Rails, trails and Georgetown Junction

milepost 0.0 on Talbot Ave.(Future) Capital Crescent Trail milepost 0.0 stands alongside Talbot Avenue in Rosemary Hills, near the Rosemary Hills Elementary School. The CSX railroad Metropolitan Branch rail line runs in a cut on the other side of the milepost. There is nothing within sight of milepost 0.0 that remotely looks like the Capital Crescent off road trail.

The (Future) Capital Crescent Trail milepost 0.31 stands five blocks to the west of milepost 0.0 at an obscure trailhead on the south side of Stewart Avenue near Brookville Road, in an industrial park. The off road interim CCT to Bethesda begins there. So why does the off road trail begin at milepost 0.31 and not at milepost 0.0?

trailhead at Stewart Ave.

The Interim CCT trailhead and milepost 0.31 at Stewart Ave.

There are three points of interest to the rail and trail history in this area:
1) Where the off road Interim CCT begins, at Stewart Ave,
2) Where the portion of the Georgetown Branch corridor that is owned by Montgomery County begins, and
3) Where the Georgetown Branch corridor begins at “Georgetown Junction”.

map of Georgetown Branch at east end

1) Interim CCT begins; 2) County owned part of the r.o.w. begins, and
3) Georgetown Junction, where the Georgetown Branch corridor begins.
(Click on this image for a larger view.)

The existing off road Interim CCT begins at Stewart Avenue because that is the most eastern point in the Georgetown Branch corridor that the County owns and that has public street access, shown at 1) in the image above. The County owns the corridor right-of-way to a point about 450 feet east of Stewart Avenue, shown at 2) above. But that point is at a dead end behind several small business warehouses. The Georgetown Branch rail corridor continues another 1200 feet beyond where the County owned section ends, around a curve behind the industrial area and then alongside the west side of the Metropolitan Branch railroad corridor to Talbot Avenue and “Georgetown Junction”, shown at 3) above. The old railroad spur to Georgetown enters the Metropolitan Branch rail corridor at Georgetown Junction, and switches into the west side main line track under the Talbot Avenue Bridge. The (Future) CCT milepost 0.0 is located precisely at Georgetown Junction. Note: I am using the 1918 Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company Right-of-Way and Track Map drawings, annotated in 1988 to list the portion purchased by Montgomery County in that year, as a source.

Georgetown Junction

The Georgetown Branch rail corridor begins at “Georgetown Junction”, which can be seen looking north from the Talbot Avenue Bridge. Talbot Avenue and milepost 0.0 are behind the tree line on the left.

The CSX Railroad still owns that last 1200 feet of the Georgetown Branch corridor to Georgetown Junction. CSX would not sell that portion to Mont. Co. in 1988 because CSX wanted to keep rail spur access to the few businesses at Brookville Road. Now trees grow in the spur track there. Failure to get that 1200 feet of right-of-way has forced the trail to go on road at Stewart Avenue, then follow four different streets with four turns (hence the “Bermuda Triangle of the trail”) just to get to Talbot Avenue, see the route at Mapping the essential link. This problem will go away when the State of Maryland buys additional right-of-way from CSX for the Purple Line light rail and trail.

The Coalition for the CCT chose Georgetown Junction as the start point for the trail mile marker system because of its historic significance. That creates a problem in the PIHTHS category (i.e. “Problems I Hope to Have Soon”). What will we do for mileposts along the new trail section when the CCT is completed along the Metropolitan Branch rail corridor into downtown Silver Spring? We can follow the existing system and use numbers less than 0.0. We would then have milepost -0.5 at Woodside, milepost -1.0 near the Colesville Road trail bridge, and milepost -1.1 at the CCT trailhead in the transit center, where the trail will meet the Metropolitan Branch Trail. I can deal with negative numbers, even imaginary numbers and complex numbers, since I minored in mathematics in college. But I think others will object.

Any thoughts on the future mile marker problem?

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2 Responses to “Rails, trails and Georgetown Junction”

  1. Ernie Brooks says:

    Seems to me that any markers beyond the historic beginning of the Georgetown Branch (0.0 Future CCT milepost) should have a Metropolitan Branch designation, as that section of trail will be more in character with the MBT. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen mile marker designations for the MBT, and, if that’s true, you could begin with 0.0 at the Union Station terminus, and mark them in increasing value all the way to the junction at CCT 0.0. Or, you could make the MBT 0.0 coincident with the CCT 0.0, and mark the MBT in increasing value as you head toward Union Station.

  2. Drew says:

    Thanks for this detailed explanation. I’ve never paid much attention to mile markers along the CCT or any other trail, but I’ll keep an eye out next time I pass near those parts.

    As for your question about future mile markers, I like Ernie’s suggestion (i.e., start the numbering for the Met Branch Trail at the Georgetown Junction), although it’s not really my call. Negative numbers would never fly with the public at large, although it conveniently obviates the need to replace existing CCT mile markers.