Greg’s Lens: Railroads of Maryland Volume 1


Railroads of Maryland
Volume 1

My name is Greg Primrose and I am a photographer, railfan and moderator at I have been given permission to publish some articles on It is my hope to bring some articles to to discuss locations for railroad photography and techniques to obtain the best pictures. I do not profess to be an expert, but I have learned much since I began in 2006. 🙂

For my first column, I would like to highlight something I just finished, something I have wanted to do for a while. I completed a calendar using 12 of my favorite photographs. I have decided to write my first column to give some details on the locations I visited.

My calendar has been published by and can be seen here.

One note before I begin. When I discuss “good photo opportunities” I am referring to the sun light shining to illuminate the front of the train.  Other lighting conditions may be possible, but for our discussion we will focus light that illuminate the front of the train.

January’s photo was taken at St. Denis. St. Denis is a small community south of Baltimore right off I-195 and a favorite location of mine. St. Denis is where the Old Main Line subdivision meets the Capital Subdivision as both head towards Baltimore. In the photo, the train is heading south towards Washington DC. St. Denis is also a MARC station, and a true gem of Baltimore rail fanning. The community includes many retired B&O workers and is very safe. St. Denis provides year round photo opportunities.

February takes us north to Lansdowne Interlocking in the southwest Baltimore community of Lansdowne. The interlocking brings 4 tracks down to 2 looking northbound. Ever since I saw this in 2004, I knew I wanted a photo. Lansdowne is a safe area, but parking is limited. Trains do tie down here as the CSX Baltimore Division office is just down the road, so photos may be obstructed at times.

March brings a return to St. Denis. In this photo, a morning MARC train heads towards Baltimore. The Camden line hosts MARC service during rush hours only. On the Camden line trains run with the engine facing north in the AM and the cab car facing south in the PM most of the time. I was  later informed the engineer in this photo is retiring from MTA Maryland. I do wish him an enjoyable retirement.

April takes us north to the Baltimore Belt Line (CSX Baltimore Terminal) in the area of North Ave and Mt. Royal. This was once a mega center of railroading. The train here is crossing the Jones river, at one time the Northern Central railroad traveled under this bridge, as did the Maryland and Pennsylvania railroad. Today the Baltimore light rail operates over the NCR and the Ma&Pa exists only in memory, although the Baltimore Street Car museum is a fun site to visit located on the old right of way.  In a tunnel under Mt. Royal, Amtrak trains run daily. Photos in this location are generally possible year around, but the photographer should be cautious when walking and waiting.

May captures a rare sight; a P42 pulling an Amtrak Regional under wire. I don’t know why this happened, but I was very lucky to be there that day, and have the clouds part just enough. This location is the Havre de Grace Water Front. Havre de Grace is the last exit before the Susquehanna river bridge on I-95. The best photos at this location are had during the winter, spring and fall months, as the sun angles become too harsh during the summer. The catch-22 here is that the parking on the water front is also used by a local eatery and may be full around meal times.

June heads back south to Relay. Relay is a small community just south of St. Denis. The actual split of the Capital and Old Main Line subs is seen here.  This train is carrying coal headed for Baltimore and is on the Old Main Line. Due to the inability to access the other side of the track legally, this is not a year around location. It can be photographed during the spring, summer and fall.

July jumps back north to Edgewood. Located right next to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Edgewood MARC station is on a hard north-south gradient. Access to both sides of the track allows year round photography of south bound trains, but during the summer months, a trip in the very early AM allows north bound trains to be photographed. Getting to Edgewood from Baltimore by 7:30am is not an easy task, when you don’t usually wake up till 10am.

August is the last of our north bound treats. CSX has begun replacing the B&O Color Position Signals with their own signaling system. I decided to capture these signals before they are destroyed. This is Dorsey MARC station in Dorsey, Maryland, near Fort Meade. Dorsey is really only interesting in the summer. There are no visible signals for south bounds, and north bounds are back-lit except during the summer mornings and evenings.

September has cooled down and the Baltimore Ravens are on the radio. I decided to take my laptop and air card and set up here at Todds Lane crossing in Rosedale MD. The cat tails indicate the closeness to the water. I sat in my car for about 3 hours as the Raven’s fought it out with the Buffalo Bills. Just as the Ravens at the last minute pulled out a win, as the sun was getting ready to set, this train began whistling for the crossing.

October is here. Fall is my favorite season as a rail fan. Fall is also the time I highball it away from Baltimore. Baltimore just doesn’t have the fall foliage that western Maryland does. From the MD-17 bridge in Brunswick we can see Brunswick yard. This is a great location for trains; lots of action, safe, good photos, good light, and plentiful parking…unless it’s a week day. Beware that you may not find parking anywhere good on the weekdays. Also note that train movements may foul the crossing for extended periods. I once watched a train foul the crossing for 45 minutes as it negotiated through the yard tracks, then had to back up to go down a different track. Brunswick is an active yard; for safety, do not trespass. CSX police and the town don’t seem to mind railfans parking and watching, let’s keep it that way by respecting CSX’s property.

November brings us back to Baltimore. After enjoying another Raven’s game in St. Denis, I head north to Monroe Street. I hear the train whistling and break out into a sprint, running up to the top of the bridge and getting my camera out in just enough time. Monroe Street is chain link fenced to keep jumpers from jumping onto the tracks, but it is possible to photograph through the chain link. This location with Baltimore in the background will always be an afternoon photo location.

December concludes our journey. The Thomas Viaduct is the first curved multi-span brick railroad bridge in America. It was needed for the Capital Subdivision to cross the Patapsco River heading south. This photo was taken from Lawyers Hill Road. There is a small shoulder to park on and cyclists will pass frequently, as the hill is a popular location for them. The spot is also located on a hairpin curve, so when entering or exiting the spot or your vehicle, caution is advised.

I hope you have enjoyed this commentary on the 12 photos presented in Railroads of Maryland Volume 1. I hope to bring you more photographic commentary in the future.