A Morning For The Freight Trains

We walked to the town of Brunswick and its big marshalling yard for the CSX railroad last Sunday. We encountered the freight trains well before we got there.

We were still driving from home towards the parking lot at Lander Lock, the starting point of our walk, when, at Dickerson, I sighted the rear-end of the freight train crossing the bridge over the road. The train was headed towards the bridge at the Monocacy river. When we reached Point Of Rocks about 10 to 15 minutes later, we saw the same train running on the tracks parallel to the road we were on. We then landed up at Lander Lock another 10 to 15 minutes later just as the same train was passing by. We had to stop at the railroad crossing to let it go by before proceeding to the parking lot.

It was in the 30s when we started our walk from next to the lock house.

It was the Sycamore trees that drew my attention early in the walk. One wonders if I ever will tire of their majesty?!

The first stop was Catoctin Aqueduct. You can see how low the sun was in the sky from this picture that was taken from the walkway on one side of the aqueduct.

We could hear the activity in the railroad yard even before we crossed Little Catoctin Creek a little later.We had to go down to the level of the creek to cross the creek. The original culvert over the canal was destroyed in a storm in May 2018 and has still not been replaced.

Little Catoctin Creek is located near the eastern end of the Brunswick railroad yard. The first thing we noticed was the back-and-forth shunting activity going on with a locomotive consist of three engines attached to a number of freight cars carrying containers with J. B. Hunt logos on their sides. (We originally mistook them for containers carrying ketchup and other tomato products!ūü§®)

The railroad yard was, as usual, full of freight cars dispersed over the different tracks. You could see and hear the occasional locomotive located behind the carriages on the tracks closer to the trail. There is a background rumbling sound of the locomotives at rest, and the occasional creaking and clanging of metal when freight cars are being moved around, when you are walking in this area.

This is a picture from the trail beside the yard.The sky was absolutely clear! This part of the towpath has actually been converted to a gravel road that people can drive on to get to a privately owned family campsite next to the river.

The distance we covered during the walk was a little more than what we usually tackle. The Brunswick parking lot for the towpath was slightly further away than what I had expected. I took some additional time to walk the extra distance on my own, looping back on the road next to the railroad yard to get back to the trail. This is a picture of the Maryland Route 17 bridge at Brunswick taken during that part of the walk.There were a couple of trains parked on the tracks at the far end of the yard.I see trains at this location almost every time I pass by on the road. (You can actually see these trains on the other side of the bridge if you open up the picture of the bridge!)

As we were departing the area of the railroad yard on our way back to Lander Lock, the train that we had seen moving about in the yard let out three blasts of its horn (similar to this sound) and started moving in our direction. It was still moving quite slowly, still picking up speed, when the locomotives passed us by. The train consist itself was much longer than the J. B. Hunt set of container cars that we had originally seen. With its over 160 varied freight cars, it was long enough (and slow enough!) that we even reached the Catoctin Aqueduct on foot on the trail before the train fully passed us by!

We made a stop at the Rocky Point Creamery on our drive back home to pick up some ice cream. We have driven past this place for many years, and this is the first time we stopped to investigate further. The ice cream remains to be consumed at this point in time!

Crossing Little Catoctin Creek

Our trip to the C&O Canal last weekend took us further north than usual.  I was trying to find some newer places to visit.  I was also hoping to avoid crowds.  There are more people on the towpath these days.  This could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps folks are tired of being forced to stay indoors (on account of COVID-19) and need an outlet.  Also, the parking lots along the canal that are closer to Washington, DC, have been closed because they are getting crowded. The crowds there are not practicing proper physical distancing.  Perhaps people have been forced further north as a result.  I also believe that the park has, in general, been getting more popular in recent years.

We had to drive north on Interstate-270, through Frederick, to get to the starting point for our walk, which was the parking lot at Lander Lock.  I had been making that drive on I-270 quite frequently during the weekends in the years gone by, but less so in recent times.   Family outings create their own time constraints, and this parking area was a little further away than usual.  There were more cars than I expected when we arrived there.  There were also more people on the trail than we expected, including a lot of bicyclists.  It was not exactly what we had hoped for.

This is the lock house for Lander Lock. Lander Lock is lock 29 on the canal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first major water crossing of the walk was at the aqueduct across Catoctin Creek.  You can see the Potomac river in the distance in the picture below (taken from the aqueduct itself).  I did not take pictures of the aqueduct itself this time because  I have taken so many of them in the past (including this one).  In fact, I have traveled along this section of the trail in the times even before the reconstruction of the aqueduct.  Perhaps you can also make out the kayak on the shore of the creek, closer to the river, in the picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis section of the trail runs next to the railroad tracks.  The next parking area up north is at Brunswick, which is a big switching yard for CSX freight trains.  This morning was relatively quiet as far as railroad traffic was concerned.  We saw just one freight train go by.  There was more activity at the switching yard itself.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFurther north, we had to go down to the level of the Little Catoctin Creek to proceed further along the trail.  The old bridge that previously carried the trail over the creek had been at the level of the trail itself. It was completely destroyed in a flooding episode in May 2018.   (The original culvert for the creek, letting it flow under the canal itself, had been destroyed even earlier on and replaced by the bridge.  The old bridge had been meant as a temporary solution, but had lasted many years.)  The park service has now built a new bridge at the creek level that serves as a temporary crossing of the creek.  This bridge can only be used when the water level is low.  I do not know the schedule for a more permanent solution.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see the remains of one of the walls of the original culvert in the picture below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere seemed to be many people in the campground next to the trail at Brunswick.  This must have been on account of it being the Memorial Day weekend.  The lock down situation because of the coronavirus has been eased in most parts of Maryland.  We, unfortunately, live in a county where the cases of COVID-19 have not come down significantly, and we have to follow stricter rules closer to home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFurther north, the trail runs beside the freight yard.  This canal section, between the trail and the freight yard, happens to have water in it.  We saw this parent duck swimming away from us with its ducklings when it heard us coming, trying to take the little ones away from us to safety.  I suspect that the parent is a breeding female long-tailed duck, but I cannot be sure.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail was getting even more crowded by the time we started making our way back.  There were families heading out to picnic.  This particular family had picked a spot beside the Catoctin creek.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe crowd on the trail made it a less pleasant experience than usual.  The notion of getting away from the crowd by driving away from the city did not seem to work.  We also ran across more people, mainly bikers, who did not seem to understand common courtesy on the trail. Perhaps an earlier start in the day is called for from now on.

In other news, the platform that I use to write these blogs on is changing its editing tools.¬† The newer tools have a greater level of sophistication, but there is a learning curve involved, and it is also not clear yet how much of the look of the blog I will be forced to change over time.¬† This is an unexpected challenge, and a distraction that I wish I did not need to navigate past at this point.¬† In fact, I am having challenges even editing this blog.¬† I think the tools themselves are still being debugged. We’ll see how it goes over the long run.

Favorite Place

The subject of this week’s challenge¬† is an easy one for me to tackle, and obvious to folks who know me.¬† You will find me any free weekend exploring some section of the 184.5 mile long C&O Canal towpath.¬† Last weekend took us to a section near Point of Rocks for our Sunday walk.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe branches of the sycamore tree stand out in winter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are the locks and lockhouses,

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Lockhouse for Landers Lock

the aqueducts,

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Catoctin Aqueduct

and the Potomac river (which looked especially blue that morning).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mergansers come around only in winter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bridge at Point of Rocks looked stunning in the morning lightOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and this almost looks like a piece of art when the endorphins are flowing on a lovely morning like the one we we had!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA