Along the Old Main No.19 - Ilchester Bridge and Tunnel
...or They came, they saw, they graffiti'd.
The historic Old Main Line, built by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and now part of CSX, follows the craggy
valley of the Patapsco River from Relay, just outside Baltimore, to Point of Rocks in Frederick County, Maryland.
The single-track line, with passing sidings to allow train traffic in both directions, runs mainly on embankments along the river, (*) but it does cross the river near Ellicott City via the Ilchester Bridge at the western portal of Ilchester Tunnel.
As can be seen, the bridge, built in 1902, was once double-tracked.
As any train photog can attest, unless shooting along a busy, heavily traveled mainline, a prime requisite is patience. Sometimes, LOTS of it! This was one such occasion. Fortunately, this June 2021 afternoon was sunny, with low humidity and pleasant temperatures, which made the multi-hour "stakeout" easy enough, as I spent the first few hours on a pedestrian suspension bridge over the river, looking upstream at the railroad bridge and hoping for that first audible hint of multiple heavy diesel-electric locomotives at work.
Then, after being told by a local with whom I'd been chatting that I may have parked in a spot known for towing, I made haste back to my car, which was close by the railroad bridge, Seeing several others parked in the location, I concluded I'd have plenty of warning should the first hint of diesel engine be that of a tow truck! Plus, there were lots of opportunities to photograph kayakers on the river, bathed in the golden light of late afternoon, while remaining vigilant and in clear sight of my car!
Before long, though, the waning sunshine was by now painting the upper elevations and beginning to leave the valley in shadow. So I found a trail leading up to the high ground on the opposite side of the bridge from the tunnel portal, hoping there might be a chance for some head-on shooting, as a locomotive poked its nose out of the tunnel and the train rumbled across the bridge.
Still idyllic - nothing but golden late day sunshine, a still hopeful photog, and a ton of
not terribly tasteful graffiti, spread out over the bridge and a nearby signal bungalow...
Oh, well, perhaps another time, the photographer thought, as he trundled down the hill, back to his car
to enjoy the Italian submarine sandwich he'd packed in the cooler, before heading back to northern Virginia.
Just then, a welcome distant rumble, followed by the crescendo of
prime movers and traction motors playing that rhapsody we so love. (**)
So glad I brought my patience along.
©2022 Steve Ember