“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Bethesda in Montgomery County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

The Georgetown Branch Railroad

The Georgetown Branch Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Fuchs, January 21, 2006
1. The Georgetown Branch Railroad Marker
Inscription.  The Capital Crescent Trail follows the route of an old railroad line called the Georgetown Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O). It's all that remains of an unrealized attempt by the B&O to construct a major rail link between the Baltimore-Washington area and southern states. Had it been successfully developed, this part of the Washington area might look very different today.

In the late 1880s, the B&O was eager to capture more business in southern states but lacked a good Potomac River crossing and rail connections. The Pennsylvania Railroad, a major competitor also wanting more southern business, had restricted access to its bridge and rail links. B&O devised a plan to build a rail line to connect its Metropolitan Branch line in Silver Spring, Maryland to northern Virginia by bridging the Potomac near Chain Bridge and linking up with the southern lines at Fairfax Station and at Quantico.

In the early 1900s the railroad competitive atmosphere stabilized somewhat, and the B&O was able to use the Pennsylvania Railroad's route through Washington into Virginia, eliminating the need for a separate and costly B&O line. The
The Georgetown Branch Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Fuchs, January 21, 2006
2. The Georgetown Branch Railroad Marker
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proposed bridge and Virginia section were never built. After overcoming financial difficulties in the 1890s, the B&O completed the line from Silver Spring to Georgetown in 1910 and named it the Georgetown Branch.

The single-track Georgetown Branch was never intended to carry passengers but did a fair business hauling freight-mainly coal to Georgetown and building supplies to Chevy Chase and Bethesda. Demand declined steadily after World War II and few trains ran on the line after 1980. The B&O was taken over by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1963, which in turn was acquired by the CSX Corporation in the 1980s. The last train on the Georgetown Branch ran in 1985 and CSX sought to abandon the line in 1986. Local interest in preserving the corridor led to its development as the Capital Crescent Trail, a rails-to-trails project.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. In addition, it is included in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1910.
Location. 38° 58.803′ N, 77° 5.79′ W. Marker is in Bethesda, Maryland, in Montgomery County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Bethesda Avenue and Woodmont Avenue, on the right when traveling east. Marker is approx. 350 feet south from where the trail crosses Bethesda
Metropolitan Western Railroad Plan image. Click for full size.
3. Metropolitan Western Railroad Plan
Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 4800 Bethesda Avenue, Bethesda MD 20814, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. We Drivers! (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Madonna of the Trail (approx. 0.3 miles away); In Loving Memory of Robert W. Lebling (approx. 0.3 miles away); Five Points, historic crossroads (approx. 0.3 miles away); Looking North up Wisconsin Avenue at Old Georgetown Road in 1940 (approx. 0.4 miles away); The First Building for the Bethesda Fire Department (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Bank of Bethesda Building (approx. 0.4 miles away); Old Georgetown Road (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bethesda.
Also see . . .
1. The Capital Crescent Trail. (Submitted on January 25, 2006.)
2. Impossible Challenge: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Maryland. 1979 book by Herbert H., Jr. Harwood on (Submitted on April 4, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.) 

3. Impossible Challenge II: Baltimore to Washington and Harpers Ferry from 1828 to 1994. 1994 book by Herbert H. Harwood on (Submitted on April 4, 2008, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.) 
Additional commentary.
1. Transcription of Time Line on Marker

1888 — B&O Railroad developed the concept of creating a railroad line that would connect its Metropolitan Branch with two Virginia lines, crossing the Potomac River near Chain Bridge. Georgetown Barge, Dock, Elevator and Railway Co. formed in Georgetown.

1889 — The Washington and Western Maryland Railroad formed for the section from Delacarlia
Crescent Trail Map image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Fuchs, January 21, 2006
4. Crescent Trail Map
to the Aqueduct Bridge.

1890 — The Metropolitan Southern subsidiary of the B&O Railroad formed for the Maryland section, and the Metropolitan Western subsidiary formed for the Virginia section. One mile section of rail completed from Rock Creek to the Aqueduct Bridge.

1891 — The B&O Railroad takes over the Georgetown Barge, Dock, Elevator & Railway Co.

1892 — Two miles of track laid from the junction with the B&O Metropolitan Branch in Linden to Chevy Chase, including the 1400 foot-long wooden trestle over Rock Creek.

1895 — The Arizona Avenue trestle is built over Canal Road and the C&O Canal.

1904 — The Rock Creek trestle is rebuilt and shortened by 281 feet in length by adding fill on either end.

1906 — Plans for a crossing of the Potomac River near Chain Bridge and connection with railroad lines in Virginia is abandoned.

1909 — Metropolitan Southern Railroad completes additional 4.5 miles from Chevy Chase to the District line, including Delacarlia Tunnel.

1910 — Georgetown Branch is completed and operated by the B&O Railroad.

1914 — Tracks temporarily extended across Rock Creek to bring limestone for the construction of the Lincoln Memorial.

1928 — Rock Creek trestle rebuilt again, reinforced with steel girders on the central
Looking South Towards the Bradley Boulevard Bridge image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tom Fuchs, January 21, 2006
5. Looking South Towards the Bradley Boulevard Bridge

1942 — A flood washes railroad cars into the Potomac River in Georgetown.

1967 — Major fire burns portion of Rock Creek trestle.

1972 — Rock Creek trestle rebuilt after damage by hurricane Agnes.

1980 — CSX Corporation formed and absorbed the Chessie System railroads, which had taken over the B&O Railroad in 1963.

1985 — Last train runs on the Georgetown Branch.

1986 — Application is filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) for abandonment of the Railroad.

1988 — ICC issues a certificate of Interim Trail Use for the Montgomery County section.
    — Submitted January 24, 2006.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 26, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 24, 2006, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. This page has been viewed 3,218 times since then and 92 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on January 24, 2006, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.   3. submitted on January 25, 2006, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.   4, 5. submitted on January 24, 2006, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.

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Mar. 28, 2023