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A Trip on the Metropolitan Branch between Rockville and Brunswick, Maryland

The Metropolitan Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was completed in 1873, providing a direct route from Washington to the West and connecting at Point of Rocks with the B&O’s old “Main Stem.”

A delightful excursion may be planned for a Friday afternoon. It must be Friday because the train described runs only on Friday. It starts at 1:45 at Union Station. (See schedule) Beautiful weather is a must.

Arriving at the MARC parking lot on Park Street off Middle Lane in Rockville, the traveler is met with an imposing cement wall with a small sign reading MARC and an arrow directing one to a plain black metal door. Beside the door is a button reading “Trains.” Press the button and the black door opens to an elevator with two buttons reading “Train” and “Street.” Touch “Train” and be instantly whisked to the fifth level where the door opens onto tracks. Join the cue to board. Inform the conductor that you will buy your ticket onboard. There is a ticket station on the street level, but no one is there to sell tickets. There are electronic machines inside the Metro section, but it’s much easier to buy onboard. Regular fare is $6 one way, $12 round trip. Seniors pay $3 and $6. Children six and over pay full fare; youngsters five and under ride free when accompanied by an adult.

Call 1-800-325-RAIL to check on current trains and fares before leaving home.

On Friday only, Train 871 arrives in Rockville at 2:12. Try to get a seat on the right hand side.

1. Rockville
Montgomery County seat and former market town, whose handsome brick depot, finished in 1873, was the first station built “upcounty.”

2. Washington Grove
This is the first stop beyond Rockville, started by a group of Washington Methodists who bought land as part of an organized camp meeting community.

3. Feed and Grain Mills
The railroad emancipated milling from water power and caused steam powered mills to be built at stations along the right of way.

4. Gaithersburg
This is an expanding “corridor city,” linked to Washington, Frederick, and nearby Federal installations by I-270.

5. The Waring Viaduct
This is an impressive three arch stone bridge, built in 1906 to carry the roadbed over Great Seneca Creek. Look sharp to see the creek, down and to the right, 3.3 miles past Gaithersburg.

6. Germantown
The original settlement was a mile south of the tracks, but the commercial center of the town soon moved to a site along the new railroad. At Germantown, the B&O had planned a two-story brick station but built a small wooden station in 1891, replaced with an exact replica in 1989.

7. Boyds
Boyds is named for James A. Boyd, successful public works and railroad contractor. The town grew around the railroad.

8. Buck Lodge
About the turn of the century Buck Lodge was a watering spot for summer vacationers who boarded in large Victorian houses near the railroad and north on Ten Mile Creek. A wooden train station and telegraph facility were demolished, but foundation remnants remain.

9. Barnesville Station
A mile to the East of the present Barnesville Station was Sellman, a small community established in 1873 and named after its postmaster. The original station was demolished in the late 1950s, and was replaced with this structure moved from Rockville in 1977, thanks to the efforts of local citizens.

10. Little Monocacy Viaduct
This unusual curved stone viaduct replaced a wooden trestle in 1906, when the line between Barnesville and Dickerson was realigned and double-tracked  and is similar in size and design to the Seneca Viaduct. Look for the Little Monocacy Creek and the viaduct’s stone parapet about three minutes out of Barnesville (a half mile east of Dickerson).

11. Dickerson
The two-story brick station planned for Dickerson was never built, and except for its triangular bay, the present station is a near replica of the one at Germantown, even to the 1891 date on the gable.

12. Monocacy River Viaduct
This is the major engineering work of the Metropolitan Branch. The present bridge is a 700 foot steel superstructure laid on six piers, three original ones and three added about 1900, when the entire viaduct was raised and reinforced to withstand the burden of heavier trains and engines. Look for the Monocacy River, and the famous C & O Canal “Monocacy Aqueduct” on the left 2000 feet down river.

13. C & O Canal
For the last few miles into Point of Rocks the railroad runs alongside the old canal ditch, which is overgrown but visible even in summer. The canal abandoned commercial operations in 1924, unable to compete with the railroad.

14. Point of Rocks
Here the Metropolitan Branch meets the old Main Stem from Baltimore; known to several generations of railroad men and canallers as the “Washington Junction,” a transfer point between the canal and the railroad. The colorful Gothic revival station house, built in 1875 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now the most outstanding station on the Metropolitan Branch. Designed by Francis Baldwin, this building was a duplicate of the one built in Boyds.

15. Brunswick
Leaving Point of Rocks, you will pass through tunnels literally cut through the point of rocks jutting into the Potomac River.
You will arrive in Brunswick at 3:08. Coming in you will see a pretty town with a white steepled church and plenty of green space. The stationhouse is attractive and dates to an earlier era of pleasing architecture. There are no eastbound trains until Monday morning at 5:38, so you will need to have a driver meet you here.

Beyond Brunswick, lie Harpers Ferry, Cumberland, and the coal fields and granaries of the west.

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