RAILFAN GUIDES of the U.S.
Todd's Railfan Guide to
the Green Spring Branch
A little history, where it went, and what's left today
History of the Line
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The Green Spring Branch was the Baltimore and Susquehanna's original option for getting out of Baltimore when Pennsylvania said no to going through York on its way to the Susquehanna. Construction out of Baltimore started in 1829, and reached Owings Mills in 1832. The track was strap rail, and service used horses for power. Service wasn't too popular after the Western Maryland completed its own mainline into Baltimore from "Turnpike", and it was almost abandoned except for summer service. Traffic picked up for a while in 1916 when the branch was used as a bypass during B&P Tunnel repairs. Passenger service ended in 1933, and the last train to run up the branch was in 1962.
the Green Spring Branch History
2/13/1829 - The Baltimore & Susquehanna RR is charted in MD.
8/8/1829 - The first stone is laid in Baltimore City.
2/7/1830 - Charter granted for the B&S to go to Westminster.
7/4/1831 - The first 7 miles of track opened from the Belvedere Depot in downtown to Relay House (Hollins).
5/26/1832 - The 8 miles from Relay House to Turnpike completed.
6/14/1932 - Regular horsecar passenger service begins.
8/7/1832 - First run of the B&S steam engine the "Herald", bought from the U.K.
8/20/1832 - Track extended another 2 miles to Owings Mills.
1833-34 - The PA legislature grants a Charter to the B&S to build through York to the Susquehanna.
5/27/1852 - The Baltimore, Carroll & Frederick RR chartered by MD.
3/21/1853 - The BC&F is re-organized as the Western Maryland RR.
12/31/1854 - The B&S formally merges with its "paper" subsidiaries to form the Northern Central RR.
3/37/1851 - Contracts by the WM go out for construction from Relay House to Union Bridge.
1/1858 - NC ends horsecar service so reconstruction by the WM can begin.
5/23/1859 - First track laid by the WM on the Green Spring Branch.
8/11/1859 - WM formally opens for business between Relay House and Owings Mills, to Reisterstown 12/14.
1860 - The Pennsylvania RR purchases controlling interest in the Northern Central.
7/2/1863 - WM taken over by the U.S. Military RR for battle in Gettysburg, returned to WM 7/7/63.
12/17/1873 - WM completes line from 1.5miles south of Owings Mills to Baltimore City, eliminating the need for the Green Spring Branch.
7/15/1874 - Control of the Green Spring Branch returned to the Northern Central. Junction between the branch and the WM named "Turnpike". Relay House renamed to "Hollins".
12/8/1874 - The PRR takes control and active management of the Northern Central.
12/1876 - New station built at Hollins.
1881 - Station built at Turnpike, where it crosses Reisterstown Road.
1890 - New station built at Chattolanee, formerly called "Green Springs".
1892 - Station "established" at Lake Roland at Sorrento, no building.
1896 - New station built at Rockland.
1899 - New station built at Lystra and Garrison.
1900 - New station built at Eccleston.
1901 - New station built at Stevenson.
1905 - New station built at Rogers.
1906 - New station built at Brooklandville.
7/29/1914 - The Northern Central is leased to the PRR for 999 years retroactive to 1/11/11.
1916 - Dedicated local service on the Green Spring Branch ends, service now provided by the Parkton Local.
5/28/1916 - The Western Maryland and PRR start using the Green Spring Branch as a detour while B&P Tunnel gets rebuilt.
11/25/1917 - Detour over the Green Spring Branch ends.
Early 1920's - Gas-Electric cars replace steam powered passenger service.
5/20/1925 - Block Stations abolished.
7/3/1932 - United Railways & Electric abandons the line to Reisterstown and removes crossing with the branch.
6/23/1933 - Passing track between Lystra and Rogers removed.
8/17/1933 - Passenger service discontinued.
by 10/1933 - Standard grade crossing crossbucks and flashing lights replaced Banjo signals.
12/20/1933 - PRR General Order #1807 abolishes HK Interlocking and Block Station at Hollins.
4/8/1935 - The PRR leases the Eccleston Station lands to Osborne Beal for $12 a year.
9/7/1937 - The Stevenson Station and 2.5 acres was sold to Oden Long and his wife Helen for $5,000.
Late 1930's - Traffic interchange with the Western Maryland comes to an end.
Late 1930's/early 1940's - The Green Spring Branch downgraded to the Green Spring Secondary Track.
1/1944 - PRR made a study to determine the extent of changes to support the war effort if needed.
4/18/1950 - 2.7 acres at Chattolanee sold to Wethered Woodward for $1500, the station stood on this parcel.
1951 - Traffic volume on the line was 24 cars.
4/7/1952 - 1.9 acres at Lystra sold to Norman Stump for $900.
1954 - Burnham Fuel quits being a customer.
Mid 1950's - The Green Spring Branch is still considered a viable bypass for the B&P Tunnel untill a gauntlet track installed in the tunnel in 1956.
Mid 1950's - The Green Spring Branch further downgraded to the Green Spring Track, as in tracks other than main, secondary, or siding.
Late 1950's - 6 acres at Green Spring Junction sold to Irvin Tillman for $2500, including the area of the wye.
1954 - Last train to Chatolanee.
1955 - Last train to Stevenson.
1957 - One section of track removed 1000 feet west of Rockland
1959 - The PRR applies for abandonment west of Rockland.
9/14/1959 - The middle siding at Sorrento abandoned after being used to unload cement for sewer work, removed in 1961.
10/21/1959 - ICC gives approval to abandon track west of Rockland on 12/18/1959.
By 6/1960 - Track through the valley to Rockland was removed.
Spring 1962 - Service on the branch just faded away, no formal abandonment procedure was carried out.
1962 - Track from Rockland to edge of Robert E. Lee park taken up, remainder of track sold to National Capital Historical Museum of Trans.
1966 - National Capital Museum moves to Wheaton and transfers track to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum (BSM).
1968 - BSM establishes itself in Baltimore City at it's present location and moves trolleys there.
Much of the information provided here comes from the book "Green Spring Accommodation" by Martin K. Van Horn and Robert L. Williams, published in 1996 by Transportation Trails.
When the B&S proceeded north to York, a local quarry provided stones for the first "ties", or "sleepers" used on this line. For more info on them click here.
The junction where the Green Spring Branch starts (off the mainline to York and Harrisburg) was originally called Relay House, but later changed to avoid confusion with the B&O's town of a similar name (Relay) on the southwest side of Baltimore (see map6 ). The stop on the B&O was later changed to St Denis.
Most of the line was built at grade level, there were few exceptions. One place was around the girder bridge at location #6, were they had to put fill in to cross the creek. Another place was at the Hillside "bump" (location G on my map), where the topography is considerably lower and they had to detour in closer to the ridge and put some fill in to level the route - driving by this location you will notice the road dipping a fair bit while the right-of-way stays above you, and crosses Hillside twice.
West of the Stevenson Station, hardly anything remains that gives a visitor the sense the a railroad ever existed.
A schedule of the branch is at: http://www.btco.net/ghosts/railroads/gs/grspsched.html
An interesting link I came by the other day: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_light_rail_systems_by_ridership
Also be sure to check out http://www.btco.net/ghosts/railroads/gs/Greenspring.html for additional photos of the Greenspring Branch.
Aerial shots come from www.bing.com/maps and the pictures were taken using Snagit.
A map of the line from 1860
This two section map shows you the proposed connecting track between Lake Roland and Towson (and the Ma & Pa)
This map was in a 1969 reprint by Baltimore County of original maps from 1877
Toddo here colored the map as a kid, and we grew up where the yellow dot is....
If you drive thru the area, notice the name of the land owners, and you'll realize where the some of the street names come from!
Originally called "Relay House", this is where the Green Spring Branch had its beginning once the mainline to York was built. At one time, there was a beautiful Station and Hotel located at the junction. In the bottom Snag, you can still make out the rail-trail right-of-way. The green line was the Northern Central's main line, and the yellow line is the branch.
2 Signal Bases
3 Remaining Track
Most of the remaining track leftover from the end of service was removed in the early 70's? For some unknown reason, this short section of maybe 300 feet of track was left, maybe the scrappers didn't deem it worthwhile for the amount of trouble they had to go to in order to get it, or maybe their truck was filled up and didn't feel this little bit wasn't worth coming back for... we'll never know! Photo by Adam Paul.
Various Culverts and "Bridges"
Mile Marker 1/7
5 Former Site of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum
The BSM's original's plan was to have the museum situated at Lake Roland. They moved the cars to the lake in the mid 60's, but by 1968, a local resident (Mr. Guntrum) on L'Hirondelle Club Road was well connected with people in the government and forced the BSM to move the cars out of the park, in fear of the noise that "might" be produced by having a museum located across the Falls from him. I was fortunate enough to have moved into the area the summer before the cars moved down to Falls Road, and snapped these 6 pictures in 1968 before and after the move. It's too bad they had to move, the site would have been ever so much nicer than where they are now, especially along the southern part where they would have been running along the water.
6 Girder Bridge
This is the only bridge remaining on the branch, and is at
mile 1.19. Photos are by Adam Paul. More of his
Green Spring Branch
http://www.btco.net/ghosts/railroads/gs/Greenspring.html and http://www.monumentalcity.net/railroads/greenspring/
7 the West End of the Rail Trail
Looking west from Brooklandville Fire Station - this is on private property
Looking east from the fire station, towards the JFX, I83
Looking west from the rail trail, the R-O-W was to the right of Falls Road
Looking west from the head of the rail trail, this and the next shot are from the same spot
Looking east (towards the main line) down the rail trail where trains once ran
You can just make out the dark cinder surface of the path through the bare trees from Falls Road
8 Last Business on the Green Spring Branch
When I first moved into Baltimore in 1966, there were still buildings here, too bad I didn't get pictures of them. This was the last major business to have rail service and gave the Green Spring Branch it's last breath of air.
B Bridge Abutment
Well covered by vines, even during the winter months, you can just barely make out the one abutment at this site for a bridge that went over a small feeder stream into the Jones Falls. It is adjacent to the SB entrance ramp of I-83.
Rockland (later changed to Brooklandville) was a hub of activity during the 1800's and early 1900's, with grist mill, blacksmith shop, and numerous rowhomes, with many of the old buildings surviving today. One of the mills still has an original (but non-functioning) water wheel in place (on the SW corner). The picture on the left shows a row of homes as I am driving SB on Falls Road before hitting the traffic light at Old Court / Ruxton Roads. The other two aerial shots show Rockland, and the close-up is of the mill. Before the Jones Falls Expressway (JFX) was built, Old Court Road used to come all the way across, now it ends on Ruxton Road at the top of the NB exit ramp off of the JFX, and continues west at the traffic light. A little bit of additional info is here.
9 Brooklandville Station
One of two surviving stations on the Green Spring Branch, it is at the corner of Falls and Hillside Roads.
Aerial shot with north on your right.
The Valley Inn, across Falls Road from the Brooklandville Station. It used to be a popular spot when the railroad ran.
Looking east from the corner of Falls and Hillside, away from the station.
Looking south on Falls Road, the station is to the right.
A small culvert going under the branch's tracks at the end of the platform along Falls Road.
C Bridge Abutments
This is the first set of small bridge abutments west of the Brooklandville Station, listed as bridge #3.81.
D Bridge Abutments
Being that everything is in sequential guide, this is the next set of small abutments, listed in other guides as bridge #4.21.
10 Rogers Station
Located just to the west of Greenspring Ave. If this is the remains of the station, it was probably just a covered shed type. And the concrete footers may have been for signals. The left photo is looking west towards Reisterstown Rd, and the right photo is looking east towards the Brooklandville Station.
E Bridge Abutments
This set of abutments is just west of the above location. The two photos on the right are views down the right of way, the one on the right is looking towards the Rogers station, and Greenspring Ave can be seen in the distance.
F Bridge Abutments
A pair "new" looking concrete abutments at Spring Ave, and two shots looking east, the middle photo is looking right down the middle of where the right of way used to be.... I'm guessing the house was around when trains went rambling by. From the air, you can't see any evidence of where the tracks used to be.
G Bridge Abutments
A pair of nice stone bridge abutments surviving just west of the street signs, up until maybe ten years ago, there used to be tracks crossing the pavement in the photo on the right, which is maybe 300-400 feet east of the abutments (in the picture we're looking west).
H Bridge Abutments
Just east of the Stevenson Station is another building that was probably around since the turn of the last century, complete with a small creek running under part of it, which is what this small bridge jumped over. There is also a short piece of rail sticking up out of the ground, held in firmly by the tree roots.
11 Stevenson Station
Last Updated: 05/19/2012