Charm City, Switching’s Promised Land

One of Tradepoint Atlantic’s switchers makes a transfer run between yards. The empty centerbeams were pulled from the massive Home Depot facility. Trains shuttle back and forth between yards all day. A new Starbucks is being built just out of view to the right.

Having the luxury of being able to watch prototype switching operations up close and personal adds an extra, and very fulfilling, dimension to the hobby for me. If switching is your thing, then Charm City, aka Baltimore, is the place for you . First, you have an unusual number of actors which include The Canton Railroad, Tradepoint Rail, CSX, NS, and even some interesting activity inside the gates of industries. Second, you have the texture the city’s fascinating backdrop. It’s a community that takes preservation and links to the past seriously. Finally, it lends itself to what I call “lawn chair rail fanning”. In most of the locations, a major street cuts across the yard throat. While this is a headache for the lines, it’s a boon for the photographer. You can literally sit in a lawn chair on the sidewalk with a hot cup of coffee in your hand, and just watch the action unfold. If anybody wants to take in the action and do some railfanning there, drop me a line and I’ll elaborate on set up locations, restaurants, etc. With one exception, all of the locations are in very safe, gentrified, neighborhoods. Curtis Bay is, how do I put this delicately, “a little rough around the edges”. If you go during business hours odds are that you “probably” won’t get offed.

Canton RR: Canton is a relatively small, but fascinating line. If you go to where the main crosses Holabird Ave. you’ll see the yard switchers doing their blocking. A few blocks to the north, the main crosses Boston Avenue for some additional viewing angles. There’s a Starbucks next to the main at Boston Ave.

Tradepoint: Tradepoint is the new kid on the block. A new, and massive industrial park, is being built on the site of the old Bethlehem Steel site. They have five or six switchers that are very active doing transfer runs between their three yards. Much is fenced off but if you know where to go, you can see plenty of action from public property. Email me for details.

Domino Sugar is a massive industry, with a fairly large rail network that is worked with a Trackmobile. The yard throat crosses Key Highway (which is actually a street, not a highway) so you can just watch trains there. There are some good coffee shops and brewpubs nearby.

Waste Management: Just south of Baltimore is a Waste Management facility with a decent sized yard that is heavily switched by an EMD switcher. If you park on the shoulder of Brockbridge Road you can watch the action as well as that on the adjacent CSX main.

Some resources to help with your adventure:

Baltimore Railfan Guide

Tradepoint Rail corporate website.

Tradepoint Aerial (excellent 3D tutorial).

Two of Canton’s Knoxville switchers saw by one another as they work the yard. I tried to get them lined up side by side but they wouldn’t cooperate. The shot is easily captured standing on the sidewalk of Holabird Ave.

Waste Management’s switcher works the yard hard all day long. You can easily watch the action from the shoulder of Brockbridge Road in Annapolis Junction which is a stone’s throw from BWI airport.

The trackmobile crosses Key Highway as it works Domino Sugar’s facility.

Two remote units idle away (beautiful sounding too!) at CSX’s Curtis Bay coal facility.

I have a few chapters and designs based in Baltimore in my most recent track plan book.

The stars mark suggested photo locations.

The (easily accessible) location of Waste Management’s facility near BWI.

4 thoughts on “Charm City, Switching’s Promised Land

  1. Patrick Underwood

    I wanted to compliment you on the Swamp Rat book but comments were closed for some reason. It’s probably the most unusual and surprising model railroading book out there. Excellent as always. Some amazing photoshop work, and that WM switcher—what a beauty!

    BTW I’m building my fist DPM project, a four-bay cold storage facility for my take on your Gotham City Freighthouse. It’s going well.

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