Not a Photo of the Southern Crescent... but worth a look...

posted Aug 21, 2017, 5:26 PM by James Lilly   [ updated Aug 21, 2017, 5:27 PM ]

The Southern Crescent was an overnight long-haul passenger train operated by the Southern Railway between Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, Louisiana, with connections North and West in those two cities. The line was operated as a privately-run train for eight years after Amtrak took over most of the nation's other passenger trains on May 11971. The last run of the Southern Crescent, Southern train numbers 1 and 2, took place on January 311979, with Amtrak taking over the route on February 1, renumbering them 19 and 20. Credit: .

The train still operates today. 

One of members and a wonderful photographer, especially  of railroads, took a picture of a different crescent today. Alex Mayes captured the sun peeking out behind the moon in the shape of a crescent in the Southern sky. This was the 85% solar eclipse (sun blocked by the moon) which graced the Washington, D.C. area  peaking about 2:42 pm for just a couple minutes. The picture, one of about 30 Alex took,  is spectacular and we thought it worth sharing.

Alex said "I found the best viewing was when the sun was partially obscured by clouds, as when the sun was out full it was too bright, with no contrast for good photos. I used my Canon EOS 7D with a Tamron 16-300 MM lens, zoomed out to 300 MM—no filter on the lens.  Bracketed the exposures widely to ensure at least a few of the images came out OK."

Thanks for sharing, Alex.

Our own Dover Harbor Touted as Classic

posted Aug 13, 2017, 6:45 PM by James Lilly   [ updated Aug 13, 2017, 6:45 PM ]

A recent blog by former Trains Magazine Editor Kevin Keefe mentioned our own Dover Harbor as one of the rare heavyweights still roaming the mainlines of America AND available for the public to ride. The article is here.  

UPS vs. REA & Thanks Team UPS Baltimore

posted Aug 13, 2017, 6:40 PM by James Lilly   [ updated Aug 13, 2017, 6:48 PM ]

Team UPS works on painting the side of the car.

In the 1970s the Railway Express Agency (REA)  went out of business. One of its Chief competitors was the United Parcel Service (UPS).

Saturday, in the spirit of community and cooperation, UPS and DCNRHS joined together to complete the painting of the car body of RF&P No. 171, one of DCNRHS' 3 former RF&P REA baggage cars which the Chapter uses for storage and as workshop to keep our Great Steel Fleet of Amtrak qualified passenger cars on the road.

Team DCNRHS' volunteers, including Matt, Jim, Donna, John, Jon, Carol, Evelyn, Dean, Bill W., Richard, Donna, Robert, Bill D., and Wayne have been working most of the summer to prepare the car for painting.  

With the help of UPS employee Wayne Poates, one of our regular volunteers, 7 UPS employees (names forthcoming) from the Baltimore Terminal provided the manpower to fully repaint the car body.  There to assist and to do some of the painting as well were Jim, Bill, (and Wayne). The car looks beautiful.  All the remains is some touch up painting on the trucks and lettering.  Great job Team.....  On this day, I'd say UPS once again got the best of REA, but today there was no competition, just community spirit and cooperation. 

Now just two more baggage cars to go to get the job done.  We need volunteers to help us; no previous experience required, "We're DCNRHS, we train everybody."


Bill, DCNRHS member, paints the doorway of one end of the car.

Nora from UPS paints the end of the car.

REA Baggage Car Restoration Picking up Steam

posted Jul 29, 2017, 10:20 AM by James Lilly   [ updated Jul 29, 2017, 10:33 AM ]

DCNRHS' Railway Express Agency (REA) cars are notable in their history in that they were Railway REA cars assigned to the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad (RF&P) railroad.  Much like the United Parcel Service today, REA  provided shipment of individual parcels, goods and money at higher than standard shipping freight rates, quickly, securely, and safety between parties in different parts of the country.  A shipper would take his package to the local railroad depot or REA office, pay the clerk, and the package would loaded on an express, mail, or baggage car to be hauled to its final destination as quickly as possible.  A package might change trains several times en route at intermediate points before being delivered to the recipient or picked up at the local depot.  REA was well known for its the red-and-white diamond herald.   REA, which was wholly owned by the railroads on which it operated and traces its roots back to the 1830s, went out of business in the 1970s.


DCNRHS' three REA baggage cars were built for the RF&) for use as mail and express service primarily between Washington, D.C. Richmond, VA. The RF&P, which was founded in 1834, was the most direct North South mainline route (114 miles) across the Potomac River from the Northeast to the mid-Atlantic., The "Richmond-Washington Line" as the RF&P was known for many years, hauled passenger and freight trains between the Chesapeake & Ohio, Atlantic Coast Line, and Seaboard Airline railroad terminals in Richmond and the Pennsylvania, Southern, Washington and Dominion, and Baltimore & Ohio railroad terminals and stations in the Washington, D.C. area, merged into CSX in the 1990s. Today the RF&P hosts numerous CSX freight trains and Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express passenger trains daily.


DCNRHS' three REA cars, numbered No. 171, No., 174, and No. 186, are heavyweight era cars built by the American Car & Foundry Company in the 1930s.  They typically would have run on the head end of passenger trains. They are about 70 feet long, 10 feet wide, have concrete and wood floors, double steel riveted walls, friction bearings, heavy under frames with three sets of wheels at each end, and multiple sets of doors on each side for the quick loading and unloading of parcels big and small.  When the cars were retired from REA service, RF&P used them in maintenance of way trains before donating them to DCNRHS in the late 1980s.

The project is to preserve and restore the exterior color and appearance of the three cars.  These cars, which are located at the DCNRHS siding in suburban Washington, D.C., are a critical part of our equipment program.  They provide storage and a workshop space that supports the restoration and operation of our three historic Amtrak qualified railroad passenger cars, including our 1923 Pullman Dover Harbor.

The project will use a combination of contract and volunteer labor.  We will clean and power-wash the car bodies and under carriages, scrape the car exterior, make repairs to weakened body panels, apply caulk to seal any exposed seams, and prime rusted metal.  Steel plates will be placed on the outside wooden doors to reinforce them and make them more secure.

Then the cars will be painted in a Pullman green color to match their appearance during operations during the early part of the 20th Century.  The undercarriages will be painted black as appropriate.  The roofs will also be painted or covered with roofing material to ensure their watertight integrity for years to come.  Each car will have its original RF&P marking number restored to its exterior on both sides in gold paint using the correct Railroad Roman Font.  small plaque in the interior of each noting that the UPS Foundation's support for the project.


We began the project this spring, installed the water connection, and already have over 100 volunteer hours invested in the project and expect to have over 500 before the project is completed. We hope to complete it before winter but will need funding and contract assistance to do so.  The contract labor will primarily support heavy sanding work, roofing, and assist with the final painting.  The project is being led, managed and directed by our Chief Mechanical Officer who is a professional public-sector project manager.

The total cost of the project, including volunteer labor valued at $15.00 per hour, is expected to be about $24,455.00. Donations toward the project will be cheerfully accepted.  We are also looking for volunteers to help complete the project.

To date, we have made good progress on the first car, which is almost ready to paint.  Below you ca see some pictures.

Volunteer Richard Walter works on scraping the exterior of the first car.

Original RF&P Markings on a truck frame. *uncovered by power washing)

Volunteers Wayne Poates & Bill White (on ladder)
work on cleaning and prepping the exterior of the first car.

Richard Walter and Donna Dolan scrape and prime the exterior of the first car.

July and August Monthly Programs A Real Treat!

posted Jul 9, 2017, 9:14 AM by James Lilly

We have some fantastic educational activities coming up at our monthly programs

- July 21st is our annual "Skyline View" night.   Join us at 7PM at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria as we get exclusive access to the Observation deck.  Bring a camera and/or binoculars for fantastic views of the DC Metro Skyline.  Then stay for the 8PM PRogram by Doug Riddell, retired Amtrak engineer and gifted speaker. Doug will share photos and describe his experiences when he was the official Amtrak corporate photographer. 

- August 25 - NOTE THE CHANGE IN DATE - Kathleen Waters Sander will discuss her new book John W. Garrett and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (JHU Press, published April 14, 2017). This meeting will take place at 8 pm at the B&O Railroad Station, 8100 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD. Sander teaches history at the University of Maryland University College.  

DCNRHS Annual Summer Picnic Returns - Trackside!

posted Jul 9, 2017, 9:09 AM by James Lilly

It has been a while since DCNRHS has had a picnic, but it's back again this year! The picnic will be held on Saturday, September 16, at the Chapter's Martin F. O'Rourke Memorial Railroad Library at Bowie Tower in Bowie, MD. Come on out and spend some time with family and friends. You will also discover that this is an excellent location to view the heavy action on the Northeast Corridor. We'll provide hot dogs, hamburgers, drinks, and condiments. Bring a covered dish, and chairs! (If it's raining, we'll move inside.) Thanks to the Library Committee for sponsoring this year’s picnic. Please RSVP, with the number attending, to

Non-members are welcome.  All you have to do is join. If you are not currently a member, you can join at the picnic!

Date:    September 16, 2017

Time:   11:00 am - 4:00 pm

Location: Bowie Railroad Museum/Bowie Tower

8614 Chestnut Ave.

Bowie, MD 20715

The Crew Must Eat Too!

posted Jun 11, 2017, 9:04 AM by James Lilly

Last October 29th a member of the Mechanical Crew of the Dover Harbor deadheaded the car from Huntington, WV to Washington, D.C behind Amtrak's Cardinal after a charter.  As we had a special guest onboard from a Washington, D.C. area radio station, a special meal of Jim's Spaghetti (a famous Huntington area eatery in business since 1938 where the like of Benny Goodman, John F. Kennedy, Dustin Hoffman, Bill Cosby, George Bush, and Bill Clinton have all dined) was served Pullman style.  After all, the crew must eat too! The meal, which was was provided at not cost to the Chapter, was served on Pullman China. And if you are wondering, that's Coca-Cola in the wine glasses!  

Special June Program at Long Bridge Park

posted Jun 1, 2017, 5:14 AM by James Lilly

Join DCNRHS and fellow rail fans for a summer's evening of train watching and chatting at Long Bridge Park in Arlington, VA. We will convene on the wall adjacent to the tracks at 4:00 PM on June 23rdt. Parking is available and the park is a short walk from the Crystal City Metro station. Feel free to bring a picnic dinner, the chapter will provide a small selection of soft drinks. Free and open to the public. Bring a camera, bring a chair, and bring a friend! Free and open to the public. 

From this month in history...

posted Apr 29, 2017, 7:04 PM by James Lilly   [ updated Apr 30, 2017, 7:26 AM ]

75 Years ago in April 1942 the Doolittle Raiders made their famous raid on Tokyo.  On the U.S. Homefront on April 11 the War Production Board issued new rules that locomotive production schedules be approved by the WPB, due to other wartime production taking place at the same plants. No “passenger-only” locomotives will be built during the war, steam or diesel, and ALCo and Baldwin diesel production is limited to switchers. Only GM-EMD is allowed to build diesel road locomotives*.

Here in Washington, D.C. Union Station has become a bustling place.  During the height of World War II Union Station would see 100,000 or more passengers on some days.

The photo though not necessarily from April 1942, was taken by the War Information Office, and shows a sailor kissing his girl at Union Station. Washington, D.C. thus has its own version of the famous Sailor Kissing Girl photo at Time Square in New York on V-J Day, August 15, 1945.

Photo from the the Library of Congress. 

Partnership with Davis & Elkins Going Strong

posted Mar 28, 2017, 3:50 PM by James Lilly   [ updated Mar 28, 2017, 7:32 PM ]

April 1st will mark the beginning of the third year of our partnership with Davis and Elkins College. DCNRHS sponsors an internship which gives an Accounting student the opportunity to experience and learn skills in not-for-profit accounting.  in turn Davis & Elkins, under the leadership of Assistant Professor of Accounting & Business Lisa Daniels-Smith, provides advice and technical support to both her students and our organization.  DCNRHS Treasurer Jim Lilly said recently of the partnership "It has become a critical component in our ability to continue to deliver high-quality programs while maintaining compliance with accounting standards and IRS regulations.  I am very grateful for the partnership with D&E."

To learn more about Davis & Elkins College visit

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