**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 History & Historic Photographs

The Thomas Viaduct is a stone masonry railroad bridge that spans the Patapsco River and the Patapsco Valley gorge between the towns of Relay and Elkridge, Maryland and is the first multispan masonry bridge constructed in the United States to be built on a curve. It is the world's second oldest railroad bridge still in use (the oldest is the Carrollton Viaduct  located a few miles north) and is the world's largest multiple arched stone railroad bridge built on a curve.

 The Thomas Viaduct utilizes Roman-style stone arches using locally mined granite. The bridge is made up of 8 spans totaling 612 feet in length and is approximately 26 feet wide and 59 feet high from water level to the base of the track rails. It is built on a 4 degree curve which is achieved by building the piers in a wedge-shaped manner. 
The Thomas Viaduct was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, then B&O's assistant engineer and who later became their chief engineer. Many at the time doubted whether Latrobe's design could even support itself much less the 6-7 ton locomotives being used at the time so they nicknamed the bridge "Latrobe's Folly".  Benjamin Latrobe reportedly suffered from insomnia and nervous disorders as he designed and oversaw construction of the bridge including shortness of breath, fainting and indigestion. Conventional treatments of the day included bleeding, cupping, purging, and drinking turpentine!  Morphine and laudanum were commonly used for insomnia. 

  Construction began on July 4th, 1833 and the bridge was officially completed on July 4th, 1835 at a cost of approximately $200,000. Over 600 stone masons and free black men worked on the bridge and set up a camp on the Patapsco flats just downstream from the bridge site. Locally mined granite from Ellicott's Mills was shipped via the Old Main Line on railroad cars and delivered right to the construction site. 

The bridge was named after Philip E. Thomas who was the first president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O). A 15 foot tall obelisk stands today on the Relay end of the bridge, designating government and railroad officials connected to the project.

  Today the bridge carries 200 ton diesel locomotives and heavy freight traffic on a daily basis. The Thomas Viaduct has been in service, without interruption, since the day that it was opened in 1835.  It survived the great flood of 1868 as well as Hurricane Agnes in 1972, two floods that wiped out the Patapsco Valley and destroyed nearly everything in their path.

 The Thomas Viaduct was designated a National Historic Landmark on January 28, 1964, and administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. The bridge has also been named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

** I'd like to point out an item of interest about the following historic paintings, lithographs and photos**

  You may notice that the very early pictures of the viaduct tend to make the 
bridge appear taller and a bit more graceful in it's overall appearance than it does today.  It took me much longer than it should have to figure out why.  The Patapsco River gorge has silted up significantly over the past 179 years. The soil all around the  the bridge piers is a spongy coarse sand in consistency.  I counted the number of granite blocks above ground level on several different bridge piers and found that they are buried anywhere from 3-4 feet to as much as over 8+ feet deep in mud compared with photos of the same piers 130 years ago.

  This is nothing new though.  Elkridge Landing  (now the town of Elkridge)  was just a thousand yards downstream from the Thomas Viaduct.  Two hundred and fifty years ago Elkridge Landing was a busy colonial river port rivaling old Annapolis. The river there was as wide as 500 feet across and 20 feet deep. English ships sailed up the Patapsco river from Baltimore to pick up "hogsheads" of tobacco that were locally grown at the time. The river began to silt up due to ships dropping their ballast in the river before picking up cargo, mining and agriculture upriver, and occasional floods (known as "freshets") which finally made it impossible to navigate and the port ceased to exist. 

There was a small steamboat that was able to navigate up the Patapsco river as far as the Thomas Viaduct which stopped at a wharf just below the bridge. The 1868 flood wiped-out the wharf and filled in the steam boat channel with silt.
 Today, much of the river in the Elkridge/Relay area is little more than a shallow creek  that couldn't accommodate anything larger than a row boat. Also worth noting is that much less water flows down the Patapsco River today due to Liberty Reservoir and its 160 foot high dam that was completed in 1954.  

So if the Thomas Viaduct looks a little on the short and stubby side to you today, it actually is.

                           **Click On Any Photograph To Enlarge It**

       A wide-angle view of the outer curve side of the bridge showing all 8 
       spans. Photograph circa 1975. Courtesy of the History Room of the 
Baltimore County Public Library Catonsville Branch.

                A 1970's aerial view of the outer curve of the Thomas Viaduct from a 
              Library of Congress photograph. Floods tend to shift the course of the
              river at the bridge. The Patapsco river tends to flow under the 3rd, 4th
              &/or 5th spans of the bridge today (counting from left to right).
                The dark line that looks like a dried up stream bed running diagonally
              from the left bottom corner just below the tree tops in the foreground
              looks to be the remnants of the mill race for the old Hockley Grist Mill
              that ran from a small mill dam (just out of view upstream to the left)
              and then under the first bridge span on the right. The mill was just
              on the other side of the bridge. It burned down in 1883.

The Thomas Viaduct - Elkridge end of the bridge 1970.
      This angle isn't possible today because tree growth around
    the bridge blocks the view. Photo courtesy of the Library 
of Congress by William Edmund Barrett.

  The Thomas Viaduct in 1972. Tropical Storm Agnes had
   flooded the Patapsco River Valley in June of 1972 and did
          massive damage. Notice how clear the area around the bridge
is from the flood. Photo by blog follower Walt Hiteshew.
  Thanks for sharing Walt.

 This is a lithograph from 1835 by Thomas Campbell.  It was done the
     same year that the Thomas Viaduct construction was completed so this
         gives you asnapshot of how the area looked when the bridge was opened.
       The Builders Monument can be seen at right on the Relay end and the 2-
         flight staircase is barely visible on the left at the Elkridge end of the bridge.
Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Oil painting by John H.B. Latrobe of the Thomas Viaduct circa 1850-1860.
Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society #1945-105-4.

   Thomas Viaduct in 1880. This picture was taken from a
   hilltop where a Union Army artillery battery was placed
   during the Civil War to protect the bridge. The Hockley
    grist mill with a connecting ramp at the tracks is at right
    in the foreground. It burned down in 1883. The Viaduct
     Hotel with the obelisk in front of it can be seen at the far

end of the bridge. Photo credit Patapsco Valley State
 Park, courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library 
Legacy Web project.

 A close-up of the Hockley Grist Mill taken from the Thomas Viaduct.
The bridge railing is at bottom right. Notice the viaduct stairs in front
of the railing at bottom right. Levering Avenue today runs under where
the grain chutes from the tracks are. Photo donated by John McGrain,
courtesy of Brennan Harrington.   

  This one was taken from the same hilltop, circa 1890's - early1900's.
      Photo is from an e-book of The Modern Railroad by Edward Hungerford.

A whimsical  painting of the Thomas Viaduct with the
Viaduct Hotel train station in the background.
Oil on canvas by Stephens Berge ca. 1934-35. In 1930, Stephens 
    and his twin Henry, graduated from the Maryland Institute of Art, one
as a painter and the other a sculptor. Both worked full time at their
   professions. Their father, Edward Berge, was a well-known sculptor.
The Berge brothers were good friends with Dolly Davis as well the
   Bahrs. Stevens died in his late seventies ca.1986. A memorial show
 for his work was held at the McDonogh School Galleries. Florence
  and Leonard Bahr bought this painting then, and presented it to the
Elkridge Heritage Society - Sept. 12, 1989.

Thomas Viaduct with a passenger train after a snow storm in 1880.
   Courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project.

      Photo showing the original pedestrian bridge over the river. Each span
    of the Thomas Viaduct is about 58 feet long so the little bridge is over
   120 feet long with the ramps leading up to it. The split rail fence in the
    foreground shows the human scale. If you click on the photo to enlarge
     it you can see the telegraph poles running across the top that are visible
in Civil War photos of the Thomas Viaduct. The 1872 photo below
     shows only pieces of the stone pilings from the foot bridge. Photograph
donated to the blog by John McGrain. Photo circa.1860's before the
 great flood of 1868.
Thomas Viaduct - Relay end of the bridge in 1872. The rebuilt
   Hockley Mill can be seen at center left. There was a huge flood
  in 1868 that wiped-out the entire Patapsco River valley. Notice
  how the vegetation is practically non-existent in the river gorge
       4 years later. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can clearly
     see the remnants of pilings from what was a foot bridge attached
      to the viaduct's piers on the first 3 spans. There is also a roof and
           wall of a building visible under the first span. Photo B&O Railroad

 The Thomas Viaduct at the Relay end of the bridge 1886. Notice
     the people having a picnic next to a lone tree in the foreground and
     several men fishing on the far shore. There is also a person looking
        down from the bridge walkway. The walkway was installed sometime
        after the 1868 flood destroyed the small foot/cart bridge shown in the
     above drawing. Notice also that there still are no shrubs and only a
       single tree present around the bridge 18 years after the flood. Photo
          courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project. 
 The same angle of the bridge today. The scrubby little trees that grow
all around the bridge block most of the views that were available 125
      years ago. Notice that the river has shifted it's course over the years and
    no longer flows under the same spans as it did in the previous picture. 
Photograph taken April 2011.

  Thomas Viaduct at the Elkridge end of the bridge 1886. Again, the flood 
   damage from almost 20 years prior is obvious. Courtesy of the Baltimore 
County Public Library Legacy Web project. 

   Thomas Viaduct bridge piers 1886. A small mill dam can be seen just
upstream in the distance. Courtesy of the Baltimore County Public 
Library Legacy Web project.

   The Thomas Viaduct - Relay end of the Bridge ca.1886-1897. There 
   are 2 people visible and also what looks like a horse drawn buggy or
wagon. This is from a glass plate negative and was obtained as a 
  reverse image (or "mirror image"). I flipped the image over which is 
    why the numbers are backwards. This photo is from the Smithsonian
   Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Dr. G. Howard White, Jr.

  A closer photo of the people in the foreground. The Thomas
      Viaduct abutment at the Relay end can be seen just above the
   roof of the building at left in the background. Photo also from
 the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens,
 Dr. G. Howard White, Jr. Collection.

Two horse and buggies ford the Patapsco river downstream
          of the Thomas Viaduct circa 1900. Photo Patapsco Valley State  
    Park, courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy
Web project.

The Elkridge end of the Thomas Viaduct in 1911. Notice the small
  footbridge crossing the mill race that runs under the bridge. There 
is still a remnant of that race running under the bridge today. This
photo had to have been taken from the small landing half way up
    the stairs on this end. Photograph from a glass negative, Baltimore 
City Life Museum Collection, courtesy of the Maryland Historical 
Society MC6551.

        The Thomas Viaduct Builders Monument and a passenger train crossing
      the bridge in the early 1900's. This picture was taken from the Viaduct 
           Hotel's English Garden which was located directly in front of the hotel-end
            of the building. There is a person standing on the monument just to the left
        of the obelisk. A streetlamp is also visible just to the right of the obelisk.
    Courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project.

  The same vantage point today. Photo taken in April, 2011. I have to
    confess that I took liberties with this photograph and removed a huge
  power line tower that was behind & to the right of the obelisk. It was
   a major distraction and ruined the photograph. The cloudy sky made
it easy to erase w/o being noticeable. The below photograph is the
 actual view today.

As it looks today with that obnoxious tower.

        Elkridge end of the bridge circa 1900. There are 2 women in long period 
 dresses on the end of the train car.  The small white sign up ahead 
      reads "B&O Royal Blue Trains".  There are 6 guys to the right near the
RR Crossing sign post. One of them is waving his straw hat at the 
  ladies on the end of the train as it goes over the bridge and the one 
closest on the right has a large camera tripod set up. Photo B&O  
Railroad Museum.
The same site in March 2014.  The camera man in the previous 
   photograph was set up where the bridge piling is on the right. The 
    line of scrubby trees behind that piling is where the fence was and
     also where the guys are waving at the train next to the RR Crossing
    sign. That tree line obscures the view of the Thomas Viaduct which
    was clearly visible in the 1900 photo. The far road that crosses the
        tracks in the previous photo is mostly still there behind the right piling
        and it runs down to Levering Avenue. The other road crossing in that 
    photo came down a hill that is out of the picture at far left. It is still 
    there but is little more than a wide trail going up the hill now. Photo
 by Jeff L.

   Thomas Viaduct -  Elkridge end of the bridge looking towards Relay
      and the Viaduct Hotel circa 1925. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical 
 The same vantage point today. Photo by Jeff L. 03/26/16

And in color.

Thomas Viaduct with a steam engine pulling passenger cars 1925.
Photo courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

      Thomas Viaduct, Relay end of the bridge Circa 1920's. Photo
     taken from the Viaduct Hotel's passenger platform. Wooden 
         platforms are on both sides of the tracks running all the way up
       to the bridge. The entrance on the right to the bridge walkway
          at the Builders Monument is visible with a streetlight and a sign.
            Photo from a paper by J.E. Revelle titled "The Thomas Viaduct At
Relay, Maryland" April 30,1925.

The same site as it appears today. Photo taken March 2014 by Jeff L.

Fishermen at the Thomas Viaduct in 1935. Notice there are 3 people
on the bridge walkway. Photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine, Copyright 
Jennifer B. Bodine, Courtesy of AAubreyBodine.com.

 Children fishing upstream of the viaduct in 1935. 
Photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine, Copyright Jennifer
B. Bodine, Courtesy of AAubreyBodine.com

Looking upriver from the Thomas Viaduct walkway ca. 1920's-30's.
   Notice the small mill dam in the distance. Photo by J. Frank Andrews,
courtesy Ruth Andrews Sherwood.

     The Thomas Viaduct in 1936 - photo taken from the staircase on the
        Elkridge end of the bridge. Notice the Viaduct Hotel & Train Station in 
          the background at center-right. Courtesy of Historic American Buildings
Survey. Photo by E.H. Pickering.
  The same angle today. The bridge looks like it is being
   swallowed-up by a jungle. I hope that they can at least 
raise the funds needed to clear the trees and shrubs 
 from around the bridge. Photo by Jeff L., July 2012. 

   Thomas Viaduct outside curve with locomotive crossing over
     towards Elkridge pre 1948. The Viaduct Hotel can be seen at
            center in the background. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, 
         you will see 3 people on the bridge walkway in front of  the train.
 Photograph from the Library Of Congress, courtesy of 
the Smithsonian Institution.

B&O's streamlined "Royal Blue" passenger train in 1937 crossing the 
 bridge from the Elkridge side toward Relay in a publicity photo. Image
from Wikipedia.

  2 streamlined steam locomotives being photographed on the bridge in 1939.
  One of the photographers is visible at the right of the photo with a camera on
   a tripod. The railroad frequently used the Thomas Viaduct to "pose" their new
   locomotives on for promotional photo shoots. The" Royal Blue" is on the right
and the British train the "Coronation Scot" is on the left. Photo B&O Public 
Relations Dept.

The same 2 trains photographed head-on in 1939. Photo from Life 
Magazine historical archives.

Capitol Limited posing on the bridge before entering Relay
circa 1950's. Photo B&O Railroad Museum.

B&O's Royal Blue crossing over the Thomas Viaduct
in 1952. Photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine, Copyright
 Jennifer B. Bodine, Courtesy of AAubreyBodine.com.

B&O's Columbian crossing the viaduct into Relay, 1949.
Image from Wikipedia.

  Locomotive pulling Royal Blue passenger cars May 1972. Photo
taken by blog follower Walt Hiteshew. Thanks for sharing Walt.
Too bad they don't do excursions like that anymore. Wish I had
been there!
A closer view near the Relay end of the bridge. Photo by Walt
Hiteshew May 1972.

CSX 3122 crossing the Thomas Viaduct into Relay. Photo by
Jeff L. March 22, 2014.

     The next 2 color photographs were donated by Jim Kleeman. A widow that used to work for him gave him several slides taken by her late husband Jack Shields. Jack used to go out with a few buddies and photograph trains in the Baltimore area. Thanks for sharing these great photos Jim.

B.&O.'s Royal Blue 56 passes over the Thomas Viaduct circa 1950. 
Photograph by Jack Shields, courtesy of the Jim Kleeman 

         Another B.&O. Royal Blue passes over the bridge in front of the closed
 Viaduct Hotel circa 1950. Notice how well manicured the property
 is across the tracks where the 2 lamp posts are. The 2 bushes on
         this side near the builders monument are neatly trimmed as well. Even 
       10-12 years after the hotel and station closed down the B&O Railroad 
        still cared enough to keep it looking nice for the train travelling public.
           Photograph by Jack Shields, courtesy of the Jim Kleeman 


Relay, Maryland Railroad History & Historic Photographs

 In May of 1830, the first Baltimore & Ohio railroad track had its debut from Mount Claire Station in Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills (Ellicott City today) which ran for a total of 13 miles.  The first trains were originally drawn by horses on tracks. Since the distance between the two towns was considered too long for one horses to complete, a fresh horse known as a "relay" was secured at the halfway point of the trip. The town of Relay was given its name at the spot where the first horses were exchanged.

 Relay was the first town created by a US railroad and officially became a town in 1830. It originally consisted of only a few residences and was better described as a small rural hamlet until after the Civil War. 

  The first hotel used by the B&O Railroad was the Relay House in 1830. Prior to the advent of railroads in the first quarter of the 19th century, horse-drawn coaches carried passengers between Baltimore and Washington.When horse drawn train cars were introduced a local politician named Denis Smith found out where the B&O railroad was going to switch out their horses and quickly purchased the land in that area and built a roadhouse and tavern there. He contacted the railroad and told them that they could sell tickets there if the railroad gave him a percentage. The B&O agreed and the roadhouse at the tracks was chosen to be the place where the exhausted horses were changed out for fresh ones to finish the final 6 miles to Ellicott's Mills. Since the horses were changed out at that location the building became known as the Relay House. Round trip tickets originally cost 75 cents. This was rather expensive considering many people only made about $2 a week at the time.

 The Relay House was originally a 3-story, 32 room frame structure that served as a hotel, restaurant, tavern, and train station. The stables behind the building housed the horses used for the final 6 mile journey to Ellicott's Mills. The original tracks for the horse drawn cars were laid within just a few feet of the Relay House front porch so that passengers could step off right at the station. The current owner of the property, Ray Chism, actually found remnants of the original horse-drawn tracks in his front yard just off of his front porch when he had some utility work done there.

 The first successful prototype steam engine in the U.S. was  named the "Tom Thumb" and ran from Baltimore to Ellicott's Mills on August 28, 1830. Two tracks had been constructed and, as the story goes, the driver of a passing horse-drawn car carrying passengers between Baltimore and Relay challenged the locomotive to a race. The challenge was accepted and the Tom Thumb pulled away easily from the horse until a belt slipped off of the blower pulley and/or a pop-off valve was broken. Without the blower, the boiler didn't draw adequately and the locomotive lost power and lost the race. 

 Unfortunately, from what I have read, there is no official record of the race ever taking place which puts it in the category of a myth or legend but it certainly is a great story. Nonetheless, it was realized that the locomotive offered superior power and performance over horse-drawn cars.

By 1836 the railroad had switched over entirely to steam engines and the horses at the Relay House were no longer needed. By then the station itself had become very busy and was also an important water stop for the steam engines. There was a 30' wide and 15' deep brick lined water cistern on the Relay House property that continued to be used by locomotives until 1930.

 After the Thomas Viaduct was built the Relay House became the second busiest B&O train station after Camden Station in Baltimore. Passengers coming from the south that wanted to travel west had to stop at the Relay House station to switch to a west bound train.

  A more practical railroad depot building was built across the tracks from the Relay House prior to the Civil War and served as the Relay railroad station. The Relay House hotel continued in operation as a hotel and mealing house until 1873 when the larger, more functional Victorian-Gothic style Viaduct Hotel & Train Station was built about 150 yards to the west at the end of the Thomas Viaduct. After the Viaduct Hotel opened the original Relay House continued mainly as a summer hotel and boarding house until it burned down December 24,1897. It was rebuilt in 1899 in the form seen today, minus the second floor porch of the original house. It operated as a hotel and tavern until Prohibition in 1920. Today it is a private residence but the current owners sometimes display the sign "Relay Hotel"   over the front porch and there is a small historical  plaque on the Viaduct Avenue side of the house near the road. 

  The newer Viaduct Hotel & Train Station became such an important and interesting local landmark that I have dedicated a large portion of the blog page to it, including many historic photographs and several related stories further down in this post. **See my Viaduct Hotel & Train Station post**

  Samuel Morse's workshop for the telegraph was located at 5128 South Rolling Road in Relay. The first commercial telegraph service opened May 24, 1844. The telegraph pole was invented at this time because the stone and clay base of the land in Relay was too difficult to dig a normal trench for placement of the telegraph wire and as a result the first telegraph poles were installed in Relay.

  Before the opening of Druid Hill Park in Baltimore city, Relay was a major destination place for Baltimore residents to relax and unwind.  There was a grove of trees located on Viaduct Avenue near the Relay Hotel.  At the center of it was erected a large dancing pavilion and  bandstand with a number of booths located there as well.  It was said that rarely a week would pass during the summer without one or more trips there with a couple of trains bringing people from Baltimore out to Relay. Before dark, the trains would notify the passengers that it was time to return to Baltimore by loud blasts of their train whistles.

 Union troops occupied Relay, the Relay House, the Thomas Viaduct, and Elkridge beginning in May of 1861 to protect the bridge and the Washington junction in Relay from Confederate sabotage or attack and to stop shipments of arms and supplies being smuggled into the Confederate states by rail. Three artillery batteries were deployed around the bridge and over  2,000  Union soldiers were stationed in and around Relay for the remainder of the war. The fields across the tracks from Relay, later to become the village of St Denis, were where many Union troops camped and drilled during the war. Relay and the surrounding area was a military occupation under martial law for 4 years so there was little to no improvement made there until after the war. **More details and photos related to the Civil War history of this area are in my Civil War History post**


           **Click On Any Photograph To Enlarge It**

Relay Historic Marker located on S. Rolling Rd. in Relay.
Photo by Jeff L.

A whimsical Relay historic district marker located on
    S. Rolling Rd. at Francis Ave. in Relay. Photo by Jeff L.

  This historic district sign is located on South Street at River Road
   and is only about 75 yards from Washington Blvd. Photo by Jeff L.

 A painting of horses being changed at the Relay House
     in 1830. A portion of the tracks seen here directly in front 
  of the house were unearthed not long ago just off of the 
front porch by the current owner of the property when 
     he had to dig up a portion of his front yard for utility work. 
Painting by H.D.Stitt, Courtesy B&O Railroad Museum.

The race of the Tom Thumb on August 28, 1830 between Baltimore
       and Relay, Maryland. Courtesy of DOT Federal Highway Administration.
Painting by Carl Rakeman.

         The Relay House 1853. An engraving in Harper's Monthly Magazine April,
     1857, Volume 14, 592-612. The white Relay House is on the right. The 
  Relay waiting station has a long covered shed with a clerestory over 
     the tracks and platforms and 2 Greek-like buildings at the eastern end.
      None of these buildings at the tracks were present 5 years later except
 for the passenger platforms as you can see 4 pictures ahead in the 
1858 photograph taken in front of the Relay House.  It's a guess on 
 my part, but I assume that the buildings and covered roof  probably 
weren't large enough to accommodate the newer and much bigger 
    locomotives. Courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy 
Web project.

The original Relay House ca. 1860's. Courtesy of the Baltimore County
Public Library Legacy Web project.

The Relay House from an 1864 drawing showing freight and
passenger platforms in the foreground. Notice the big white
      sign from the previous photo is in this drawing. From the Ebook
          Pictoral History Of The Civil War In The United States Of America
by Benson J. Lossing.

 The same area as it looks today. The re-built Relay House is now
  wearing blue colored siding. Too bad those spruce trees block the
 view of the front. There is a full length porch with a sign that says
"Relay Hotel". Photo taken March 11, 2012 by Jeff L.

The Relay House (at far left) with passenger platforms and two waiting
   locomotives. The building just behind the man on the far left was a ticket
   office and the dark post with the curved appendage next to his (R) elbow
         is a water pump that drew water from a cistern on the Relay House property
      to fill the steam engines. This photo is of a B&O Railroad Artists Excursion
in June of 1858. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

    The same site today with the rebuilt Relay House (minus it's 
    2nd floor deck) at the far left.  Photograph taken April 2011 
    by Jeff L. Notice at bottom right in the previous 1858 photo 
 that the platform appears to lead off to the right. An Atlas 
      drawing of this area from 1877 shows a rectangular building 
       in front of where I'm standing and the word "station" is written
 next to itI found a photo of a long railroad depot building 
         in Relay from the mid 1800's. Where the 2nd shadow is on the 
         gravel & tracks (middle right) is about where the depot building 
was located. See photo below.

  Relay railroad depot ca. mid 1800's. Samuel Morse tested his
                  new telegraph line at this building which ran between Baltimore
                  and Washington. The first telegram ever sent, "What Hath God
                  Wrought!" was dispatched by Morse between the two cities on
                  May 24, 1844. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution,
                  National Museum of American History. 

      Union troops at the Relay House 1861. The previous railroad depot building
      is visible at far left center. See my Thomas Viaduct History post for detailed
        information on the Civil War history of the Relay area. Photo courtesy of the 
Maryland State Archives.

  Railroad Ave.1904 with the rebuilt Relay Hotel in center background
         and the Viaduct Hotel barely visible at upper left. The building in the right
        foreground was a general store from what I was told by a CSX Railroad
      cop that I ran into on this site who is also a B&O Railroad history buff.
        This picture was taken at the corner of Railroad Avenue and S. Rolling 

             Road.Courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project.

 Railroad Avenue today. The road is wider now because the fourth 
   track was removed sometime after 1950. The old general store was
    located right at this corner in the green, grassy area at right. Photo 
taken April 10, 2011 by Jeff L.

  The general store (pictured in the above 1904 photo) in 1930. This was
   a railroad crossing at that time. S. Rolling Road crossed over the tracks
    at Railroad Avenue back then but it dead-ends at the tracks today. Photo
courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project.

 The same area today. S. Rolling Road stops at the tracks now.
      The area between the orange fire hydrant and the telephone pole 
    to the left of it is where the general store building was located in
      the 1930 photograph. Photo March 11, 2012 by Jeff L.

South Rolling Road railroad crossing circa.1914. Photo courtesy 
Electric Vehicles magazine, December 1914, page 209.

Blog follower Denise Stanco shared a few facts and a story about 
the RR crossing and General Store that was there. The store was 
 owned by her mother's Aunt Lena in the 1920's. Her mother grew 
         up in Relay in the 1920's & 30's and remembers that there was penny
     candy counter in the store. She also remembered that her Aunt Lena 
owned cows. Every morning black man would walk them across
     the tracks at the RR crossing to a relative's house that had a field to
         graze them in. The cows would graze there all day and then be walked 
back across the tracks in the evening to be milked.

 Another interesting fact was that the children that lived in St. Denis
had to cross the railroad tracks at this crossing every day to get to
 and from their school in Relay.

 Denise Stanco's Uncle Buddy was walking home from school and got
his shoelace caught in the tracks and fell down, causing a big gash in
   his forehead. When he got home his mother called Dr. Beitler because
he owned a car and could come over to treat him. When the doctor
   got to the house they went to get the woman that lived next door who
weighed about 300 pounds. They then sat Buddy down in a Morris
chair (the forerunner of the La-Z-Boy) and had the neighbor sit on
him so that he couldn't move while the doctor stitched him up w/o
the use of any anesthetic! Denise said that he screamed  the entire
time. I'll bet he did!! I'd probably break-out into a sweat every time
I saw a fat lady after a torture session like that!

        Below is a photo of her Uncle Buddy, his brother and sister and a friend 
               crossing the tracks at the railroad crossing with school books in their hands. 

  Uncle Buddy is at far left with Denise's Uncle Pug next 
  to him. Denise's mother Annette is at far right and her 
   school friend Alma is next to her.The front corner of the
   general store is visible at top left.  Photo taken in 1930. 
        Denise Stanco generously shared this story and her photo.

I am now standing where the 4th set of tracks used to be and
  right in the middle of what used to be the railroad crossing. The
  Relay Hotel and the house with the red car next to it have been
       there since the 1800's and are both visible in the previous black & 
       white historic photograph (5 photos back) from 1904. Photo taken 
March, 2011 by Jeff L.

    Photo taken just before the Relay House. The evergreen trees line the 
 Relay House front yard. Again, I'm standing on what used to be the 
   4th set of tracks. The left 2 go south towards Washington DC and the
           right track goes west towards Ellicott City. The Gothic Viaduct Hotel & train
           station took up the entire center of this picture where the tracks form a "Y".
       The Thomas Viaduct "Builders Monument" obelisk which was erected at
the Relay end of the bridge is visible at left. Photo by Jeff L.

  The Relay House as it looked in 2011. I had to take the picture
     from this end of the house because of the huge evergreen trees
      that are in front of and on the right side of the house at Railroad 
Avenue & Viaduct Avenue. Photo by Jeff L.

    Google image showing an aerial view of the B&O Railroad station
 site where horses were originally changed-out and early steam
 engines stopped prior to the construction of the Viaduct Hotel.

         Relay, MD in 1877 from a Papenfuse Atlas drawing. I highlighted a few areas 
  of interest in yellow. One item of interest is that the old Relay House was 
    called "Hotel Leroy" then. Also of note is the RR crossing from Old Rolling 
 Road in Relay across to Sutton Avenue in St. Denis which was closed in
  1930 when a bridge was built over the tracks on Rolling Road connecting 
  St. Denis with Relay. Another item of interest is the acknowledgement of 
 the Civil War fort that was on the property where the bluff overlooks the  
     Viaduct Hotel. Also, the Railroad Depot Building across from the old Relay 
House is shown on this map.

 There have been several incidents and accidents over the years in Relay.  I read newspaper articles relating to Relay and a couple were rather interesting. I can't recall where I read the stories on the net but I wrote down some notes and facts while I was reading them. Here are a couple of stories as I recall them:

"Head-On Collision at the Relay House"
 - There was a head-on collision between 2 locomotives right in front of the Relay House around 1884. They thought that it was caused by a switch being changed deliberately by someone wanting to cause an accident. Fortunately, both trains were going no more than about 10 miles per hour at the time as they approached the Viaduct Hotel and Station. The  west-bound train and east-bound freight train collided and both engines rolled off of the tracks and several freight cars derailed as well. The fireman on the passenger engine jumped to safety but the engineer stayed on the locomotive. Amazingly, neither man was injured. The fireman and engineer on the freight engine were both injured however. The engineer had multiple bruises and a back injury and the fireman had serious burns from boiling water and steam and also lung injury from inhaling the steam. It took hours to clear the wreckage from the tracks and traffic was held up for most of the night.

"Woman Hit and Killed By Train at the Viaduct Hotel"

 - An elderly woman was hit and killed by a train in Relay on New Year's Eve around 1896.  She was walking from her home in Relay to the Viaduct Hotel & Station to catch a train to Baltimore when she heard a train whistle just as she reached the boardwalk about 100 yards from the station. She thought that it was the passenger train that she was to take to Baltimore so she stepped off of the boardwalk and started walking across the tracks. An approaching freight train nearly ran her over and she froze for several seconds in the middle of the tracks, apparently shaken from the near miss. She finally started to walk back across the tracks towards the platforms at the station and just as she got to  them she was hit by another locomotive and thrown about 15 feet. It was reported that she then died within minutes, probably of internal injuries. The only visible injury that she had appeared to be a broken arm. The B&O Railroad was cleared of any responsibility for the incident and it was ruled to be an accident.
***The junction at Relay was (and still is) a dangerous place for pedestrians. Four tracks passed by the Viaduct Hotel & Train Station from 3 different directions and from around curves. Fast express trains, freight trains and local trains passed and stopped at the station 24 hours a day. People frequently had to cross the tracks to get to their train and there were no fences or gates erected on the long passenger platforms. It is truly amazing that there were so few incidents of injury or death at this junction over the 77 years that the Viaduct Hotel & Train Station was in operation.

  I Came across a paper that was read
at a meeting of the Relay Volunteer
   Fire Company on Friday May 5, 1911.
It contains many historical items of
interest and the history of the town
of Relay, St. Denis, and vicinity. 

This is the link:


The following historic item of interest was brought to my attention by blog contributor Ruth Andrews Sherwood and took place about one mile west of the Thomas Viaduct, in the area known as Glenartney , during the early years of the Patapsco State Park.

The park service made the decision to offer campsites, as well as large tents set up on wooden platforms, free to the public as a way to make people aware of this new recreational area. Ruth told me that her father's family used those campgrounds and she gave me details about camping there and photos of her grandparents and their children camping in Glenartney almost 100 years ago:

In the early 1900’s legislation was approved to preserve areas along the Patapsco River as park land which became known as the Patapsco Forest Reserve. In 1912 legislation was introduced to expand the Patapsco Forest Reserve which was soon after referred to as Patapsco State Park.

Informational posters were distributed encouraging camping in the park free to the public. The B&O Railroad soon got involved and cooperated in preparing and posting the camping posters. Since the Old Main Line bordered the park it made for easy access to and from Baltimore via the B&O passenger trains.

The Glenartney area of the park (one mile upriver from Relay) became a free camping site. The camp grounds were located across the tracks from Lost Lake (a.k.a. Beaver Lake) where Glen Artney Rd. ends today. There is a single span railroad bridge there with a road the travels underneath the bridge. The old campgrounds were located on a hill to the left after passing underneath of the tracks. Glenartney also had its own  B&O passenger train stop close to the campgrounds.

The Glenartney B&O train stop ca. 1920's. Photo from the
Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Patapsco State Park supplied families with large army-style tents that were set up on wooden platforms free of charge. This made it possible for residents from Baltimore City to bring furniture, beds, and other household necessities with them to their camp site.

Cooking was done over open camp fires and water was gathered from springs and carried back to the tent areas for cooking and cleaning. Clothing was washed by hand in streams and hung out to dry on lines. Anything resembling a bath would have been accomplished by swimming in the Patapsco River.

Groceries were purchased at markets in Baltimore (such as Lexington Market) and then brought back to camp by passenger train or supplies could be obtained by walking to a small general store in Relay or Elkridge and then brought back to the campsite on foot.

    Google Earth image of the Lost Lake - Glen Artney Hilltop Tent
    Campsite area.

Ruth Sherwood shared a few photographs of her father's family camping at the Glenartney campsite in 1917 & 1919. Her grandparents and their children lived in Baltimore City but spent entire summers living at the hilltop tent campgrounds for several years. Her grandfather worked at the offices of the B&O Railroad in Baltimore. His daily commute to and from the city was easily achieved due to the close proximity of the campgrounds to the railroad line.

      Ruth Sherwood's grandparents and their children in Glenartney at the hilltop 
       campsite in 1917. Photograph by J. Frank Andrews, courtesy of Ruth
       Andrews Sherwood.

     Ruth's father's family in 1919 playing a game of quoits at the hilltop camp.
     Photograph by J. Frank Andrews, courtesy of Ruth Andrews Sherwood.

     Ruth's father's family in 1919 swimming in the Patapsco River in Glenartney
     near the campgrounds. Photograph by J. Frank Andrews, courtesy of Ruth
     Andrews Sherwood.

Anyone familiar with summers in Maryland knows that the heat and humidity here is stifling. I can’t imagine how hot Baltimore City would have been 100 years ago before refrigeration and air conditioning were available. It must have been like an oven. You would have been miserable 24 hours a day.

It isn't hard to imagine that it would have been preferable to camp out for a couple of hot summer months in a big tent in the shade with nearby creeks, springs, railroad service, and the Patapsco River right next to your campsite. Also, the towns of Relay and Elkridge were within easy walking distance of the campgrounds. And, best of all, it was free!

Large wooded areas provide a shaded micro-climate that must have been very appealing to city dwellers back then. I can remember back in the 1970’s riding my motorcycle around Loch Raven watershed and passing through large shady areas of road that almost felt cold when I entered into them.