Wednesday, June 3, 2020
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Manassas, VA (West Street)

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Manassas, Virginia is a town full of history. For those interested in Civil War history, several major civil war battles were fought in and near the town. Manassas National Battlefield Park is north of the town and a great historic site.

The town is serviced by Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Amtrak. Norfolk Southern owns the railroad between Alexandria and Manassas. In the past, there was a coal-fired power plant in Alexandria that received coal via Norfolk Southern, but the plant has since been closed.

Manassas is a great summertime weekday trip. Several VRE trains come into the city throughout the evening, and you will see at least one Amtrak regional. Consult the VRE timetable for the Manassas line and Amtrak.com for specific times.

Ample street parking can be found around the train station, located at 9431 West St, Manassas, VA 20110.

Perryville, Maryland (Marc Station)

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The Perryville Marc Station is the far end of the MARC Penn Line. Located across the Susquehanna River, the station has a small parking lot. As MARC line traffic increases, railfans may find the weekend a better option for visiting here.

Late spring, summer, and early fall afternoons will provide the best lighting, as only the west side of the station is accessible. DO NOT attempt to access the east side of the tracks!

Amtrak trains will pass the station at high speed, so extreme caution is advised for railfans visiting. A mix of Acela and Northeast Regional can be seen. MARC trains will block your view of the tracks but they will depart once they unload and load. Norfolk Southern’s Port Road Branch meets the Northeast Corridor here, with the station sitting in the middle of the wye.

Visitors interested in visiting the station via MARC or shooting MARC can visit the MARC Penn Line site for timetable information.

GPS Coordinates: 39°33’29.9″N 76°04’26.3″W

Also, consider a visit to the Perryville Train Museum. This museum is located in the station building.

Relay, MD (Lawyer’s Hill Road)

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Lawyers Hill Road in Relay Maryland has a turn that provides great views of southbound trains on the Thomas Viaduct. The Thomas Viaduct carries the CSX Capital subdivision between Baltimore and Washington DC.

For the best lighting, spring and fall are your best bets. Summer and winter will put the sun at odd angles, although in winter, a small 1 hour or so window exists early in the morning between approx 7 and 8 am.

Location: Relay MD. GPS Coordinates: 39°13’12.2″N 76°42’48.4″W

Safety Notice: Lawyers Hill Road is an active road. It is not recommended to park a car in the turnout. This may attract the attention of the police. Consider hiking or using a bicycle in combination with a scanner.

Baltimore, Maryland (South Monroe Street)

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South Monroe street crosses the CSX Mainline into Baltimore and provides a great photographic opportunity. You can capture some old school Baltimore industry, some of the city skyline, and even a peek at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The photo location is on the bridge, located at: 39°16’15.5″N 76°38’10.8″W. Parking is not possible on the bridge. Use Wicomico Street for street parking on the west side of the bridge.

Challenges: The bridge has a chain-link fence that you will need to press your camera up against to shoot through.

Safety: The area is industrial and busy during the week, but can be dead on the weekends.

Special Consideration: During Orioles and Raven’s home games, parking is VERY difficult to find in this area. If you are set on doing this during a Ravens or Orioles home game, I recommend taking the light rail to Hamburg Street and using a bicycle.

Impossible Shots Collection: The shot pictured is partially impossible to recreate. Several years after taking, CSX removed the B&O signals pictured and replaced them with CSX’s standard signal system. All other aspects of this photo can be recreated.

Baltimore, Maryland (North Ave)

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There is a lot of railroad history here. on the west side of the Jones Falls, the Baltimore Light Rail, which follows the right of way of the old Northern Central railroad breaks off and heads into the city to begin street running. On the east side of the river, the Baltimore Street Car museum and long lost right of way of the MD&PA railroad. Underneath you is the Amtrak mainline between Washington and New York.

You are looking at the Baltimore BeltLine, which leads to the Howard Street Tunnel. The single track Baltimore Belt Line serves as a bottleneck for freight and many proposals are discussed for expanding it.

The avid railfan can exit the light rail at North Ave and walk up to North Ave and take a photo. To date, the bridge still has favorable photographic conditions (lack of chain link fencing). A small parking lot is available at North Ave. Spring and fall after 1pm is the best time to visit this location. This location is challenging due to timing of trains and parking.

GPS Coordinates: 39°18’40.0″N 76°37’17.1″W

Safety Note: Railfans should exercise caution if visiting this area. Recommendations include traveling in groups if possible and keeping cameras hidden until needed. Maintain situational awareness at all times. The use of a scanner is highly recommended to determine when trains are coming. Set your scanner to scan all railroad frequencies or consult Radio Reference for specific frequencies.

Relay, Maryland (Winter Visit)

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Relay is a small town south of Baltimore near BWI. Many may know it as Saint Dennis, but it’s actually right next to Saint Dennis. Relay is where the CSX Capital subdivision and the CSX Old Main Line subdivision meet. From the perspective of the railfan, the Old Main Line (OML) will be closest to the road and the Capital Subdivision the two tracks farthest from the road. Railfans can expect to see a good variety of trains here. Maryland Area Rail Commuter (MARC) passenger trains run only during morning and evening rush hours. The Capital Subdivision hosts the Juice Train from Florida, auto-racks, and other mixed freight. The OML hosts mix freight, auto-racks, and coal.

Relay is an enjoyable location for train watching. Another post discusses Relay in the summer, this will discuss the winter. In the winter, it is possible to photograph trains as they make the turn out of Saint Dennis going south in the afternoon. You are most likely to encounter trains headed for the OML on the track closest to the road.

Relay MD can be located by searching Google Maps for “Relay Maryland” or using these GPS coordinates: 39°13’27.6″N 76°42’33.2″W

The area is safe and railfans are a common sight. Be careful of straying too far off the road as the railroad runs right up against the road and trespassing is a crime.

Relay, Maryland (Summer Visit)

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Relay is a small town south of Baltimore near BWI. Many may know it as Saint Dennis, but it’s actually right next to Saint Dennis. Relay is where the CSX Capital subdivision and the CSX Old Main Line subdivision meet. From the perspective of the railfan, the Old Main Line (OML) will be closest to the road and the Capital Subdivision the two tracks farthest from the road. Railfans can expect to see a good variety of trains here. Maryland Area Rail Commuter (MARC) passenger trains run only during morning and evening rush hours. The Capital Subdivision hosts the Juice Train from Florida, auto-racks, and other mixed freight. The OML hosts mix freight, auto-racks, and coal.

Relay is an enjoyable location for train watching, and during the summer period, it provides some unique photographs. During a brief period from late May to early July, the morning sun gets high enough in the sky that it is possible to photograph northbound trains with proper lighting. In addition to a brief period during the year, railfans will only have a few hours during the morning before the sun moves across the tracks and backlights the trains.

Relay MD can be located by searching Google Maps for “Relay Maryland” or using these GPS coordinates: 39°13’27.6″N 76°42’33.2″W

The area is safe and railfans are a common sight. Be careful of straying too far off the road as the railroad runs right up against the road and trespassing is a crime.