Sunday, May 15, 2016

Amtrak's Wilmington Shops and the Northeast Corridor

In 1977 the Chessie System railroad (now a part of CSX) celebrated the sesquicentennial of its component Baltimore and Ohio Railroad by operating a set of steam excursions featuring ex-Reading Railroad T-1 2101. One of the excursions ran from Washington DC to Pittsburgh with an overnight in Cumberland, Maryland on May 28 and 29, 1977. Rather than riding the excursion, friends Steve Gregory, Andrew Fox, Steve Roberts, Gill Norman and I planned to photograph it enroute over the two days. We decided to spend the day before exploring the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Wilmington, Delaware. This article is about that day, May 27, 1977.

Metroliner along the Corridor, south of Baltimore
Unlike some of my later trips, I have no notes about this one. As a result I write this from memory -- some triggered by pictures.

Conrail freight south of Baltimore
As I recall we had motel rooms in Alexandria, Virginia and left from there first thing in the morning in two cars, one of which was my navy blue 1972 Volvo 142. We made several stops along Conrail's Northeast Corridor to photograph Amtrak trains and others before arriving at the B&O Museum in Baltimore (near the present-day Camden Yards.) The impressive indoor portion of the museum was housed in a large roundhouse, Equally impressive were the huge steam locomotives housed outside.

Historic locomotives in the B&O Museum

A Chesapeake & Ohio Hudson outside of the B&O Museum
Steve Roberts worked for Amtrak and had arranged for us to be able to visit Amtrak's shops in Wilmington, Delaware. So that was our next stop. After checking in, with hard hats in hand, we pretty much had the run of the place. We saw Raymond Loewy designed GG1 locomotives, perhaps the most beautiful electric locomotives ever design. These were the workhorse of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central, New Jersey Transit, Conrail and Amtrak until they were eventually all retired (the last one a mere six years after our visit.) We saw Alco and EMD switchers, and Metroliners in various stages of repair.

GG1 4962 at Wilmington

GG1 903 under active repair

A wider view of GG1 903
GG1 and friends out in the elements
GG1 dominates this picture from within the shop building
It's not all are some Metroliners under repair
The shop's transfer table
Amtrak Alco RS-3 switchers
The five friends with two new ones
After a great stay at the shops we headed to Harve de Grace, Maryland where spent a long interlude shooting trains as they crossed the Susquehanna Bridge from Perryville, Maryland. Great action including trains pulled by GG1s, E-60s, E-44s, Metroliners, and more.

A freight crossing the Susquehanna Bridge 
GG1 pulls an Amtrak train southbound over the Susquehanna Bridge

An E60CP pulls an Amtrak train southbound over the Susquehanna Bridge
Eventually, as the sun got lower, we left Harve de Grace and headed back to Alexandria stopping near Baltimore for dinner before turning in early to be prepared for the long chase to Cumberland the next day.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting point:
    Shot #8 ("GG1 and friends...") actually features not a GG1, but the elusive "GG-1/2", a "half a GG1" rebuilt from wrecked 4846, that was used as a shop switcher and snow-blower around the shops.
    Also, I suspect the Metroliners seen were being heavily rebuilt at the time of your visit, adding the "RDC-like" humps seen on later Metroliners in operation, among a multitude of other modifications that kept some of them alive into the mid-1980s.