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Baltimore & Ohio Railroad / Western Maryland Railway
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Baltimore & Ohio Railroad / Western Maryland Railway
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Hancock "HO" Tower (W.Va.)

We visited the old Baltimore & Ohio mainline from Martinsburg to Cumberland. Stops were made at Hancock Tower (West Virginia) and the Magnolia Cut-off, with extensive time spent between Paw Paw and Magnolia (WV).
 
There is no better place to photograph the old B&O than this portion of the system. This line has everything. Heavy traffic, CPL's, tunnels, bridges and spectacular scenery. See map below.
 
Hancock (HO) tower on the old Cumberland Subdivision is still operational (2005) with a "CPL" signal bridge guarding eastbounds.
 
 
At Hancock (HO) tower, the time honored tradition of controlling rail movements through mechanical interlocking, has been a practice largely unchanged over the last century. When originally constructed, the tower, pipelines, cranks, turnouts, locks and Armstrong levers represented modern technology. While visiting the "first trick" operator at Hancock tower, we had the opportunity to operate the Armstrong levers to realign the main, after a local was marked "OS" (On Sheet) down the Berkeley Springs branch.
 
The U.S. Silica complex at Berkeley Springs is located on a branch joining the main line and small yard at Hancock (milepost BA123.1).  From here, the line heads west through mountainous country accessible only by WV-9 and gravel roads.

Jon & Josh visit "HO" Tower
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Hancock Tower
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Inside "HO" Tower with Armstrong levers & Interlocking board (2005)

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CSX #405 & unit (eastbound coal drag)
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Hancock "HO" Tower (August 16, 2005)

Leaving Hancock and arriving at Paw Paw (WV), we walked the mainline (east) toward Carothers Tunnel (on the Magnolia Cut-off). The abandoned "Low Line" roadbed is visible, just to the north of the current mainline. Back in the car, we continued driving east for a few miles on back roads until reaching Magnolia (population 8). At this location, the "Low Line" crossed beneath the massive Magnolia Cut-off bridge, which ran from West Virginia, crossing the Potomac River into Maryland (through Graham Tunnel). The scenery is breathtaking!

Trivia?
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The town of "Paw Paw" derived its name from the "paw paw" fruit, which has a taste similar to a mango and banana. It is the largest edible fruit native to the United States, which grows in abundance in this section of West Virginia.

Carothers Tunnel (West Portal)
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Paw Paw, West Virginia

Carothers Tunnel (west portal)
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Paw Paw, West Virginia

B&O Milepost (abandoned "Low Line")
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Two sided (Baltimore & Washington)

Stuart Tunnel
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Looking west (Magnolia is around the bend)

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Josh & Signal Box (B&O Emblem)
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Just east of Carothers Tunnel

Under the massive B&O bridge crossing the Potomac River at Magnolia, is the roadbed of the former "Low Line" abandoned since 1961. Almost completely covered in the foliage was a concrete milepost. See photo at left.
 
If you walked on the "Low Line" following the river (eastbound) for about a mile, you crossed under the abandoned Western Maryland mainline between Hagerstown and Cumberland.

Jon (eastbound CPL)
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Magnolia (W.Va.)

B&O Mainline (crossing the Potomac River)
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Magnolia looking west into Maryland and Graham Tunnel

CPL indicates "Highball"
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CSX eastbound at Magnolia

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Abandoned Western Maryland Bridge
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Potomac River (near Magnolia)

The Magnolia Cut-off (known as the “High Line”) was opened in late 1914. It was built to relieve congestion on the railroad’s “East End” and provide a shorter, easier route for freight traffic. While the original main ("Low Line") continued to follow a serpentine path along the south bank of the Potomac River (providing scenic beauty for passenger service), the Magnolia Cut-off formed a direct passage by cutting through the mountains (with four tunnels) and crossing the river and original “Low Line” twice.

 

The "High Line" and "Low Line" split west of Doe Gully (east of Randolph Tunnel) and rejoin as a single mainline just west of Paw Paw (milepost 149). 

Milepost

122.9

Location

Hancock (“HO” Tower)

125.2

Grasshopper

126.6

Ambrose

128.6

Sir Johns Run

130.5

Dry Wall

132.5

Great Cacapon

134.8

Sideling Hill

136

Turkey Foot Curve

139.4

Orleans Road

141.5

Doe Gully

143.6

Hansrote

145.5

Magnolia

147.1

Carothers

147.9

Paw Paw

149

End Magnolia Cut-off

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After finishing the B&O at Magnolia, we headed toward Cumberland to visit the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Even though the railroad was not running, we were able to see #734 (2-8-0) and #501 (GP30) sitting in the Ridgeley (WV) yards. A small service area is all that remains of the old Western Maryland.

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Click Here for Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
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#734 2-8-0 and #501 GP30 at Ridgeley Yards (August 16, 2005)

The 4-8-4 steam locomotive was the ultimate design for modern passenger and fast freight service. The Northern Pacific Railway pioneered two super-power locomotive designs, the 4-8-4 "Northern" in 1926 and the 2-8-8-4 "Yellowstone" in 1928, both to eliminate the need for smaller, double-heading locomotives on passenger and freight trains. The American Locomotive Company (Alco) in Schenectady (NY) produced these locomotives. Many railroads soon followed.
 
The Western Maryland took delivery of twelve 4-8-4's in 1947 from the Baldwin Locomotive Works. The twelve Class J-1 "Potomacs" (#1401-#1412) were strictly designed for freight service with 69" drivers, 26.5 x 32 cylinders, a boiler pressure of 225 psi, a weight of 506,500 pounds and a tractive effort of 70,600 pounds. The "Potomacs" could operate at 70 mph between Hagerstown (MD) and Lurgan (PA), handling up to 144 cars on level track.
 
The "Potomacs" worked both fast freights and as pushers, moving large manifests west of Hagerstown (MD) over Williamsport Hill. These fine locomotives, along with the 2-10-0's, 4-6-6-4's and 2-8-0's, contributed to Western Maryland's reputation for moving more tonnage per mile than any "Class 1" railroad during the 1940's and 1950's. Sadly, these beautiful locomotives were all gone by 1954.

End of an Era (January, 1956)
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Western Maryland "Potomac" #1401 in scrap yard (Baltimore, MD)

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