B&O Stringers in the Patapsco
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B&O Stringers in the Patapsco

August 14, 2019


I’m out on the Patapsco this morning and
this rock right here caught my eye. And what I noticed about it was…there was a… There’s this notch cut out of the edge of the rock, running the full length of the rock. And what I also noticed were these holes. So this one…you can see it has
some staining around it and there is a… a piece of metal in there like a nail. A piece of iron. Then if you come a little bit further along… There’s another one. See if there’s
anything…I can feel something in there. And then over here there’s probably another one. Yep, so there’s one. I can’t…doesn’t feel like there’s anything in there. So what I think this is…I think that this is a stringer from the original Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This thing’s probably about 200 years old. Or close to it. You know…late 1820s, early 1830s. And what they would do…they didn’t use wooden ties back then, on the first B&O. They used these stone “stringers”, I think they were called. They would lay a piece of iron…they would carve out this notch, and lay a piece of iron in there, drill some holes, and then nail the iron…a piece of iron — “strapping” I think they called it — down to the rock. And that was your railroad. You can imagine the work that that took. I mean, this thing’s only about, I don’t know, about 4 feet long or so. Thousands and thousands of these things laid parallel to the rails to make the railroad. I don’t know when they switched to wood ties. That would be interesting to find out. Oh yeah, and then, you know, ironically
enough, right next to this thing… is what looks to be a railroad axle. So those are definitely railroad wheels. Not very large, so this maybe was just a piece of equipment instead of a full-blown railroad car, but… The way you can make sure that it really was for the railroad is if they are about 4 feet, 8 inches apart. Because that was the width between the rails…four feet eight inches. They certainly seem to be that far apart. These are the things that you can see in the river if you just know what to look for. Here’s another clue…let’s come over here. See this stone…you can see all the notches cut in there. Every time you see those notches, of course it’s something man-made. Let’s take a closer look. And… Come around here… So you can…that’s where they split the rock…pounded things in there to split the rock apart… And you’ll see…yeah, this is probably another stringer! Because if you look here, there’s this…another notch cut in here running the full length of this thing. I can’t really see if there any holes where the nails went. It’s hard to see. That might be one down there. Oh yeah… there is one. Let’s see if we can see it. There’s a hole in there. So this is another stringer for the railroad. So, again, probably close to 200 years old. It’s about…I’m guessing it’s about 4 feet long. Just remember there’s 200 years-worth of
railroading that’s, over the years, washed into the river. There’s so much to discover if you
just know what to look for.

1 Comment

  • Reply J H July 27, 2019 at 2:07 am

    this is so cool! It seems relic/artifact finds on the patapsco are hard to come by. Still having luck?

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