RAILFAN GUIDES of the U.S.
Todd's Railfan Guide to
Introduction to Railfanning Baltimore
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What to see in Baltimore
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I started this guide back in 2003 because there is definitely a lack of GOOD travel information relating specifically to the railfan. And, if it does exist, where do you go to find it? There are a few places you can go on the internet, but there's no consistency, and many go as quickly as they come. There's word-of-mouth, but it's slower than snail-mail, and often comes after you need it. So, what to do?
If you have any comments, contributions, addition, questions, whatever.......... http://www.railroadsignals.us/contact.htm
Resources - Don't leave home without them!.....
Here's a few things I recommend you take along to compliment my Guides and don't generally leave home without:
Maps..... See the next section.
GPS.... GPS units are nice to get you from one
place to another, as long as it is in their database, or you have an address for
it. However, and this is the big "gotcha", if you're looking for the
Drexel Hill trolley station on SEPTA's 101 line, good luck! That's why I
still carry maps with me.
An Amtrak timetable, unless you're railfanning a line not serviced by them (I still bring em along anyway).
The American Shortline Railway Guide by Edward A. Lewis (Kalmbach).
If you carry along a scanner, there is a website for railroad radio frequencies by Jon Roma, but he is not maintaining it. In these post 9/11 days, there is much pro and con discussion concerning the relative merits of being perceived as a terrorist threat if you have a scanner. Add to that, some states have laws preventing you from having portable scanners, such as Michigan and New Jersey. If you are a ham, one option available to you is to buy a two-meter HT that also covers the Hi-VHF band. I was lucky with two cops at the Plymouth Diamond in suburban Detroit.... they just threw my scanner into the trunk and let me off with a warning.
If you belong to AAA, they have pretty good guide books available with hotel info and other sights, altho the hotel information is limited to the ones they consider halfway worthwhile - rare is a listing for Motel 6.
Both Google Maps and Bing's Maps now have things like restaurants, KMarts, Walmarts, auto stores, and gas stations on their maps. I prefer Bing maps and their Birds Eye view to look for things before I go out, for it is better than the typical satellitte view available on both sights. I sometimes use Google's street level views to augment the birds eye view. If you use Mapquest for directions, just keep in mind that they can sometimes be misleading or take you out of the way.
Check Chamber of Commerce websites for hotel and motel info.
If you are going to be in Commuter Railroad
or transit company territory, be sure to check their websites for information,
Steam Productions has a series of regional map books. While they are good railroad map books, as they contain a lot of railroad route and yard info, they don't have any road or highway info on the maps. This makes them very difficult, if not impossible, to get around with them alone. Careful coordination with a regular map is necessary.
Maps - Don't leave home without them either.....
If you do a lot of traveling, I definitely recommend joining the AAA. They are an excellent source of "free" maps once you join (10 maps and you got your money back). Almost every map I've obtained from them (so far) has had the railroads on ‘em, and some of them even have yard names (Portland OR and Indianapolis IN for instance). With all the traveling I do, I find the $35 a year well worth the investment, if for nothing more than their maps. A large number of the local offices usually have the more obscure local maps available at no cost -- some are AAA maps, some are locally printed maps..... Even with the AAA, you still have to be careful, because they do distribute a few bummers as maps for the metro Boston, New York City and Philadelphia areas - they don't contain enough detail and they don't have any railroads on them. They even offer a five county combo map of Baltimore and the immediate surrounding counties, saving you quite a few bucks.
In the Baltimore area, I recommend the series of county map books put out by ADC (Alexandria Drafting Co). They can be found everywhere: 7-11s, Giant food stores, drug stores, etc. While I DO endorse their series of county map books, I DO NOT endorse their series of state map books - they lack railroad info.
Thomas Bros has recently entered the Baltimore market. Their map books are good, and even offer some topo info, heck, they even show the Tehachipi loop as a loop. Anyone from the LA area should already be familiar with them. However, I prefer the ADC books because they contain bigger pages, which means less page flipping and thinner books.
APB (Alfred B Patten) puts out a decent series of maps for the eastern PA area.
Geographica does the same for NJ and lower NY.
The Chicago Tribune puts out a nice map of the Chicago area,. Altho it doesn't have the smaller streets on it, I haven't really found that to be a problem, so far.
A newcomer I noticed at Sam's Club the other day......is a series of (topo) state map books by Coleman, they have railroads in ‘em.
Be careful with other maps! One I purchased recently for a city in Iowa, had the Wabash and all of the other 60's era railroad names on it. While this is nice for historical purposes, the other data on the map may not be current, either. Some maps don't have railroads on them at all, so check em out before you buy em.
In Defense Of Myself.....
It's my website, it's that simple, so I won't bore you with the details, you already know what I'm going to say.
I try to make my maps as accurate as I can. However, because things are always changing, a place that says it's a McDonalds may not be anymore, signals may have moved, or stations closed. If you have something to add or comment on, please let me know. Try to make the tone of your email nice.
So OK, What is there to see around Baltimore?
The Baltimore area has tons of other non-railroad stuff begging for your attention, if you have the time. Some of you might get your panties in an uproar because I'm covering non-railroad related material (as someone in the bio section doesn't like my bus section :-). But there are other things to do and see, especially if you are travelling with your family.
The Harborplace area -
with lotsa stuff to see, eat or whatever - within a short walking distance you have:
The Maryland Science Center.
The Baltimore Aquarium.
The USS Constellation, sister ship to the USS Constitution in Boston.
The USS Torsk, a WWII submarine.
The Light St and Pratt St Harborplace pavilions (eating and shopping).
The Hard Rock Cafe.
The Planet Hollywood (ooooops, I think they closed up!....oh well).
The ESPN Zone, it was the first one in the U.S. Sorry, it too closed in 2009
The World Trade Center, has a nice observation "deck" way up on the 23rd floor.
The Public Works Museum.
The Galleria (shopping).
Little Italy, on the other side of President St from Harborplace - has over 15 restaurants...... free parking is tough to find tho!.
Fells Point, many pubs and restaurants - go east on Pratt St and take a right at Broadway, can't miss it.
Greektown, in Highlandtown area, good eating - go east on Eastern Ave from Fells Point, and under the RR overpasses - near the Bayview Yards.
A Civil War era shot tower still stands across from the main PO at the Metro Shot Tower stop.
The Walters Art Gallery, is up Charles St about 11 blocks from Harborplace.
The Washington monument is next to the Walters Art Gallery, and it pre-dates the one in DC.
The Morris Mechanic and Center Stage theaters provide live theater and Broadway shows.
The Lyric Opera House (near Mt. Royal station) is home to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and other live music.
The Hampton Mansion in Towson, cool house, it's part of the National Park system.
The home of NBC's TV show Homicide, was down in Fells Point.
If you like malls, needles
to say, we got plenty of them too - most are in the burbs tho: Towson,
Whitemarsh, Owings Mills, Eastpoint, Security, Glen Burnie,
And last but not least.... Washington DC is less than an hour away from Baltimore. There is so much stuff down there to see that it would take up an entire guide the size of this one to cover it all. Of course.... you have the White House, the Smithsonian, the Air and Space Museum, oodles of monuments like the Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. There's Georgetown with its many watering holes and eateries, there's Old Town Alexandria, and our very own Six Flags amusement park. With all of these other things to do, you may never get to see another train if you come with your family.
FYI - The Baltimore area is home to:
The first railroad in the United States, the Baltimore and
Fort McHenry, where our national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key,
(the Key bridge, now you know where it got its name). *
Life-Like Models, you know, the Proto 2000 people - a little north of the streetcar museum on Falls Rd.
Black & Decker and DeWalt - now a subsidiary of Stanley Tools as of 2011 (in Towson).
McCormick spices (Hunt Valley).
Noxzema and Cover Girl cosmetics (Proctor and Gamble) - in Cockeysville,
Johns Hopkins Hospital / University and Applied Physics Laboratory,
(the hospital is consistently rated a leader in U.S. medicine) *
The national HQ for the NAACP.
Polk Audio (they're up near the Metro shops).
The Orioles baseball team and the Ravens football team along with our new twin stadiums. *
The first welded rail in the United States was laid on the B&O along I70 near Mt. Airy.
One of the more diverse transit systems in the U.S., with light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail, and busses. *
The national HQ for MCI is up in Hunt Valley.
Your Social Security headquarters is off Security Blvd in Woodlawn (exit 17).
Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore. *
Edgar Allen Poe was buried in Baltimore
they have nice Halloween night tours thru the cemetery, it's a real scream :-) *
What used to be the Westinghouse Defense Center (now Northrop/Grumman).
they brought you the first radar system ever, used in Hawaii in 1941.
(the one nobody paid any attention to during the attack on Pearl Harbor)
and the first TV cameras used on the moon in 1969.
* denotes things you can visit.