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Todd's Railfan Guide to
RUXTON and RIDERWOOD MD

A Northern Suburb in Baltimore County

In General
Sights
Light Rail
Floobydust

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In General

Ruxton and Riderwood are two historic communities in the north central part of Baltimore County, just north of the city-county line.  When there was precious little out in the suburbs of Baltimore back in the 1800's, these two areas sprang up as bedroom communities for the rich.  Ruxton was the original "rich" are of Baltimore County, and still retains a lot of that former affluence.

Although this part of Baltimore happens to be blessed with quite a variety of railroad "things", there is nothing here of any real interest to the "hardcore" railfan looking for mainline action - you will have to go downtown, or to the east or west of Baltimore for that.  The second railroad of Baltimore, the Northern Central, came through here in 1832 heading to York and Harrisburg.  They also built the Green Spring Branch, which the Western Maryland used in the beginning before they had their own route out of the city. 

The northern part of the light rail system runs right up the middle of the map, which was the original right-of-way of the Northern Central.  The original section which opened in 1990 and went to Timonium.  The extension went to Hunt Valley in 1996.  Any part of it that wasn't, was double tracked in 2005, and the old marble ties (stringers) were visible along the R-O-W.  Above Cockeysville, the R-O-W is now the NC hikey-bikey Trail, which is very popular with those types (sorry, nothing personal, as I take walks and hikes around the lake quite often).  The R-O-W splits off at Warren Rd., and other than the stub that is still there, not much remains visible.  NS trains stopped running when the light rail closed the track for the double tracking project at the beginning of 2005.  They applied for abandonment shortly thereafter.

Several old NC/PRR depots are still around to check out.  Riderwood is the only one in the neighborhood (about a quarter of a mile down the tracks from me), with the Ruxton station having been torn down in the early 1960's.  Lutherville, Greenspring, Stevenson, and Monkton are all fairly close - Three of them are used as homes, and anyone wishing to take pictures of them should respect the privacy of the homeowners!  Monkton serves as the HQ for the Trail.

Towson is to the east, Brooklandville is to the west, Lutherville, Timonium, Texas, Cockeysville, Hunt Valley, and Monkton are to the north, and Mt Washington and Lake Roland are to the south.  

Neither Ruxton nor Riderwood have a fire or police station located within.  The closest fire stations are Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company (330), Towson (station 1), and Brooklandville (station 14).  The closest police station, precinct 6, is in Towson.

FYI - I currently live in Riderwood, and grew up in Ruxton on L'Hirondelle Club Rd, and yes, there is actually a club (tennis) club on L'Hirondelle Club Rd, wanna guess the name of it? :-)

For more information:
http://www.hanoverjunction.net/stories/Riding_the_PRR.pdf



 


Sights


ex NC/PRR Riderwood Station

This station is privately owned.  The Riderwood Station is of a Frank Furness design.  The station was sold to the station operator in approximately 1964 after the Pennsy stopped running the Parkton Local.  Somewhere around 2002, the woman who owned it (the surviving widow of the station operator), decided to sell it.  I got a call while in Minneapolis on business from a fellow named Mr. Coale of the Ruxton-Riderwood Improvement Association asking me for help (don't know why he called me, or how he knew I had an interest in trains).  So I went to a monthly council meeting and petitioned Baltimore County to put it on their historical list, which didn't look good at the hearing, because the council was turning down similar requests.  But, it finally did make it onto the list, and the woman and her real estate agent got really pissed at me because the best offer they had gotten was from a real estate developer who wanted to tear it down and put up 4 or 5 houses on the acre and a half it sits on.  Score one for "us".  The house sold for $175K back in 2002, and recently sold for around $650K before the real estate bust.

 

 


ex NC/PRR Ruxton Station

The Ruxton station was torn down in the early 60's after passenger service ended in 1959, and an apartment building was put up in its place.   I cannot find any decent pictures of the Ruxton station, so far.  The train in the left picture below is using a diesel - you can also see a phone booth on the corner of the depot, which is not in the steam picture.  Maybe one day I will find a better picture of the station, showing how they squeezed four tracks in here - the picture appeared in the Sunpapers back in the late 60's.  The pavers used as the platform used to still be in place, I'll have to go by and see if they are still around.....

     


Light Rail


MP 525

Living next to the light rail can have its advantages.  During the blizzard of 1996, traffic went no-where for two days, so I called up Light Rail Control and had them stop behind my house at this milepost to pick me up for work.  Did this for two days.  If you read the Baltimore Light Rail section, you may remember I worked as an ET for them between 95 and 98.   Some of the operators will still blow the horn when they pass by and see me in the yard.

 

   A few winter shots from behind my house.

   Looking north towards Lutherville.  The jog in the track was/is for noise reduction for Thorton residents! :-)???

 


Double Tracking

Double tracking the north end of the light rail system started on January 1st, 2005, and took about a year.  During the construction time, the MTA used busses.  I bet a lot of the suburbanites drove their own car during that time! :-) 

Double tracking reduced the number of signals in the Ruxton-Riderwood area.  There was a NB signal next to the Riderwood post-office (bottom two pictures in the tunnel pics section below), and a SB signal just south of the tunnels that were removed (the signal you can see when looking thru the tunnels, with only one track before the double tracking project).  In addition, there were three signals used in the interlocking along Bellona Ave adjacent to Grauls that were removed because they were no longer needed.  Signals are no longer used as intermediate signals, especially since they have ATC installed on the cars.

As you can see from the map below, the north end had way more single track than the south end.  One reason for this may have been the fact that when the MTA took on the task of building the first section of light rail, which was the north section, they paid for it completely without federal funds for a couple of reasons.  One, it was quicker, and secondly, they didn't have to go through the environmental approval process required to get the federal money.  So they took shortcuts where they could, and one was to have a lot of single track.  One of my biggest beefs in the way they did things was to put TWO sets of poles on the line, instead of one down the middle.  Why would anyone who was thinking of saving money double the installation costs?  In addition, it saves in space needed to lay down the R-O-W, and anyone who has been behind the Riderwood post office knows what I mean, because they use hangers that span both tracks because it is so narrow there!



 



 

  Installing the catenary support brackets.

  Installing the catenary.

  Fine tuning the catenary.


the Riderwood Tunnels




Shooting thru the cab of a northbound train, just before going thru the tunnel.  You can just barely see the Riderwood station thru the left portal.


Looking southbound thru the tunnels, on 12/31/2004, the day before they shut down service on the "north end" to start the double tracking project.  The signal is no longer there.



  With my back to the tunnels.

  With my back to the tunnels.



Floobydust and History Section


From Alex Brougham's BULL SHEET from June 1994

The Baltimore & Susquehanna (1828-1854)
[By Allen Brougham] . . .

With this issue of the Bull Sheet, I take an opportunity to devote its feature material space to a central theme. The Baltimore & Susquehanna (a predecessor of the Northern Central) holds a very special place to me. I grew up along the line. By devoting it to the B&S, a two-fold purpose is served: First, this month marks the 35th anniversary of the last trip of the famed Parkton Local, a train I rode many times in its final two years of service. Second, on Saturday, June 4, the first mile and one-half segment of the York County Rail/Trail along the former B&S right-of-way in Pennsylvania will be dedicated.

The Baltimore & Susquehanna Railroad was chartered in 1828 and begun the following year to connect Baltimore with the Susquehanna River near York, Pennsylvania. It achieved that goal in 1840. It later completed construction to the area of Harrisburg, with work to build further, but in 1854 the company went bankrupt. It was then reorganized under the name of the Northern Central Railway, a line that eventually reached Lake Ontario at Sodus Point, New York. In 1914, the NCR became a part of the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad through a lease arrangement.

The dedication of the Baltimore & Susquehanna to this issue of the Bull Sheet is due to that line's geographical territory approximating the issue's interest scope. The ultimate Northern Central's territory was much larger, and the Pennsylvania's was larger yet. So while the names Northern Central and Pennsylvania do figure extensively in the articles that follow, it is actually the territory of the predecessor B&S that more directly intrigued my fancy as a kid growing up in Monkton.

Special thanks go to Robert L. Williams and Martin K. Van Horn for their assistance with material they provided for this issue.


The Parkton Local
[By Martin K. Van Horn] . . .

Mention the Northern Central Railway to any railfan or resident of north central Maryland who knows to which part of the Pennsylvania Railroad you refer, and several things come to mind: a railroad that dates from the primitive days of transport mode, operating on a roadbed that is less than 45% tangent track; a railroad that carried the Washington-to-Chicago first-class passenger traffic of the PRR; in later years, a nearly passenger-only railroad when that was the least lucrative part of railroad business; and, most of all, the Parkton Local and the self-propelled railcars that became synonymous with the name.

Not all Parkton Local trains were serviced by the "gas cars" - there were just as many locomotive-hauled trains. It was only in later years, when subsidized automobile competition on public highways cut deeply into revenues that the economical railcars replaced many locomotive-hauled trains to hold down operating costs.

In the early years, the Parkton Local was not even the Parkton Local; it was the Cockeysville Local. Many commuter runs operated between Calvert Station in Baltimore and the wye and terminal storage tracks that then existed at Cockeysville, while only two accommodation trains terminated at Parkton. In fact Cockeysville was 15 miles from Calvert Station, the same distance as Green Spring Junction on the Green Spring branch. An intensive commuter service thrived on this two-prong line in the years between the turn of the century and World War I. The seven miles from Calvert Station to Hollins at the southern tip of Lake Roland was thick with commuter trains. At Hollins, the Green Spring locals turned west and operated 8.6 miles over the single-track Green Spring branch to a junction with the Western Maryland Railway approximately one mile south of Owings Mills. The Cockeysville trains continued north on the double-track Northern Central mainline through Ruxton, Sherwood (Riderwood), Lutherville, and Timonium to their terminus.

One interesting tradition of the "Gilded Age" were the "Owl" trains, midnight commuter runs on the Main and Green Spring branch lines to take theatergoers back to their homes after the curtain had fallen.

Ruxton-Riderwood provided most of the business for the locals and some trains cut back at Riderwood through the agency of a mile-long siding central to both tracks that stretched back to Ruxton. It was possible to cross over and run around the cars of a train by means of this sidetrack thus reversing the train. Trains could be held on this siding, also, until the demands of the schedule required their reappearance on the mainline.

In the post-World War I period, the PRR, which had effected a 999-year lease of the Northern Central in 1914, lengthened the commutation district to Parkton. The PRR was possibly anticipating growth of the metropolitan area, and there were existing facilities for locomotive service and train storage at the Parkton yard. Eventually all local trains ran through to Parkton. In this same period, Green Spring local service declined sharply as state-built tax-supported roads replaced the dirt tracks of the 19th century. The Green Spring locals soldiered on in diminishing numbers until the onset of the Great Depression. The last run came on Thursday, August 17, 1933.

Surviving the doldrums of the Depression, the Parkton Local was given a new lease on life by the tire and gas rationing of World War II. (There is a lesson here for those who are farsighted enough to see the solution to the oil crisis, air pollution problems, and balance of payments due to foreign nations.) During this period, the "gas cars" were joined by pretty, high-wheeled "E" class Atlantic-type locomotives that had hauled the grand mainline express trains 30 to 40 years earlier. They typically hauled three or four P54 commuter coaches, which were identical to the MP-54 electric multiple-unit commuter cars used on the electrified PRR lines except for the lack of motors, controls, headlights, etc. They did have the distinctive porthole and windows the same as their electric cousins that gave them their nickname "Owl-face." A single P-54 would also serve as a trailer car for the self-propelled railcars. In the 1950's, diesel road-switcher type locomotives that could also be used for more lucrative freight business replaced the passenger steamers on the locals. The P54 coaches went elsewhere, and longer P70 coaches from mainline service came to serve the NC commuters.

The "gas cars" were always thus known, a short version of their real name: gas-electric cars. Later, the gas-car appellation continued after more efficient diesel engines had been installed and they had become "oil-electric" cars. In either case, the internal combustion engines, known as the prime mover, drove an electric generator which supplied 600 volts of direct current for electric traction motors geared to the wheels of the front truck. The cars were bidirectional when operated as single units, but the end with the engine, generator and motors was nominally the front. When hauling a trailer car, the trailer had to be turned at the end of the run so that the trainmen and passengers could pass from car to car without having to pass through the engine compartment.

Although the gas cars looked alike to the average layman, the fact that they were built at different times and rebuilt over the years meant that only small groups were identical or similar. For example, of the last three cars assigned to the Parkton Local in 1957, nbr. 4662 had a low-arch roof, two small Cummins diesel engines, and the trailer-end had no separate engineer's cab but rather the engineer had to occupy the platform in front of the passenger door. On the other hand, nbrs. 4666 and 4667 had high-arch roofs, one large Hamilton diesel engine and a separate engineer's cab on the extension of the rear platform. On these two "big" cars, the restroom was located on the opposite (left) side of the platform extension.

The Parkton Local operated with a "status quo" existence through the early 1950's, but the handwriting was on the wall. In fact, it was right outside the walls of Penn Station where the initial construction began on the Jones Falls Expressway. The PRR took immediate steps to discontinue the Parkton Local, knowing it would take some time to get the required permission from the Maryland Public Service Commission. There was strong and organized opposition to service cuts already being manifested by the Northern Central Railway Commuters Association. The PRR began a process whereby the costs of operating the Parkton Local were inflated by means of physical maneuvering and bookkeeping. The latter was easy: the diesel road switchers were used in freight AND commuter service, but ALL costs of operation were charged to the Parkton Local. One ploy that did not work was the attempt to cut service back to Glencoe. This would have eliminated some passenger revenue without any saving in operating costs since Glencoe had no turning facilities or storage yard and the trains would have had to have been deadheaded to Parkton anyway or brought all the way back to Baltimore empty. This attempt was made in 1957, and was rejected by the Public Service Commission.

It was well known by 1958 that the Parkton Local was on borrowed time. The PRR petitioned to discontinue service. After the usual hearing and testimony, permission was granted effective after the last trips on Saturday, June 27, 1959.









St. Johns Church



From Wikipedia:  St. John's Church is a historic A.U.M.P. Church located in Ruxton, Baltimore County, Maryland.  It was built in 1886 as a successor to the original log cabin church built on the site in 1833, and is a frame Carpenter Gothic-style gable-roofed structure with board-and-batten siding, stylized lancet windows and decorative detailing.  Also on the property is a 1 1/2 story stuccoed stone house, believed to date from about 1835, which was used as a parsonage and has suffered significant fire damage, and a simple frame rectangular social hall built about 1890.  The Black congregation that constructed this church was formed in the 1830s and they acquired this site in 1833.  According to its National Register listing, "St. John's Church is particularly important as an exceptional example of Black church building in the late 19th century."   Supposedly, the church is the oldest Black church in Maryland.








Disclaimers:

I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.  This is something I have fun with while trying to help others.  My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place.  There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages.  Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like.  I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion).  If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!  

My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.  Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.

By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous and/or other stuff.

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! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.

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