It’s an immense curved viaduct!

The Thomas Viaduct spans the Patapsco River and its valley between Relay and Elkridge, MD. It was commissioned by the B&O Railroad; built between July 4, 1833, and July 4, 1835; and named for Philip E. Thomas, the company’s first president.  It remains the world’s oldest multiple arched stone railroad bridge.

At its completion, this viaduct was the largest railroad bridge in the United States and the country’s first multi-span masonry rail bridge to be built on a curve. It is divided into eight spans and was designed by Benjamin  Henry Latrobe II, who was then B&O’s assistant engineer and later its chief engineer.   In 1964, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.  In 2010, the bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Thomas Viaduct is now owned and operated by CSX Transportation (successor to the B&O) and still is in daily operation, making it one of the oldest railroad bridges still in service.

The viaduct’s span is 612 feet; individual arches are roughly 58 feet in span, with a height of 59 feet from water level to the base of the rail. Width at the top is 26 feet 4 inches. The bridge is constructed using a rough-dressed Maryland granite ashlar, known as Woodstock granite, from Patapsco River quarries.  A wooden-floored walkway built for pedestrian and railway employee use is 4 ft. wide and supported by cast iron brackets and edged with ornamental cast iron railings. The viaduct contains 24,476 cubic yards of masonry and cost $142,236.51, equal to $3,568,301 today.

In 1835 the Washington Branch was constructed, including the Thomas Viaduct. This branch was at Relay, MD, the site of a former hotel and changing point for stagecoach horses. The 1830s Relay House served as a hotel until it was replaced by the $50,078.41 (equal to $1,081,833 today) Viaduct Hotel in 1872. The Gothic combination railroad station and hotel operated until 1938 and was torn down in 1950.

When the Thomas Viaduct was completed, a 15-foot obelisk bearing  names of the builder, directors of the railroad, the architect and others associated with the viaduct was erected at the east end in Relay, by builder John McCartney. On one side the monument read: The Thomas Viaduct, Commenced July 4, 1833 Finished, July 4, 1835. He also celebrated the completed work by having his men kneel on the deck of the viaduct while mock “baptizing” them with a pint of whiskey.

Until after the Civil War, the B&O was the only railroad into Washington, DC.  Thus, the Thomas Viaduct was essential for supply trains to reach the nation’s capital during that conflict. To prevent sabotage, the bridge was heavily guarded by Union troops stationed along its length.

In 1929, extensive mortar work on the masonry was carried out, and again in 1937. To counteract deterioration, the Thomas Viaduct underwent more cosmetic upgrades in 1938, performed by the B&O. The viaduct is still indicative of the way in which B&O track and major structures were constructed – built to last! At an unknown date, railing blocks were removed from the north side of the deck and a bracketed walkway added giving more lateral clearance.

From the 1880s to the 1950s, Thomas Viaduct carried B&O’s famed Royal Blue line passenger trains between New York and Washington. Until the late 1960s, the bridge also carried B&O passenger trains traveling to points west of Washington, such as the Capital Limited and National Limited, both westbound. With the advent of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, B&O ended its passenger train service, except for local Baltimore–Washington commuter trains. In 1986, CSX acquired the B&O and all of its trackage, including the Thomas Viaduct.

The bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark on January 28, 1964, and administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. In 2010, the bridge designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Yours truly has been over this landmark a number of times as a passenger, as well as having “looked up from ground level at its beauty.”  It definitely is awe-inspiring…but so sad that they tore down the old hotel…it would have been a finishing touch to the scene!


During our most recent trip south to visit our son and his family, we made a “slight left turn” and dropped in on the Tennessee town of Greeneville, which we found has an important place in USA history.  That’s because President Andrew Johnson (17th president, 1865 – 1869) lived here…

More about President Johnson…from school history, and a refresher found on Wikipedia.  He assumed the presidency as he was vice president at the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.  Johnson was a Democrat who ran with Lincoln on the National Union ticket, coming to office as the Civil War concluded. He favored quick restoration of the seceded states to the Union without protection for the former slaves. This led to conflict with the Republican-dominated Congress, culminating in his impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1868. He was acquitted in the Senate by one vote.

Johnson was born into poverty in Raleigh, North Carolina, and he never attended school. He was apprenticed as a tailor and worked in several frontier towns before settling in Greeneville, Tennessee. He served as alderman and mayor there before being elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1835. After brief service in the Tennessee Senate, Johnson was elected to the House of Representatives in 1843, where he served five two-year terms. He became governor of Tennessee for four years, and was elected by the legislature to the Senate in 1857. In his congressional service, he sought passage of the Homestead Bill, which was enacted soon after he left his Senate seat in 1862. Southern slave states seceded to form the Confederate States of America, including Tennessee, but Johnson remained firmly with the Union. He was the only sitting senator from a Confederate state who did not resign his seat upon learning of his state’s secession. In 1862, Lincoln appointed him as Military Governor of Tennessee after most of it had been retaken. In 1864, Johnson was a logical choice as running mate for Lincoln, who wished to send a message of national unity in his re-election campaign; and became vice president after a victorious election in 1864.

After Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, then-President Johnson implemented his own form of Presidential Reconstruction, a series of proclamations directing the seceded states to hold conventions and elections to reform their civil governments. Southern states returned many of their old leaders and passed Black Codes to deprive the freedmen of many civil liberties, but Congressional Republicans refused to seat legislators from those states and advanced legislation to overrule the Southern actions. Johnson vetoed their bills, and Congressional Republicans overrode him, setting a pattern for the remainder of his presidency. Johnson opposed the Fourteenth Amendment which gave citizenship to former slaves. This did not endear him to many folks.  In 1866, he went on an unprecedented national tour promoting his executive policies, seeking to break Republican opposition. As conflict grew between the branches of government, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act restricting Johnson’s ability to fire Cabinet officials. He persisted in trying to dismiss Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, but ended up being impeached by the House of Representatives and narrowly avoided conviction in the Senate. He didn’t win the 1868 Democratic presidential nomination and left office the following year.

Johnson returned to Tennessee after his presidency, and gained some vindication when he was elected to the Senate in 1875, making him the only former president to serve in the Senate. He died five months into his term. Johnson’s strong opposition to federally-guaranteed rights for black Americans is widely criticized; he is regarded by many historians as one of the worst presidents in American history.  (Wonder where he fits, in comparison with some of our more recent ones?)

As for Greeneville itself, it’s a lovely town.  We found the pretty little train station (naturally), still in use but not as a railroad station.  As for his residence “The Homestead”,  above left, Johnson owned it for 24 years, and lived here both before and after his presidency. During the Civil War, soldiers occupied the property and left it in disrepair. The Johnsons renovated it when they returned from Washington, filling it with Victorian furnishings and political gifts. Three generations of the family then occupied the home, before placing it in the stewardship of the National Park Service

And a very pretty property it is – that back porch is simply spectacular!  It would be fun to go back for a tour when we have more time!



First time in a while!

With the improvement in virus figures, and the fact that most Antique car events are held outside, the hobby is beginning to see an uptick in activity out here on the Delmarva. And yours truly finally fired up the antique to participate in one!

It was not a show…just an activity, thus there was no competition for a trophy. And I chose to wear a less feminine polo top with shorts, due to its relatively close-to-home location (yes, I did wear flats as opposed to sandals – in case there was gravel to walk on – which turned out to be an astute decision.) But it provided an opportunity to fire up the old car, clean the dust off, and give it some much needed exercise (something that at 10-12 miles per gallon on premium fuel costing over $3.50 a gallon, doesn’t happen without a purpose!)

Much to my surprise, the first person to approach the car after getting set up for the display, was a 40something guy, bald but with a cap, wearing what appeared to be men’s clothing and flip-flop type sandals. But that isn’t what I initially noticed. It was the fact that his pedicure featured the reddest, most sparkly pedicure I have ever seen on a man presenting as male. I could have stared at it, but didn’t. So I ignored his pretty polish, and went into my usual car-show demeanor, with some unspoken regret about having worn flats. Not wishing to embarrass him (or myself) if he was simply choosing to display fashion freedom, I said nothing about his polish. And sadly, did not remove my shoes.

But it was certainly tempting!

You never know what’s going to happen!



Some Baltimore highlights:

With some more errands to complete on the west side of the bay, I headed in that direction after changing into my pretty floral dress, and was wearing my new sandals. After touching up my make-up in the car, I noticed that I was addressed as female over half the time, and the rest of the time gender-specific greetings were omitted. Perfectly fine with me. And other than occasional eye contact from passers-by, there was no noticeable “side-eye” or staring.

After my errands were completed, I found time to do some sightseeing – which is much more fun in a dress! First stop: Mt. Royal Station.

Designed by noted Baltimore architect E. Francis Baldwin, Mt. Royal station was constructed in 1896 by the B&O Railroad as part of its track improvement project for its New York City passenger service. Located at the north end of the B&O’s Howard Street tunnel, the station was built of Maryland granite trimmed with Indiana limestone, with an attractive red tile roof and landmark 150 ft. clock tower. The station’s interior featured marble mosaic flooring, two fireplaces, and rocking chairs.

“It was considered,” said the Baltimore Sun, “the most splendid station in the country built and used by only one railroad. That evaluation was shared by railroad historian Lucius Beebe, who proclaimed Mt. Royal to be “one of the celebrated railroad stations of the world, ranking in renown with Euston Station, London, the Gare du Nord in Paris, and the Pennsylvania Station on Broad St. in Philadelphia.” A commentator for the Baltimore Evening Sun reminisced about the station years after it closed, writing that its waiting room ambiance was “like a mountain lodge after dinner”, with cozy fireplaces ablaze at both ends of the station while passengers relaxed in rocking chairs serenaded by soothing recorded music.

The B&O pioneered the first U.S. mainline railway electrification system at Mt. Royal Station when it opened in 1896, installing an overhead 3rd rail system in the station’s train shed and tunnel approaches. (No longer operable, no longer present.)

The most famous train associated with the Mt. Royal Station was the Royal Blue, which ran between Washington DC and New York City. After the B&O ended all passenger service north of Baltimore on April 26, 1958, Mt. Royal Station became the eastern terminus of B&O’s passenger trains. It was one of thirteen Baltimore buildings selected in 1959 for the Historic American Buildings Survey. On June 30, 1961, the B&O consolidated its Baltimore passenger train service at nearby Camden Station, permanently ending its use of Mt. Royal Station after 65 years of operation.

The vacant railroad station building, train shed, and the surrounding 3¼ acres were subsequently acquired by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 1964 for $250,000    The sale amount was far below market value and represented “a substantial donation on the part of the B&O”, said MICA officials.   After $1 million was raised by MICA for the project,  Mt. Royal was converted for use by art students in 1967 at a final cost of $18 per square foot of building space.   This was considerably less than the estimated cost for a new building of $25 per square foot. The former B&O baggage room and platform areas were enclosed for use as studios and the station’s exterior and clock tower were retained. The original 800-foot long iron train-shed remains over CSX Transportation’s still-very-active mainline tracks. This adaptive re-use preserved the Mt. Royal Station as an example of late 19th century industrial architecture, using it for a purpose different from its original one.

Design work for the conversion was performed by Richard Donkervoet, of Cochran, Stephenson and Donkervoet.  Donkervoet retained as much of the building’s exterior appearance as possible, and also preserved much of the interior character, including the vaulted ceilings, columns, and mosaic floor. Architectural Forum recognized the station renovation for “sensitivity by later architects to the initial conception by the original.” On December 8, 1976, the station was added to the register of National Historic Landmarks, granting it full protection as an historic site. The Mt. Royal Station’s train shed, one of the country’s last remaining such structures, was renovated in 1985 due to advanced deterioration of the shed’s materials. In 1992, the AIA’s Baltimore chapter honored the Maryland Institute and architects Cochran, Stevenson & Donkervoet with a 25 Year Award for Excellence in Design of Enduring Significance for their adaptive reuse of the former train depot.

Between 2005–2007, MICA accomplished a two-phased, $6.3 million renovation of the building – first phase: renovation of the interior, was completed in Fall, 2005: The second phase, restoration of the building’s exterior and train shed, was completed in Spring, 2007. . In keeping with the pedestrian landscaping and streetscape that MICA has created along Mt. Royal Avenue, a new plaza with benches, bike racks, shrubs, and ornamental grasses and ground cover was added. The Station Building, as it is now called by MICA, houses the undergraduate departments of fiber and interdisciplinary sculpture, 3-D classrooms, and the Rinehart School of Sculpture, as well as senior studios.

After finishing up there, I headed for the area along the Jones Falls creek, where there were many old mill buildings. Like Mt. Royal Station, these old (1800’s) industrial buildings have been saved, repurposed into storefronts and residences, and are quite attractive.

Below are a few samples of the mills:

First picture is Mill 1, which began life in 1847 as a cotton mill for the Mt. Vernon Company, the world’s largest producer of cotton duck in the late 19th century. Now it is a repurposed and energy efficient commercial and residential building, with historic significance and original appearance, all in its original setting.

The second picture is of Mt. Vernon Mill #4. This is a bit farther north along the creek. I could find very little info about this factory’s early usage.

Lastly is Whitehall Mill…another mixed commercial and residential community. All very well done.

With the pandemic stil rolling along, I didn’t attempt to get an idea of prices or availability…it would have been fun to go for a site visit in a dress. But even at this stage of the pandemic, “out and about” is still better accomplished minus close interface with others…

On the way home by a different route than usual, I availed myself of the unisex restroom in an office building, then dropped off some info to a medical office nearby…completing a fine day of exploration. Hopefully I can go again soon.



They just arrived…

Yesterday on the way home, I stopped by the post office.  That new dress I ordered at the end of April arrived – at last.  It’s made under the same company name as my brown floral dress, but it’s a different floral pattern.  Compare the two of them – they look similar, but are definitely different patterns.   And both will look fine with dark or light color sandals.

But I’ll have to go back to a black purse with both of them…the purse sort of clashes with the brown dress, and doesn’t work with this blue, either!

In addition to the above dress, I ordered a white tiered skirt.  While I now really prefer wearing dresses, a skirt can make changing in the car for day trips a whole lot easier…especially for solo day excursions.

I wonder if a trip to the seamstress’s shop will result in an improved fit in either garment?  Might be worth stopping by…she usually finds ways to make them look prettier!



Who Built It?

The other day I noticed a new sight along US 50 – the main route to/from western shore of Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic beaches of the Ocean City/Assateague Islands areas:

It’s the shell of a “stuffed and mounted” small airplane, turned into a permanent display at a gas station. (It’s missing landing gear, the engine, possibly part of the tail, the interior, so it’s permanently grounded without a significant renovation.) You can see it’s been anchored against the ever-present wind, to recessed concrete anchor points.

Since seeing it up close for the first time, one thing I’ve been wondering is “Who built it, and roughly when?” (Any/all manufacturer ID is long gone.) From my limited experience piloting small planes back in the late 1960’s and ’70’s, I initially thought of Navion and Ercoupe. But the general arrangement of the tail doesn’t match my memories of those brands, and the pic doesn’t look like what I can find on line.

So, if any of you out there are pilots familiar with general aviation aircraft, can you shed some light on this?



It happened again!

Sometimes good things happen in pairs…

In a recent post, I mentioned that while I was sitting at the pharmacy waiting to pick up a prescription, a woman walked by and sat down in front of me, facing away from me.  And because I recognized the floral pattern from the website where I bought my floral dress, it hit me that she and I were both wearing the same style dress.   That’s fabulous, not to mention unusual – but wait, there’s more!

In my other recent travels, I’ve noticed at least 2 girls have been wearing  sandals with the triangular central strap like mine, and 2 other girls in similar style sandals, but with a thinner central strap.   All were sporting pretty pedicures, and this happened as I was wearing my new sandals!  This is fabulous…unfortunately none of the girls stopped to talk about it!  Maybe next time?

And two days later, at the local hardware store (dressed in shorts, a short sleeve blouse and my new sandals) to pick up some things. A thirtysomething female clerk asked me: “May I help you, Ma’am?” I told her what I was looking for, and she not only took me to them, she carried all my items to checkout for me. And when done, the female cashier said “Have a good day, Ma’am.”



A quickie…

The other day Wifey and I were going out together to run some errands in a nearby town, and she encouraged me to try my new sandals.  I knew I’d end up with irritation issues the first few times I wear them.  But I put them on anyway,  thus beginning the adjustment period.   And the expected happened.  Fortunately tenderness and irritation both eventually heal, and after a few repeated episodes, the problem will go away.    But I’m in that “waiting period” now…  

Fortunately, my closet has plenty of sandals, so there hasn’t been any need for closed shoes. And that’s a good thing, since they’re put away for the summer!

Today I had occasion to wait for a prescription to be refilled. (I was at the pharmacy in town, wearing my white 3” inseam shorts, a black square-neck blouse and my white sandals, with purse, long hair and painted nails visible.)  And there I was, sitting with my legs together, ankles crossed demurely, with my purse in my lap.   A lady with much the same build as me “except a bit more of a bustline” passed in front of me, and sat down nearby, unfortunately with her back to me.  (Whenever I’m wearing my dress, I’ll have to remember to adjust it as I sit down, like she did!)

But the first thing I noticed as she was passing by, was her dress itself.  It was attractive – she looked very pretty, it fit well, and accentuated her bare legs and skimpy sandals with beautiful pedicure.  Then I did a double take…that floral pattern looked familiar!   So I pulled out my phone, and checked the catalog from which I ordered my floral dress.   Lo & behold, she was wearing the same brand and style of dress that I own – just a different color and floral pattern.   I bet I know where she shops!!!  Now I feel much more confident that I made a good choice, having seen another woman wearing “my” dress. 

Too bad I was only wearing shorts, a blouse and sandals.  Wouldn’t it have been amazing if we’d both been wearing “the same dress at the same time?”  That’s the kind of thing a nice long “girl talk” is made of! Maybe next time…lol!

More later,



It’s now been well over three weeks that I’ve been wearing sandals every day…and I love it!   No complaints whatsoever from Wifey!  (Though she still mostly wears closed shoes.) 

She “suggested” (you know what a suggestion means…) that “you make room for sandals in your closet.  Store all your closed shoes in the basement, and bring up all your sandals since you’re wearing them now.”  I suggested leaving a pair of ballet flats upstairs in case I should have to dress in something more formal than capris or leggings.  “No worries – your dressy sandals will look fine.  And you have plenty of sandals to wear with your different outfits.”

So that sort of answers the question I’ve been asking myself…”which shoes will I wear with my suit?”  The answer is “not shoes – sandals.”   Looks like I’ll need to get all 20 nails done more often, so they always look pretty. No more stretching it those couple extra weeks!

Latebreaking update: my new sandals have finally arrived! Here are some pictures…

The good news is – they fit. We both think they look nice with my black house dress.  (I’m suspecting this will become one of my solo travel outfits!)  Because they’re a thong sandal with backstrap, they won’t slip off.  But with their hard sole and insole, they’re noisy to walk in.  That’s improving the more often that I wear them.

Since I’m keeping these, I’ll wear them a few hours a day for the first few weeks, so the skin between my toes becomes accustomed to the posts.  After they adjust, I’ll do some “closet surfing” to model them with different outfits for Wifey, so she can decide whether any additional colors would be in order…she might surprise me with that. Time will tell.

Stay tuned…