend the Metro north of here, but they, you never know if the population density get like that of NYC (New York City)(Let's hope it doesn't!  :-)


OLD COURT

   

                 

   

 What you can see as you go over the SB 795 to EB 695 interchange

 
Old Court is probably the neatest station in terms of access, having a long walkway over a small creek.  Adjacent to the station is the "new" MOW facilty.


MILFORD MILL


In order to put this station in, they had to redesign Milford Mill Road, and gave it an overpass and a complicated series of intersections to what was formerly a straight shot on a "country" road with only the "Western Maryland" (CSX) to contend with.  CSX's tracks are above the Metro tracks in the above photo.


REISTERSTOWN PLAZA


The former end of the line for the Phase 1 section.


ROGERS AVE


the SHOPS


WEST COLD SPRING LANE


INTO THE TUNNEL


MONDAWMIN


PENN NORTH


UPTON


Amtrak passes by here, but there is no connection to the trains.  Not a good railfan area!


STATE CENTER / CULTURAL CENTER


LEXINGTON MARKET


The Metro station is on the left, with the blue colored covering... at the other end of the block, to the right, you can see the Light Rail line... this is the closest the two come together, and the reason the system design sucks.  When I worked there and they were doing this "quality circles" improvement idea thing - I had suggested turning this into a covered mall, but the idea was shot down.- it would have made things so much nicer for anyone traveling the tow systems.  The OCC is in the building at the top edge of the photo.


CHARLES CENTER

     


SHOT TOWER / MARKET PLACE


This station is located adjacent to the main post office, which is the building in the upper right hand corner of the photo.  The end of the Jones Falls Expwy is in the upper left hand corner, and it turns into President St.  The shot tower is one of the few surviving examples of one that is from the Civil War... they would melt lead up on the top floors of the tower, and let it drop, cooling as it went down sand forming into balls.  Once picked up off the floor at the bottom, the shot could be graded to size, or re-melted.  I'll have to see if I can find my photos from the top of the tower, as very few people get the privilege to go up there.  The main PO is one of the few multi-level P&DC's (processing and distribution center), where they sort your mail - a very cool operation!


JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL


Johns Hopkins Hospital continuously rates as the top hospital in the U.S., and has a long and rich history in Baltimore.  It is also slowly gobbling up the land around it along with the Kennedy-Krieger Institute which is the tan building on the left in the bottom photo.  If you have the time, it is a most impressive building to come out of the hole for and take a few pictures, especially at dusk.  The main entrance  to the Metro is in the middle of Broadway, across from the main domed building.  I used to have rowhouse several blocks south of here, built in 1845, and was on the first streetcar line in Baltimore City.


Pictures

The first two fellas come from the birds eye view on www.bing.com/maps


A train that just came out of the tunnel and is headed north towards W Cold Spring.


A train just leaving the W Cold Spring station.

Switches, Signs, TVM's, Etc

             Stuff at Old Court Road.

 


Floobydust


Todd's History and Nonsense Corner of Local Baltimore Trivia


I used to live at 7 S. Broadway, and when I re-roofed it, put a seven into the roof using black colored shingles... made it easier to find when I was flying around.  For a rowhouse, it was big, being 24ft wide (most are like, 10-12-14 feet wide), and 80 feet deep, with 3 floors, giving me a whopping 4800 square feet.  5, 7, and 9 were built by a guy for him and his two sons, and 9, to the right, had a really nice carriage house on the alley.   I guess he didn't like his 2nd son as much as his first, as #5 on the left is just a tad narrower!

As cool as this house was, there are some around the Reservoir Hill, Druid Hill Park, and Baltimore Zoo area (up off of 28 Street) that are absolutely fantastic and are almost mansions compared to this. 

This area was the original Jewish neighborhood of Baltimore.  Yogurt Lane was named for the factory that used to be there years and years and years ago. 

An old firehouse is on the very right of the picture, and it still has the two poles in it!... Very cool for getting downstairs quick. 

That's Ed's black truck on the street :-)  

This aerial shot is after the city did a beautification project for the street and took away all of the angle parking :-(

Many, many years ago on Fox (I think), they had a show about a Black guy with a White wife, and the building all the way to the left was used for the exterior shots of their house - it has New Orleans style iron work around the exterior decks. 

Down at the "bottom" of Broadway, where it meets the Harbor, is a huge building built out over the water.  When NBC was filming Homicide, they had their studio located in this building.  Also located in the building, at an earlier time, was marine radio station WMH, and a customs house, as Fells Point was one of the major ports in the Baltimore area.

Up until the mid 90's, when they started a major waterfront renovation, there was a very cool three way RR switch in the street, also located in the Fells Point on Albemarle Street.  Somewhere I have a pix of the thing.  Penn Central used to run street freights back in the 70's, until the business' closed, and used these weird trucks with couplers mounted on them to move freight cars instead of locomotives.


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NEW 06/07/2009
Last Modified 05-Jan-2014