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Conductor Two Bells (Nostalgia from Bygone Streetcar Days)
By Jerry D. Kelly

Why Ys?

     Letís start with a correction. As much as I donít like to tell you, but a recent Live Wire had an error. Yes, and it was because of me. The loop with the short life was not Westport but in fact was Mount Washington. This loop was built when the #25 line was cut back to Mt. Washington on April 24, 1949 with service to downtown Baltimore served by bus. By September 13, 1950, road work allowed bus service to replace the rail service that was once the north end of the #25, but known from April 24, 1949 to September 13, 1940 as #48 line. The #48 line was served by Peter Witts. Sorry for the error. Thanks to all who set me straight.

     I grew up on the west side of Baltimore and it must have been 1943 or 1944 before I rode the #17 line. Like many rail fans, I was taken with the "Y" at the north end of the line. It was the first time I had seen where a "Y" had been built and used daily. As I later learned, the "Y" was built prior to October 12, 1930, so Peter Witts could be assigned to this line. The north end of the line did not have room for a loop and at that time the south end of the line was Camden Station and the line made its loop on city street tracks. One was "Y" enough for this line. In a letter from John B. Duvall, dated February 10, 1942 to Mr. H. B. Potter, the track known as the stadium spur was the subject. Mr. Duvall said that only double end cars serving Baltimore City College, Eastern High School and the stadium would need one of the following: a loop or "Y" at the north end of the spur or installation of a right-hand crossover on Gorsuch Avenue. Single end cars could then be operated on the spur using the emergency equipment on the rear end. As we know, the cross over was installed and the second "Y" was not built.

     Another letter from Mr. Duvall to Mr. Potter was dated February 13, 1942 about an increase in business. The B.T.C. needed more double end one man cars. The company had a surplus of single end one man cars but they could not be used on the #17 line because the terminus facilities at Westport had to be operated only by double end cars. (The #17 line now ended at Westport after it took over the south end of the #12 line.) At this time, Mr.Duvall recommended that the company take steps to ascertain the cost of acquiring property either for a loop or "Y." As we now know a loop was built at Westport. This left the #17 line with the only "Y" in daily service. Of course, service ended June 21, 1947. Only later was a "Y" made part of the Edmondson Avenue car house. Used for turning cars as they would enter service, it was also the Owl Service terminus for #14 cars up to end of rail service on that line. From time to time, other street tracks on the system were used as a "T" but no "Y" as such was built.

     It seems that not a Wednesday passes without my learning some new information in the Maryland Railroad Heritage Library. Up to this time, I only knew of two transfer tables used by the United Railways and Electric Company and the Baltimore Transit Company. One was at Carroll Park Shops and the other at Retreat Street Car House. I have now located a third. It was located in the Oak Street Car House which closed in 1947. I must say that I was never all the way in Oak Street, so this was an eye opener to me.Many times, I have written and asked for information about the loop on the west side of the Edmondson Avenue Car House and now I have located the full background on this loop. The loop was built by UR&E and was for turning trailers. When trailers were used on #4 line, they were not needed past the car house but had to travel to Walbrook Loop to turn. This added 1Ĺ miles of running to each trip. At this time the cars on the #4, 9, 14 and 35 lines were all double end cars. As P.C.C. and single-end cars were added to the Edmondson Avenue Car House, the loop was needed to save both time and money.

     In 1946, as the company was about to sell the loop property to the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company (predecessor to VerizonK), a review was made of the loop and showed the following. Some 46 cars a day were brought out of the car house and backed west on the third track and into the loop and then operated westbound on the #4 or 14 lines. If this was not done, these cars would have had to leave the car house early so they could run to Charles and Lexington Streets and then return to west end of the #4 and 14 lines for the A.M. service. In the evening, some 28 west bound cars pulled into the loop and then to the third track and then backed into the carhouse. If not for the loop, these cars would have to run to the outer parts of #4 and 14 lines to turn. The Baltimore Transit Company had another idea. That was using cars from number 1-11 and 17 lines, double-end cars and the loop would not be needed. As it was, a "Y" was installed in the Edmondson Avenue Car House that was used up to closing in 1954.

     If you can add to these car house stories or any other factor of Baltimore Transit/United Railways history, please share them with us. The letters from Mr. Duvall to Mr. Potter are part of the B.T.C . files in our NRHS/BSM Library. The rest is from memory.

(Reprinted with permission from the Baltimore Streetcar Museum's quarterly newsletter, The Live Wire. 
Copyright 1999, The Baltimore Streetcar Museum, Inc. All rights reserved.)

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