**ATTENTION**This is an ongoing project. I continue to add photographs and historic items of interest as I come across them. If anyone has old photos, interesting facts, or stories relating to the Thomas Viaduct, the Viaduct Hotel, or the surrounding area of Relay I would be very interested in them. My e-mail address is neutronfan@yahoo.com. Thanks.


June 20, 2014

Thomas Viaduct & Relay, MD Photos March - April 2011

Me and my wife went to the Thomas Viaduct for the first time on March
 19, 2011. I went back myself a week later and took many more photos of 
 the area. The following photos are a mixture of pictures from both days.

**Click On Any Photograph To Enlarge It**

      I really like the various colors, textures and shadow lines of the rough-cut
    stone masonry. The white streaking is caused by "soda" (lime) leaching
from the mortar in the joints and has been going on since the 1800's.

Bridge arches in the morning sunlight.

        A bridge span showing the stone masonry, architectural detail, and
the bluish-gray and white colors on the stones from leaching.

One half of the bridge from a distance of about 100 yds. What
   kind of a nitwit would decide to build a tower in that exact spot?

The Patapsco River passing under the bridge.

The Relay end of the bridge.

White lime streaks under an arch.

      All 8 spans of the bridge are visible here. There's that damned tower again!

 We climbed up this embankment to get to the top where the
   white obelisk is (top center). It is MUCH steeper than it looks.
    I couldn't believe how out of breath I was when I got to the top.

Unfortunately, I didn't figure out until after we had already climbed
   the embankment that there is an old access road on this end of the
    of the bridge that leads to the top of the hill and used to end right at 
     the passenger waiting building at the tracks back in the day. The old
   road is what looks like a green path between the trees in the center
of this picture.

      This was a paved access road that hasn't been used since Harry
   Truman was president. The dark line in the middle is what little
   blacktop paving is still visible. It takes about 1 minute to reach
 the top from here.

    The Relay end of the bridge with Terry standing next to the Builders
          Monument. There used to be a large Gothic combination hotel and train
              station on the site behind her and to her left which  took up the entire area
      in front of the bluff. See my post on "Relay History" for more detailed
   information as well as many historic photos of the unique building.

  The hotel and train station site with Terry in the background 
at the monument. Notice what looks like a block of stones
center right. That is a vandalized masonry historic marker.
It once had a bronze plaque describing the significance of
this area relating to B&O Railroad history.

The top of the bridge at track level on the Relay end.

A zoomed shot from the same vantage point.

The base of the bridge with Terry in the background. This
 photo shows you the scale of the bridge in relation to her.

A bridge pier. I love the crude, rough-cut granite stones.
     They really give the bridge character. Photo taken from the
Elkridge end of the bridge March 26, 2011.

 One of the few areas of original iron railing left intact - Elkridge end of 
the bridge.

Unusual stone retaining wall buttresses at the Elkridge end of the
     bridge. They begin just beyond the stone staircase in the foreground.

        The Elkridge end of the bridge with a stone staircase leading to the tracks.

Terry on the staircase.

The first half of the stone staircase from ground level.

The second half of the staircase leading up to track
     level.The iron handrail is missing on the final 5-6 steps.
Very dangerous.

The final 6 stairs have no railing to hold on to!

The Elkridge end of the Thomas Viaduct.The colors of the stones
  tend to be a bit more subdued at this end of the bridge compared 
 with the warmer browns and tans of the Relay end. I assume that
       this is because of the abundance of trees near and around the bridge
at this end which I'm sure throw a goodbit of shade on the bridge
during the humid summer months.

 Broken pieces of the original ornate iron railing
   that once adorned the entire length of the bridge.

Staircase looking down about 45 ft. to street level.

       I-895 bridges passing over the tracks at the viaduct. I first discovered
           the Thomas Viaduct when I looked to my right while crossing the bridge
       on my way to work and saw an old RR bridge. The hill in the distance
             directly behind the bridges at picture center is known as Elkridge Heights
         and had a Union Army artillery battery set up on it during the Civil War
     to protect the bridge from potential Confederate sabotage or attack.
          More information and photos of the bridge defense area can be seen on
 my post titled "A Brief History Of The Thomas Viaduct & Historic
                   Photographs" in the blog archive at the top of the page on the right-hand side.

      The outer edge of the bridge actually ends where the diagonal 2x4
       on the sign touches the gravel. Everything to the left is what is left
 of an old, wooden decked walkway that is suspended over the
     edge of the bridge. The railings are gone and heavy gravel ballast
         covers the decking. You could easily fall through it if you attempted
to walk on it.

       The Thomas Viaduct's very old suspended walkway looking up from
           Levering Avenue just below where I'm standing in the previous picture.
                The decking is almost completely covered with gravel ballast in this area.

 Terry at the top of the stairs....

...and me at the top of the stairs.


I went back two more times in April 2011 to take
  a more detailed series of photographs of the bridge 
and the Relay Viaduct Hotel site:

  There was a very large patch of knee-deep ground cover of some
        sort with thousands of white flower heads. They were really beautiful.
                          None of it was present at all 3 weeks ago. April 10, 2011.                                               

The Patapsco River running under the bridge.

 Water is leaking out of the masonry joints from the track bed and
         running down the sides of the arches, causing the lime (soda) streaks
            to form. It had rained the day before so there was a lot of water dripping
 underneath of the bridge and down it's sides.

More leakage and lime deposits. Notice the decorative stone in the
    foreground. It fell off of the Relay end of the bridge years ago. It slowly
   sank half-way into the ground since then. Photo by Jeff L. April 2011.

About half of this stone is underground. This thing is big.
Probably about 4 feet square and almost 2 feet thick.
A side note:
Blog follower Lukasz Szyrner found this stone off to the side
 of the tracks half-way between the Viaduct Hotel site and the
Relay House in February 2012. Somebody dug this thing up
    and somehow got it up to track level and dumped it there. It is 
     about 4 feet square, 2 feet thick and must weigh 500-1000 lbs! 
See 2 photos below:

This was the decorative end stone on the Relay end of the bridge. The
  hillside eroded away and the stone fell off and rolled down the hill years
 ago and sank half-way into the ground. The light colored half on the left
  is the portion that was underground. Photo by Lukasz Szyrner 02/2012.

A closer look. You can see the Old Main Line tracks in the distance
at upper left. Photo by Lukasz Szyrner 02/2012. 

      I moved up to the other side of the guard rail for this photo.
It is my personal favorite out of all of my bridge photos.

 The cloudy day gives the bridge a somber, gloomy appearance 
    compared to the cheery, sun-lit photographs that I took in March.

And another river view.

A single stone arch.

   The top right corner of a stone arch. The original decorative iron
      railing is undamaged in this shot. It's hard to find intact sections of
    railing that are worth photographing. You can see the large gravel
     ballast stones about 8 inches deep at the bottom of the railing. I'm
             sure that this amount of heavy gravel over the years has had something
     to do with the railings breaking up. Pictures from the 1970's show
the railings almost totally intact.

The north-northwest side of the bridge. This side sees somewhat less
     direct sunlight due to it's orientation and curve so the colors of the stones
   tend to be more subdued than on the east-southeast side of the bridge.
  I couldn't have taken this shot successfully from this angle on a sunny
day in the morning as it would have been in shadow. Only mid to late
                                 afternoon sun hits this side of the bridge

A closer view.

      A bridge pier on the shady N-NW side of the bridge.
    At least 5 blocks of this pier are now under ground
   compared with photos of the same pier 130 years
 ago. The Patapsco gorge has seriously silted up
since the bridge was built.

  A bridge pier with 2 arches joined to it.

A bridge pier connected to the bridge abutment on
 the Relay end of the bridge. There is an abandoned
  access road directly behind me that goes up the hill
     and takes you to the top near the Builders Monument.

      I decided to go up to track level and take pictures 
of the Relay House and the Viaduct Hotel site. 
walked up the hill using the old access road.

I'm about half way up the old access road looking down.
  The bridge can be seen between the trees in the distance.

I'm at the top of the hill on the old access road here
  looking down again. It only takes about a minute and
a half to walk to the top.

             This is the top of the access road. It used to lead directly to a passenger
              waiting building ahead near the Builders Monument seen in the distance 
   but there is no trace of it now. Nothing up here but ancient rotting
    railroad ties, scrubby trees, and tangled vines.  It's hard to believe
 that this area was once a park-like piece of property with grass,
      scattered shade trees and bushes. Nature is slowly reclaiming this
site and turning it back into woods.

  Breaking out of that wooded area on the left you see the Builders 
   Monument ahead. The passenger waiting building was up near the 
 monument and there were  platforms and street lights as well on 
   this side of the tracks. What looks like low growing weeds in front 
    of me is really field-like vegetation that grows about waist-high . The
     snow from this past winter has flattened out the weeds and made it 
easier to walk through.

   This is the view directly behind me from the last picture. The big house
     on the left is the rebuilt Relay House which was a hotel, railroad station 
 and where horses that pulled trains (before steam locomotives) were 
  switched-out for fresh horses to finish the trip between Baltimore and 
      Ellicott's Mills, which is known as Ellicott City today. The original Relay
House burned down in the late 1890's and had a second floor deck.

   I'm standing across the tracks now next to the Builders Monument 
         looking at the tangled mess that I just emerged from. From this vantage
             point you would have seen the passenger waiting shack across the tracks,
           wooden platforms, street lamps, an access road leading up to the shack, 
     shade trees, a manicured lawn and ornamental shrubbery. Where I'm 
standing there were platforms also.

The north facing side of the Thomas Viaduct at the hill next to the
Builders Monument.

    Track-level looking towards the Elkridge end of the bridge.
The I-895 highway bridges can be seen in the distance.
   Notice the old, neglected pedestrian walkway hanging off
of the side of the bridge. From track-level on the bridge,
     it looks like part of the bridge surface because it has been
covered over with gravel ballast.

A close-up of the walkway's rotten decking covered up with gravel.
    Pretty irresponsible of CSX if you ask me. They should either rebuild
 the walkway (unlikely!) or remove it so that it isn't such a potential
hazard to nitwits that get the bright idea to cross over the bridge.

The Viaduct Hotel Site

The Builders Monument and the north side of the bridge. I'm standing
       right in the middle of what used to be the Viaduct Hotel's English Garden.

    The Builders Monument. The hotel's English Garden was to the left
  of the monument and came all the way up to it. The Viaduct Hotel
   was directly behind the monument and took up most of the area in
     front of the bluff. The house up on the bluff has been there since the
    1800's and was once part of the Gundry Sanitaruim. Cannons were
positioned on the bluff during the Civil War to protect the bridge.

The Viaduct Hotel & Train Station site. The only thing left
  from that era is the builders monument, the base of which
     can be seen at center left at the tracks. The building was so 
        big that it blocked the view of the bluff entirely from this angle.

A quick couple of shots of the bridge behind me, then
back to the hotel site.

Notice how erosion has compromised the abutment and it
has started to collapse where the gravel is. The decorative
stone that fell off of the bridge in earlier photos was here.

 A zoomed shot.

I found numerous pieces of large discarded pipe
near the hillside on the hotel site.

The pipe diameter is about 8-10 inches.
This is an old stone rail stringer. These were used to hold
rails before they went to wooden ties. The stringers ran in
a straight line with the rails attached to them. Before  they
cut out the hillside to lay the mainline tracks where they
are today, the tracks ran along the edge of this hill where
this stringer is. River road can be seen at the upper left

This surprised me when I saw it. It is a row of ornamental flowering
 Quince about 5-6 feet high growing on the Viaduct Hotel site. I don't
        know what to make of it.  They shouldn't be there. This is an abandoned
    site. Are they the remnants of an ornamental shrub hedge growing on
    the property before it was torn down? Weird. The next shot is strange
 as well.

I couldn't believe this. This is also on the hotel site. It looks like
    some kind of hardy subtropical plant. My cousin Tina thinks that it
  is a Yucca plant. She says that they are common to abandoned
    sites and areas where buildings once were. Strange. I wonder how
they spread?

A closer look. They are about 2 feet high and 4 feet wide.

          This is sad. This stone pedistal was a B&O Railroad marker that had
             a bronze commemerative plaque describing the Relay House & Viaduct
          Hotel and their significance to the area's B&O Railroad history. Some 
idiot stole the plaque and vandalized the stone pedestal.

The back side of the pedestal looking towards the Relay House.

This is what it used to look like. From a Library Of Congress photo
by William Edmund Barrett 1970.

 This is what the inscription said:

Site Of The Old Relay Station And Hotel
 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
Here in 1830, passengers on B&O horse-drawn cars stopped to eat at the Relay House. Meanwhile, the relays of horses were changed for the remainder of the 13 mile journey between Baltimore and Ellicott's Mills, hence the name Relay. In 1835, a second station superseded the earlier one. In 1872, a large combination passenger station and hotel was erected on this spot. It was razed in 1950. This stone is from that building.

       I believe that this is a piece of red seneca sandstone (a.k.a. brownstone)
from the Viaduct Hotel. It was used as a decorative bead to trim the 
hotel's exterior.  Notice the tool marks on it. I found it in the general
vicinity of the stone pedestal partially covered up with vegetation.

I rediscovered the stone in March of 2012 and cleaned it up
with Clorox solution and a brush to remove algae and years
of grime.

The side with the deep tool marks.

The flip side.

The Viaduct Hotel site at center with the Washington
    Branch tracks on the left heading south and the single
   Old Main Line track on the right heading west.  Photo
April 2011.

Now looking in the opposite direction from the hotel site. Wooden 
platforms in front of the station-end of the Viaduct Hotel ran all the
 way up to the point where the tracks converge.

 A closer look. The tall evergreen trees in the distance to 
 the left are actually in the front yard of the Relay House, 
   located at the end of Railroad Avenue in Relay. Notice the
 old red house on the hill in the center. It must have been
quite a view from there with all of the train traffic and the
Viaduct Hotel dead center in their view.

     This photo was taken in February 2012 by blog visitor Lukasz Szymer from 
the front yard of the red house on the hill in the previous photo. What an
 incredible view before the Viaduct Hotel & Train Station was torn down in 
     1950. The view centers on the hotel site with the added plus of the Old Main
   Line and Washington Branch tracks splitting off. The train traffic must have
        been awesome to watch back in the day when there were 4 tracks and steam
      locomotives ruled the rails. It is still very busy even today. The hotel site and
 tracks are at center. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

 I decided to go to the Elkridge end of the bridge 
   and take some pictures of the stone retaining wall 
         buttresses that I saw on my visits back in March:

Stone retaining walls leading up to the Elkridge end of the bridge.
       Moss and algae have really stained the stone over the past 176 years.
     It gives the walls an aged, rustic quality that I think is quite beautiful.

Moss growing in masonry joints and on the stone blocks.

The "stair step" retaining wall buttresses have rain 
water run-off channels running through them at the

Looking upstream.

2 buttresses with  miniature daffodils planted in between them.


  1. your photos are wonderful. Having grown up in Relay in the 40's & 50's I've been reminiscing for the past 3 hours. For that I thank you very much. One correction I'll make is the access road that hasn't been used since Harry Truman, well my now wife then high school girl friend 1957,58,59 were using that road to reach the top of the viaduct to park most all Saturdays nights after going to the Elkridge drive in. That very spot is where she got Engaged. This past summer (2015 ) we parked our car down @ the Relay Hotel, walked the tracks and reminisce.

    1. I was thinking about who was president in 1950 when the trains stopped picking up passengers there after the station was torn down. I can imagine that plenty of teenagers drove up there after the train stop closed. I definitely would have been one of them!

  2. Jeff,
    I love your photos. My grandfather lived in Relay, Maryland when he was a child in 1920-1938. He remembers everything vividly and talks about neighbors,the doctor, the stores, etc.. He lived on Washington Blvd and his father,John Wade, sold part of his land to Calverts to build the distillery. I would love to go one day. He is 96 and wants to go back for a visit. I believe my mother has a picture of their home on Washington Blvd in the 20's.
    Emily Hagen

    1. Not many people bother to look at my photo pages. Most are only interested in the historical information/photographs. Thanks for the compliment.

    2. Wonderful Chronology of the Bridge and Hotel Site. I Grew Up just a couple miles away and spent MANY a day train watching. I was fortunate to have been inside the old St Denis Station in 1975. It's truly a shame the bridge has not been preserved - or maintained - as it is on the National Register. Despite it's current state, it's indeed an Engineering Feat at 180 Years Old. Wonderful Descriptions you present. Thank You for Providing these Pieces of History. I'd love to have been able to View - And See inside - the Viaduct Hotel - It was a Masterpiece - Thanks Again !

    3. Glad you enjoyed the posts. I too wish that I could have seen the Viaduct Hotel. Unfortunately I was born 7 years after it was demolished.

    4. In Reading Herb Harwood's "Impossible Challenge - It was, it seems, an Unusual Location for such a Grand Structure - None the Less, the Meticulous Details - The Roof, the Gardens - Must have been a Site to Behold. Ironically, I was Friends with the Roberts Family at the End of Gun Road. I became Friends with Charles Roberts (Barnard Roberts Publishing) and Enjoyed Talking the B&O with Him. I Went to School with His Son Bob, but Bob Ended Up at Catonsville and I at Lansdowne. I Enjoy the History in the Relay Area as that's where I grew Up - Wynnewood. But Currently Reside in Martinsburg, WV and have been Exploring this Section of the B&O, and was Fortunate to gain a lot of History from My Grand-Father - He Hired on with the B&O in 1923, Retiring in 1970. He had the Great Fortune of Attending "The Fair of the Iron Horse" in 1927 there in Halethorpe - And how that Area has Grown from Rolling Fields ! I had an Opportunity to Visit HX Tower with a High School Friend in the Late 1970's. I Think All those Towers are Gone. Just Yearning for that Bygone Era ! Again, Many Thanks !

  3. Thank you! Indeed, I did come for the historical information and photos (tracing my ancestor's path to a Civil War battle), but ended up looking at every one of your photos and descriptions. They really helped me understand more about the area's history and actual layout that I may never have a chance to see in person. I loved it all.

  4. Glad you enjoyed it. I don't get a lot of traffic through here. It is nice to see a comment every now & again!

  5. I love these photos. I lived in St. Denis from 1953 (birth) until 1971..got married and then rented a house for 3 years in St. Denis. I attended the old Relay Elementary..sang Christmas song in the library..ate lunch in Cockrells store and have so many fond memories of the railroad tracks...and the train whistles in the morning..along with the smell of Calvert Whiskey hops...what a great childhood I had growing up playing at the viaduct and in the park!...Thank you

  6. You're Welcome. Glad you enjoyed the pictures.