**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

The Viaduct Hotel & Station in Relay, Maryland

 The old Relay House was first used by the B&O Railroad in 1830 as a half-way point between Baltimore and Ellicott's Mills to change out horses for the second leg of the 12 mile journey.  It also functioned as a train station, restaurant and hotel. By the end of the Civil War it was inadequate to handle the train traffic and passenger needs of the day.  Passengers coming from the south on the Washington Branch that needed to head west on the Old Main Line had to switch trains near the wye junction. The Relay House was only 150 yards from the wye, but a larger and more modern facility was needed.  The triangular piece of property at the center of the wye junction at the Relay end of the Thomas Viaduct was deemed to be the best location for the new building.

The original Relay House ca. 1860's. Courtesy of the Baltimore County
                              Public Library Legacy Web project.
  In 1873 the B&O Railroad replaced the old Relay House with a new and much larger Gothic-Victorian style combination hotel and train station called The Viaduct Hotel. It was designed by the B&O Railroad's house architect E. Francis Baldwin and built at a cost of approximately $50,000.
 The Viaduct Hotel was constructed of the same local Patapsco granite that was used in the Thomas Viaduct and was trimmed with Victorian style decorative gingerbread woodwork around the windows, eaves, gables, and porches. There were also three horizontal "beads" of red Seneca Sandstone (a.k.a. Brownstone) that trimmed the granite walls of the building's hotel side and all of the windows were trimmed at their tops with it. The building's roof was constructed using multicolored slate in decorative patterns and was topped-off with ornate cast iron crestings.
Viaduct Hotel (train station side) circa 1873 - 1883. This picture was
taken from the bluff where a Union artillery battery was deployed to
      protect the bridge during the Civil War. Notice the ornate shingle design
   on the tower.The Hockley grist mill, which burned down inn 1883, can
   be seen on the far end of the bridge at upper left. Google Earth photo
courtesy of kebj.

   The eastern train station end of the building served as an agent and ticket office. Wooden passenger platforms lined both sides of the building to accommodate passengers changing trains.  The property directly across the Washington Branch tracks from the station had a very long passenger platform as well as an ornate passenger waiting shed for passengers awaiting northbound trains. The grounds on that side of the tracks were park-like with shade trees, ornamental shrubs and a well groomed lawn. An access road came up the hill from the base of the Thomas Viaduct and ended at the passenger waiting shed.

   The rest of the building operated mainly as a hotel & restaurant.  The western end of the building was 4 stories high which included a large porch and a second floor balcony which gave visitors a magnificent view of the Patapsco River Valley as well as the Thomas Viaduct. The Viaduct Hotel was designed as an overnight hostelry and "mealing station" for the traveling public and had rooms to accommodate those who were tired, sick from traveling, or feared train travel after dusk. Such persons could stop over and recuperate for a day or two. The Viaduct Hotel was not designed to be used as an ordinary hotel.

        The Viaduct Hotel & Train Station - hotel side in 1892. The photographer
     must have been set up on a railroad car to get this angle. Notice the 
         English garden and walkways in front of the hotel. They even planted a 
     flower bed around the Builders Monument. Today,  the monument is 
       spray-painted with graffiti and you are likely to find beer cans in place
             of flower beds. I'd love to see the high resolution original of this photograph.
 Photo by William Henry Jackson from the Library of Congress.

  The mealing station section of the building had a dining room, a lunch room, a bar, and even a barber shop. The B&O Railroad saw to it that their patrons got plenty of good food and had plenty of time to eat it in. To  keep diners from becoming uneasy and afraid that their train would leave without them, the conductor was served his meal at a table in full view of all of the passengers in the dining room, not leaving the room until the twenty to twenty five minutes allowed for the stop was up.

  In it's heyday, the Viaduct Hotel was a popular and fashionable place to stay on the way from New York to points south and west.The grounds directly in front of the hotel had an English garden with walkways running through it. In the evening after dinner, guests could watch trains on two railroad lines, stroll the garden or go down to the river. Guests found the hotel so enjoyable that it became a rural vacation spot and some people would spend the entire summer there. Many people said that they wouldn't think of passing Relay without at least getting a cup of coffee at the Viaduct Hotel. The hotel was also used for B&O Railroad related business meetings and dinners.

       Viaduct Hotel - train station side circa 1880. "Bigwigs" who were
       probably connected with the B&O Railroad were photo-montaged
             in front of the passenger car.  I'm sure that this was considered to be
       a cutting-edge special effect at the time but by today's standards
               it looks pretty cheesy. Notice the beautiful ornate patterns in the slate 
    roofing. Courtesy of the History Room at the Baltimore County 
Public Library Catonsville Branch.

  The Viaduct Hotel became a social gathering place for local residents to meet and converse. The train station end also served as the local post office so people tended to come and go on a regular basis. The walkway on the Thomas Viaduct made it possible for Elkridge residents to cross over the bridge to the hotel as well.  The bridge walkway later had street lights installed along it's length so that people could travel back and forth safely at night. 

 Viaduct Hotel 1886. Notice the woman in period clothing
         standing next to the builders monument on the platform. This 
        photo shows summer awnings in place. Courtesy Baltimore 
County  Public Library Legacy Web project.

  On the Fourth Of July, the usually peaceful and quiet Viaduct Hotel was reportedly transformed into a combination carnival and county fair. On the morning of July 4th, many Baltimoreans headed to Camden Station loaded down with picnic baskets and strings of firecrackers. There they would buy 25-cent round-trip tickets to the Viaduct Hotel & Station in Relay and board one of the many special trains put in service for the holiday. All day long crowds of people crossed back and forth across the Thomas Viaduct. They reportedly lined the banks of the Patapsco as far as the eye could see.

  There was a ride similar to a merry-go-round known as a "flying horse machine". It was constructed so that the horses were fastened to iron rods which swung outward with the momentum of the revolving apparatus until they were at right angles. There was a dancing pavilion with an orchestra, booths with games like throwing baseballs to win cigars. There were food tables, beer tables, ice cream tables and soft drink tables as well. As the day wore on there were even ball games with kegs of beer at the bases. There also were reported instances of fights and people falling into the river as well.

  The climax of the day came after dark when the B&O Railroad put on it's display of fireworks which could be seen miles away in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties. After dark when the the fireworks display ended, the crowd heeded the blasts of the engine whistles and boarded the trains for the trip home. When the sun came up the next morning, the entire area was reportedly littered with trash. It finally became so bad that the railroad reluctantly abandoned the yearly outing around 1900.

   The Viaduct Hotel and Station ca.1874. A wide-angle photograph showing the 
Builders Monument, the ornate northbound waiting shack, a couple of street
       lamps and two B&O locomotives posing on the Washington Branch tracks in     
   front of the hotel (1874 2-8-0 at left and 1834 Grasshopper locomotive on the 
 right). The bluff overlooking the Old Main Line tracks and hotel is at far right.

The same site as it appears today. Wow! Photo Jeff L. 3-31-2018.

  By the late 1800's, the town of Relay ceased to be a major interchange point for intercity passenger trains. Faster trains between Baltimore and Washington and the introduction of dining and sleeper cars rendered the Viaduct Hotel obsolete. As a result, the hotel's business began to steadily decline. From the early 1890's until the great fire in Baltimore in 1904, the hotel was used as a boarding house for short spells, varied by periods of non-occupancy. For a short time after the fire it was used as a shelter for the relief department of the B&O Railroad.  After that, it was primarily used for employee housing, offices and storage. The main function of the building from then until it closed was as a station, post office, and passenger waiting room.

 The station finally closed in 1938 after 65 years of service. Weeds took over its manicured lawns & flower beds and the windows were eventually boarded up. It continued to be a train stop for commuter trains and people could be seen huddled under its roofs on rainy days.

 The magnificent Gothic structure eventually met its fate at the hands of the wreckers and was torn down in 1950 after sitting vacant and neglected for twelve years.

*** The "Viaduct Hotel" was the official name of this building but it is often referred to as the "Relay Hotel" and "Relay Station" as well. Relay Station is accurate since the eastern end of the building served as a train station & ticket office. The rebuilt Relay House 150 yards east of the Viaduct Hotel is actuslly the Relay Hotel but some people tended to refer to both buildings as the "Relay Hotel" depending on the time period.

The Interior Floor Plan Layout of the Viaduct Hotel:

The following interior drawings were made by Trip Riley. Knowing that the building was going to be torn down, Mr. Riley took detailed photographs of the hotel and obtained an Interstate Commerce Commission report from 1919 which included a sketch of all 4 floors as they were being used at that time. The original plans & blueprints for the hotel were destroyed in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1905 so it is left up to the imagination as to exactly where the dining room, bar, barber shop, etc.. were originally located.


 The 1st floor of the Viaduct Hotel

The 2nd floor of the Viaduct Hotel

The 3rd floor of the Viaduct Hotel

The 4th floor of the Viaduct Hotel

**Scroll about 60% down the page to see a very detailed 1/4 scale model of the Viaduct Hotel made by Trip Riley

   Viaduct Hotel circa. 1870's. Photo taken from the hotel's English garden.
The station end of the building is at left with a group of officials posing.
Notice the highly ornate waiting shack at right that says Relay Station.
Photo courtesy of the B&O Railroad museum.

      The Viaduct Hotel & Station ca. 1880's. Notice the 2 women walking in front
     of the hotel in long, light colored dresses. There appear to be 2 men to the 
 left of them as well, one of which is standing with his hands on his hips.
The people in this photo show the scale of the hotel side of the building 
      better than any photo that I have seen to date. Courtesy Enoch Pratt
Free Library.

                      The Viaduct Hotel & Train Station - train station side. A winter 
                      scene ca.1890. If you look at far right there is a ladder set up 
                      and just above it is the top of a street lamp. Courtesy, Maryland
                      Historical Society #MC2257C. 

                     The Viaduct Hotel ca. early 20th century. Courtesy
                      Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project.

                    Viaduct Hotel circa early 20th century. This is the only photo
                    that I have come across taken from the grounds in front of 
                    the hotel before it was closed. Notice the ornamental shrubs 
                    and walkways in the distance. Photo courtesy of the Howard 
                    County Historical Society.

                    Viaduct Hotel ca. 1918. Courtesy of the Baltimore County 
                    Public Library Legacy Web project.

                    The Viaduct Hotel in 1915. Courtesy of the Howard County
                    Historical Society archives.This is a very high resolution 
                    photograph. Click on it to enlarge. Photograph donated
                    to the blog by Lukasz Szyrner. Thanks for sharing Lucasz.

Viaduct Hotel - train station side ca. early 20th century.
                        I'd say that this photograph was taken directly across the
                        tracks from the Relay House. Courtesy of the Baltimore
                        County Public Library Legacy Web project.

                        Viaduct Hotel - train station side from old main line ca. early
                   20th century. Photo taken about half way between the train
                   station and the Relay House. Relay residents seeking to catch
                   a train would have walked up this side of the tracks and crossed 
                   over to the station using the walkway over the tracks in the distance 
                   Image courtesy The Smithsonian Institution.

 A steam engine heads north towards Baltimore passing the
station end of the Viaduct hotel ca.1948- 1949. Photo taken 
by Jim McGrain. Thanks for sharing your photo Jim.

      Viaduct Hotel with the vine-covered Monument base in the foreground,
ca. early 20th century. Courtesy Baltimore County Public Library 
Legacy Web project.

 A similar view of the monument today. I really don't 
  understand why anyone would want to spray paint a 
        177 year old historic monument.  From looking at photos
 of it taken in the 1970's, it's nothing new. I saw one 
picture from the early 70's where the whole obelisk
  was covered in black spray painted Nazi swastikas. 
Incredible. Photo by Jeff L.

 The Viaduct Hotel's train station side ca. 1910-1920. This was taken
 where the Old Main Line and the Washington Branch splits off. The 
        wooden passenger platforms seem endless on both sides of the tracks. 
      Three or four people are visible in this shot if you left click on it. Notice 
       the masonry structure built into the hillside at right center. Blog follower
        Denise Stanco confirmed it to be a natural spring that had a shiny brass
      spigot that was always kept polished. Her 89 year old mother grew up 
    in Relay and immediately identified what it was when she asked her 
 about it. Her mother also mentioned that she used to ride her bike 
      up and down the passenger platforms and around the hotel as a child. 
        She also said that there was a very big scale just inside the door of the 
   ticket office for weighing large crates, chests, barrels, etc.. and that
    she and her siblings would weigh themselves on the scale and jump 
    up and down on it until they were chased away! Thanks for the great
           information Denise. Photo courtesy of the History Room at the Baltimore
County Public Library Catonsville Branch.

   This is pretty close to the spot where the above photo was taken but
     I'm standing about 3 feet lower because the platforms are gone and 
there are deep gullies now where it used to be pretty level. Photo
 taken March  2012 by Jeff L.

 This is what is left of the hillside natural spring from 2 photos back.
  Notice the Old Main Line tracks at far left. Photo taken in February 
2012 by Lukasz Szyrner.

 Nothing left now that would suggest that it once had a spigot or that it 
  was ever a functioning spring. Photo taken February 2012 by Lukasz.

    A look at the interior. Water trickles out constantly which gives rise 
to the green algae slime. Photo taken February 2012 by Lukasz.

The Viaduct Hotel - train station side circa 1930. This is a photo of a
      crew of actors dressed in 1800's period clothing that were part of a B&O
    history film that was made to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the
         railroad. This is another high resolution photograph. Click on it to enlarge. 
    Courtesy of the Howard County Historical Society archives. This photo 
was donated to the blog by Lukasz Szyrner. Thanks Lukasz.

B&O's Capitol Limited passing the Viaduct Hotel ca. 1930. The 
 brakeman and a Pullman car attendant are visible at the rear of 
the observation car. Courtesy of the Transportation Collection, 
Smithsonian Institution.

The Viaduct Hotel ca.1930's taken from the Thomas Viaduct.
      Photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine, Copyright Jennifer B. Bodine,
Courtesy of AAubreyBodine.com.

The Viaduct Hotel & Train Station in 1932. This was just 6 years
   before they closed it down. The walkway leading up to the waiting
shack used to be wooden-decked platforms that ran far beyond 
  that old shack, all the way up to where the Old Main Line and the
Washington Branch split-off way in the distance.
  The same site as it appears today. Hard to believe that this once a 
     busy station and crossroads. Wooden platforms streetlamps, grass, 
 ornamental shrubs, shade trees and a passenger waiting building 
     with an access road leading up to it from the base of the bridge were
   once here in the foreground to the right. Photo taken April 24, 2011 
by Jeff L.

A steam engine passes by the closed Viaduct Hotel in 1949
     heading south over the Thomas Viaduct. The ornate passenger
      waiting shack on the right has a small sign on the side that says
"Relay". You can also see the engineer looking out of the side
 of the locomotive at left. Courtesy of the History Room at the 
Baltimore County Public Library Catonsville Branch.

      A passenger train passes in front of the closed Viaduct Hotel as it enters
 Relay in 1949. If you (L) click on the photo, you can see a car parked
   behind the passenger waiting shack just right of center. Courtesy of the
     History Room at the Baltimore County Public Library Catonsville Branch.

  Viaduct Hotel circa 1940's, boarded up and awaiting demolition. 
This photo is one of only 3 that I have seen taken from the front
   of the hotel. This photo was taken from what was once a beautiful
 little English garden at the turn of the century. The photos of this
       building boarded up gives me the impression that its eyes are closed
        and it is having nightmares of wrecking balls. Courtesy of the Howard
    County Public Library archives. This photo was shared by Lukasz 
Szyrner. Thanks Lukasz.

The next 6 photographs were donated by Ruth Sherwood. Ruth is a co-founder of the Elkridge Heritage Society and generously shared her family photos with me. 

  The Viaduct Hotel  February 22, 1948. Photo taken from what was once
   an English garden in front of the hotel end of the building. Photo by Ruth
 Andrews Sherwood.

  Photo taken from the front porch of the Viaduct Hotel looking 
       out over the abandoned English garden landscape. The Builders 
   Monument is at left. The 2 posts in the foreground look bowed 
  from lens distortion. Photo taken February 22, 1948 by Ruth 
Andrews Sherwood.

 The Viaduct Hotel & Station February 22, 1948. Photograph taken 
from the park-like piece of property across the tracks. Notice the 
      ornate passenger waiting shack at right in the foreground. It had been
      there since the station opened in 1873 and can clearly be seen in the
       first photo posted of the station with the old locomotives in front. Photo
taken by Ruth Andrews Sherwood.

The northbound passenger waiting shack across the tracks from the 
  Viaduct Hotel circa 1940's. There used to be windows on the sides of 
 the shack. From previous photos it looks like they removed them and 
   boarded up the frames sometime in the early 1900's Photograph from 
the Sherwood collection, courtesy of Ruth Andrews Sherwood.

The Viaduct Hotel in the distance from the Thomas Viaduct pedestrian
walkway at the Elkridge end of the bridge. Photo taken February 22, 
1948 by Ruth Andrews Sherwood.

  The Viaduct Hotel circa 1940's. This is one of only two photos I have
 ever seen taken from the Old Main Line tracks. You can see the cliff
face at center left. The west bound track ran within a few feet of the
  rock wall. Photograph by Paul Sherwood, courtesy of Ruth Andrews 

 The Viaduct Hotel closed and boarded-up with B&O #54 passing by
          circa 1940's. This is one of only two color pictures of the hotel that I have 

   come across. The color is washed-out, but that is typical of old color 
       photos/slidesNotice how much dirt has collected on the granite stones 
which gives them a grayish black appearance and the red Seneca 
sandstone trim is filthy as well. Early black and white photos of the 
   building show the clean stones looking very light on color with the red
      Seneca sandstone trim lines looking very dark against the light granite.
 The exact opposite effect was the case by the 1940's. Courtesy of 
Maryland Rail Heritage Library collection. Photo by Warren E. Olt.

 CSX 797 passing the same site 70 years later. Photograph by 
Jeff L. 10-31-15.

Looking out of a glassless window on the train station
       side of the Viaduct Hotel during demolition in 1950. Notice
           the 2 steam locomotives, each heading in different directions
    at the"Y" where the Old Main Line (L) & The Washington
      Branch (R) split-off. Patapsco Valley State Park, courtesy
         of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project.

This picture was photographed by John McGrain. He and a couple of 
friends were hiking around the area in 1950 while the Viaduct Hotel was
 under demolition. If you look closely you can see that the roofs are missing. 
According to the photographer this photo was damaged due to a faulty shutter 
curtain that passed unevenly past the film.  I zoomed-in on the hotel and 
cropped it in the photo below. Photograph courtesy of John McGrain.

Cropped from the above 1950 photograph. If you click in the photo you
can see that the roof is gone and the station end in the background is
missing the entire 2nd floor with just the granite window frames left.
Also of interest is the fact that the lower half of the building has been
sand blasted or steam cleaned. By the time it was demolished the
once tan colored granite had turned black from grey & black coal
smoke belching out of thousands of steam engines passing by.
My assumption is that the granite blocks were probably going to
be recycled for some future construction project. I know that
wood paneling from the interior ended up in peoples private
homes. Thanks John for donating your photograph.

   The next 4 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, who used to go out with a few buddies and photograph trains in the Baltimore area.Thanks for sharing these great photos Jim.

 The Viaduct Hotel circa 1950. B&O engine 5305 is passing over the 
    Thomas Viaduct at the closed and boarded up hotel. Photo was taken 
  from the bridge walkway. Notice the passenger waiting shed at right 
      with a black car behind it. The grounds surrounding it are park-like with
shade trees, bushes and a well kept lawn. This was probably 10-12
   years after they closed the hotel and station but they still kept up the 
property. Photograph by Jack Shields, edited by Ed McLaughlin.
 Courtesy of the Jim Kleeman collection.

   B.&O. locomotive 4466 passes in front of the closed Viaduct Hotel 
         and Train Station at the old passenger platforms circa 1950. It is about 
    to cross over the Thomas Viaduct south on the Washington Branch
 tracks. Photograph by Jack Shields, courtesy of the Jim
 Kleeman collection.

B.&O. locomotive 5300 also passes the closed Viaduct Hotel on the
Washington Branch circa 1950. Photograph by Jack Shields,
courtesy of the Jim Kleeman collection.
The same site as it appears today. Photo by Jeff L. April 2011

     A  B.&O. freight train passes the closed Viaduct Hotel on the Old Main
    Line tracks heading west towards Ellicott City, circa 1950. Notice the 
 wooden decking over the tracks in the foreground. Photograph by 
Jack Shields, courtesy of the Jim Kleeman collection.

Google image from 2011 showing an aerial view of the Viaduct Hotel site.


Viaduct Hotel & Station Scale Model

Blog follower Walt Hiteshew shared a number of photographs of a beautifully detailed 1/4 scale (1/4"=1') model of the Viaduct Hotel, grounds, & out-buildings that was built by his friend Trip Riley of Catonsville.

Knowing that the building was going to be torn down, Mr. Riley took detailed photographs of the Viaduct Hotel prior to its demolition and also made many drawings from B&O documents. He spent 6 months working on the project which measures approximately 4' x 6'.

The photographs of his model are beautifully staged with several close-ups of the intricate details Mr. Riley painstakingly recreated. The photos really breathe life into the old building in my opinion.

***Click On Photos To Enlarge Them***
 This south side profile of the building shows the enormity of the modeling tasks involved and this photograph does not even capture the massive gardens to the rear of the hotel. At the lower right corner the end of the Washington branch waiting station is partially in view. Prior to erection of the hotel the B&O cut the rock face (shown behind the structure) in order to soften the curve for tracks headed west. Trip modeled the rock face which acts as a partial backdrop on the northern side. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

 The north side view of the hotel shows the shop where men would maintain the station, hotel, as well as simple tasks on trains. Built of brick, the shop also featured the patterned slate roof and dormers in the roof. The double track at lower left was the western branch, headed to Ellicott City, Maryland and points west. Long after the hotel was closed trains continued to stop here, mostly to collect employees living in the Elkridge area and working in one of the Baltimore city facilities. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

As viewed from slightly northwest the eye would gaze down the B&O tracks towards Relay, Maryland. This shot is what the rear of the hotel and gardens would have looked like about mid afternoon on a summer day in the late 1870's. Gardens in bloom, green ornamental trees, manicured lawns, and a couple walking arm in arm with nary a care in the world. One last hurrah for the charm and elegance of gentle southern living in the final days before the full onslaught of modern industrialization that would sweep the old world away forever. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

The hour is getting late in this dramatic photograph of the hotel in the waning hours of sunlight. Long shadows are cast by tree, shrub, and people alike. The last light of day shines brightly off the light grey blocks reflected by mica on the surface of the granite. Maybe the couple should be walking back rather than away from the hotel. City folk, even in those days, might not know how dark it would get out in the Patapsco Valley away from the streetlights and lanterns so prevalent in the metropolitan area. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

The eastern train station end of the building. The Old Main Line tracks are on the right and the Washington branch tracks are on the left. The main train station entrance is facing east with the original Viaduct Hotel sign on the station roof top. Somewhere around the 1890's the sign was replaced with a sign that simply said RELAY just below where the original sign is in this photo. Notice the wooden platform crossing the tracks at left leading to the Washington branch waiting shack. The builders monument can be seen at middle left in the distance. Photo courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

A similar photo from a higher angle. The ornate Washington branch waiting shack is at lower left with a streamlined B&O steam engine parked in front of it. Photo courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

This view of the rear of the hotel would have the photographer somewhere on the hillside north of the west bound trackage. Here we can see parts of the beautiful topiary gardens as well as part of the repair shop (shown at lower left). From this vantage point one would see part of the Thomas Viaduct and down the valley towards Elkridge, Maryland. Barely visible is the weather vane atop the turret. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

Similar angle but taken from what would have been the edge of the hill that drops off into the Patapsco river valley. The Viaduct Hotel at its peak had its own professional gardener from what I have read. Photo courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

Overhead view of Trip Riley's vision of the Viaduct Hotel English garden. According to Walt Hiteshew, Trip told him that the outline of the gardens was still discernable when the station was dismantled so the general layout is accurate.  A few photos down from the top of this page shows the gardens from the tracks at the monument. The model looks very similar. Photo courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

The Thomas Viaduct monument stands proudly at the northern end of the magnificent bridge. The ornate wrought iron railing hemmed in the topiary gardens from the passenger decking. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

A close view of the south side of the hotel end of the building. The gardens are at left. Photo courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

This close up is also of the south side of the hotel and would connect with the previous photo.
Details include a passenger trunk in the corner, a double hung window standing partially open and slightly askew (as old windows were prone to do), a balcony with fully detailed railing including balusters, and downspouts at the corners curving around tight with the building features. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

Benches were made of balsa to seat the pewter passengers awaiting trains. The decking was "scribed" to delineate the individual boards. Some pictures show the decking running lengthwise with the tracks while others show it running perpendicular. Obviously the deck was replaced at some time with flooring installed opposite the original layout. All guttering and down spouting was created. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

In this view, showing underneath the curved front porch roof section, one can see the tremendous amount of detail employed in making the roof bracing alone. Each brace, prototypically correct, was fabricated from no less than six pieces of wood and actually hold the roof in place. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

A close up shot of the main entrance to the station end of the building.
More than two dozen cast iron pillars supported the porches on the building. Trip modeled one which was used to make a rubber mold from which duplicates were cast. The same method was used for the myriad of corbels required. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

Trip spared no details in building the model. The rear of the shop had windows which were faithfully replicated. One can see the corbels along the roof edge as well as the more decorative examples above the cast iron balcony pillars. Within the structure the known floor plan is reproduced. Individual rooms, doorways, halls and staircases are fabricated. Some rooms, with exterior windows, have rugs, artwork, furniture, lighting, and curtains. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017.

This overhead view of the hotel doesn't even begin to present the magnitude or scale of this magnificent model. It was painstakingly constructed using balsa wood, pewter castings, some plastics, sandpaper, commitment, and perseverance. The project required six solid months of dedication, frustration, and some degree of consternation! A lifelong desire to fruition, the whole module measures about four by six feet. It is hoped that one day this will be on public display at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum at Mount Claire Station in Baltimore City, housed in the beautiful roundhouse on Pratt Street. Photo and caption courtesy Walt Hiteshew 2017. 

These are a couple of photos of the model (minus the Washington branch piece with the waiting shack and the cliff piece).


I read several historic newspaper articles related to the Viaduct Hotel.  A couple of stories I found especially interesting. I can't remember where I found the articles on the net but I had written down a few notes and facts while I was reading them. Here are a couple of stories as I remember them:

"Woman Evicted From the Viaduct Hotel"

 -   In the 1880's there was a wealthy woman that had returned from a trip to Europe and decided to rent some rooms at the Viaduct Hotel.  Apparently she had habits, such as cigarette smoking, that the management didn't like and after a few weeks she was asked to leave, which she ignored. The manager asked her to leave a total of 5 different times and finally  went to her room to evict her.  He knocked on her door but she refused to answer. He was unable to enter her room because she had the door bolted from the inside. The manager then decided to break the transom window out over her door and had a porter squeeze through the transom and open the door.
   She was escorted out of the building by a detective in front of dozens of people who had gathered on the platforms to watch the spectacle. She then crossed over the tracks to the waiting shed and lit a cigarette as she waited for a train to take her to Baltimore. She said that she had many trunks that were, according to her, worth possibly as much $50,000! She had no choice but to leave them behind until she could have someone pick them up at a later date. That was an incredible amount of money back then. The Viaduct Hotel itself cost approximately $50,000 to build in 1873!!!

 "Attempted Robbery of the Train Station Ticket Office"

 -  Around 1900 there were a few attempts made to rob the Viaduct Hotel and Train Station ticket office. A new night operator was warned by the previous operator of the first robbery attempt, so he was ready for the robbers should they come back. One night soon after he heard someone trying to open the ticket office door and warned them that he was ready for them. The robbers then decided to leave. A couple of days later they returned and attempted to gain entry again, only this time they brought a pick and a sledge hammer with them to break down the door. There was a freight train nearby on a siding that was making a lot of noise so they used that to mask the noise of the hammer.  The night operator again warned them to go away but this time they ignored him and continued to try to break into the ticket office.  The operator fired several shots through the door and then telegraphed the Camden station for help.  Incredibly, the robbers still continued to try to break down the door.  A crew of men were immediately sent to Relay by train and arrived there before the robbers were able to gain entrance the ticket office.  They thought that a lookout was placed at the signal tower near the station and warned the rest of them when he saw a train coming. They all escaped capture. The ticket office safe reportedly had less than ten dollars in it that night.



  1. Jeff, great job on the post. I have been looking for information on the Viaduct Hotel off and on for many years. I believe William Galloway may be in the 1877 photo. He is my 3rd Great-Grandfather, and was the longest serving B&O engineer at the time of his retirement.

  2. Marvelous photos many thanks.
    One quibble--American usage is "railroad station." British usage is "train station."

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. You are right. I have referred to them as train stations all of my life and didn't realize that it was actually the British usage.

  4. More information can be found here. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

  5. Great information. Thanks for putting the work into this building's history. Great job Jeff

  6. Mary Ellen Crook AndersonSeptember 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM

    Great pictures Jeff. I grew up in the house above the hotel, the sanitarium was above us further up the hill. Are you planning on attending the Relay reunion this October? I would love to meet you.

  7. I have always assumed that the sanitarium was located where the electrical substation is now. Is that correct? I have wanted to walk up that road to the hill the substation sits on to take some photos for the blog but there are no trespassing signs right at the Gundry's Lane entrance so I chickened-out! I guess they have their desired effect.
    Actually I'm not from Relay or the surrounding area. I became interested in the Thomas Viaduct about 4 years ago when I first saw it driving to work and was surprised to discover the historical importance of Relay, the viaduct, & the junction. I did this blog page to share what I learned and it kind of snowballed.
    I don't actually know anyone from Relay so the reunion would be out of my comfort zone.
    I'm glad that you enjoyed the page though.


    1. Hi Jeff, Relay is a quiet and friendly community so don't worry about being too uncomfortable. (I've lived up the street for forty years)(-Yes the Gundry's Sanitarium was on the property where the tower is now. I've never been up there either, but I do remember the night that burned down.) I thought this page was amazing and your work quite informative and creative. Thank you for sharing

  8. I visited the bridge this week and wasn't aware there was a hotel until after I read more about the bridge. What a magnificent structure. Who owns the land now?

  9. The B&O Railroad owned it when the hotel/station was on it so I assume that CSX owns it now. It is possible that it is part of Patapsco State Park but being next to the track junction I doubt it.

  10. I've thought more about my visit and the destruction of this building is just so very sad at so many levels. I noticed there are no demolition photos as well, were the granite blocks reused? I wonder if CSX would pay to clean the monument? Kevin M.

  11. I saw one demo photo a few years ago in a book that a CSX cop showed me. The tower on the station end was torn off as I remember it. The small monument that had the bronze plaque on it before it was stolen & vandalized was made out of the stones from the building. The remnant of that is still on the site where the station stood.I have no idea what was done with all of those granite blocks after demolition.
    They do clean the monument up from time to time but as soon as they do it is immediately tagged again with spray paint.

  12. Jeff I just looked through the pictures of the old Relay House hotel posted on your page. I remember wondering through the old hotel after it was closed when I was a boy during the late 1930's and your picture really brought back those days! Thanks

    1. Glad you enjoyed the photos. I would have given a lot to see & explore that building. Unfortunately it was torn down 7 years before i was born.

  13. I really enjoyed your post. I enjoy local history and am happy when I come across sites such as yours that are a great combination of photos and information. I only wish I could have seen these buildings when they existed. Thanks for all of the work you put into this!

  14. Thank you. I don't get a lot of traffic through here, but I knew that was going to be the case going into it. I appreciate the compliment. Glad you found it informative.

  15. Terrific page on a terrific web site, Jeff! Your research and commitment to detail is superb, making Relay's Viaduct Hotel 3-D real to me. I was raised on Lawyers Hill in the 50's, and have a keen memory of the massive steam locomotives as they made their final passes. I also walked across the Viaduct many times in search of Arbutus adventures. It seems clear that the hotel was "rail-locked", not accessible by automobile, and not even pedestrian-friendly. This situation made its demolition understandable in 1950, as painful a reality as that is to us today. Superb materials and architectural design went into the construction of the building. Thank you, and if you should ever decide to publish a print-on-demand picture book, I will be your first customer.

    1. Thanks. I was immediately drawn to that gothic-victorian building the first time I saw a photo of it. There must be so much more information & many more photos somewhere out there but the internet has its limitations. I fear that most of it will be lost & never see the light of day.

  16. Does anyone know where Relay Hill is?

  17. Excellent information, and delightful photos! Thank you, Jeff!

  18. I'm interested in modeling the Viaduct and Hotel on my garden railroad. Any chance of getting some info/plans from Trip Riley on the dimensions/details of the hotel?

    1. David Mease, contact me, Walt Hiteshew at marxtin@comcast.net . I'll see what I can do.

  19. I never met the man. A blog follower knew him and got permission for me to post his photos. I too was interested in info/plans for the hotel but was told that Trip is a very private guy and wouldn't be open to sharing info like that with people he doesn't know. Unfortunately a lot of great information will be lost with people's personal collections.

  20. I also grew up on the hill above the monument. My grandfather was the grounds keeper for the Thomas Viaduct. And yes, Mary Ellen, my cousin is right. The sanatarium was up on top of the hill where the sub station is now above the house shown in the photo. I lived in the house farther back from where she lived. Both houses are still in my families name Bennett. Thanks for the artical. Mary (Bennett) Redgraves.

    1. I also have a lightening rod that's in the shape of a star from the Relay Sanatarium.

  21. Fantastic page! :-) I lived in Elkridge for 10 years and the first time I saw the viaduct I was amazed. That lead to learning more about Relay, and the Relay Hotel. When I first saw a picture of the hotel, I loved it! I walked across the bridge once to see where the hotel used to be, and saw the monument. (which at that time...a few years ago...didn't have any graffiti on it) I know that the small town of Relay still has some beautiful Gothic/Victorian houses, one of them is owned by a friend who's family has turned it into apartments. That's sad to me, but at least the grand old house it still there and in good shape. Thanks for taking the time to put all of this together...it's the most complete and extensive information I've seen about the Relay Hotel. :-)

    1. Glad you found it informative.

    2. Agreed! Jeff did a great job collecting & collating all of this valuable, interesting information!

  22. Thanks so much for collecting all of this information & the photos and posting it in one spot for all of us history buffs! ;-) I sure am sad this this beautiful architectural treasure was torn down. :-( What a loss!!

  23. I grew up in Relay from 1951 to 1969. Practically lived in Patapsco Park and traveled over the Thomas Viaduct Bridge countless times. My dad worked for the B&O for 45 years and the area is steeped in RR history. Great place to grow up.

  24. Yes. A great time and certainly a great place to grow up. Must have been a lot of fun.

  25. By the way, are the bluffs, where the Union soldiers where stationed and photographed, accessible? Any historical markers at that location?

    1. The land where the bluffs are is private property with houses. I have always wanted to take some photos from that vantage point. As far as I know there are no historic markers up there.

  26. I climbed up the hill from the road to the monument and was shocked to see the monument and base covered in graffiti. I never knew the history of the hotel but I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article with all the cool images! It's hard to believe it was built up like that. Now it's just a jungle there! If anyone decided to climb up the hill you'll be stumbling though brambles, broken bottles, bushes and you'll need to check for TICKS! Also, don't even think of crossing the viaduct! There's no place to walk! Not safe at all! Thanks again for the excellent article.

  27. I live in the Hellman House (ca 1850) about 100 yards from the Thomas Viaduct, on Sutton Avenue. I loved reading the posts from pervious residents of the neighborhood. I have a newspaper from September 1878 describing the fatal accident that befell J. J. Hellman on the Viaduct Station tracks.

    1. It is amazing that there weren't many more people hit by trains at that junction back then with all of the foot traffic crossing back & forth across those tracks & no safety railings at all.


  28. Thanks for sharing this informative information about hotel near railway station with us. It's very helpful. Keep it up!

  29. Thanks for sharing this awesome travel information about hotel near railway station with us. It's very helpful. Keep it up!

  30. Great blog. I really enjoy all the photos.

  31. I have a wonderful pic of my ancestor in front of the hotel. Where can I share?

    1. You can e-mail it to me at neutronfan@yahoo.com. I will definitely credit you with the photo or however you wish me to do it. Thanks.