Sunday, April 26, 2009

Abandoned Clothing Factory, Baltimore

There are a lot of abandoned buildings in Baltimore and a trip I'd missed with the group was to an old clothing factory. It seemed a shame to just head home after the museum visit so I embarked on my first solo urban exploration. I was a little nervous but the thought of missing out soon erased my fears.
The building is due for auction any day now and the council has been pushing for the place to be cleared up.

This trash bin gave the first clue as to the building's previous use. Because this trip was not on my agenda I didn't have any of my equipment with me and as I entered the building, it was pitch black, and I had to stop and think about my next move. Not having a flashlight, I used my camera flash to negotiate my way around the first floor. It must have been the office section as it was a maze of tiny empty rooms. I found my way down to the basement but that was also empty and very damp. I headed to the stairs, and climbed up in the dark hoping I'd not come too late and the building would already be empty.

I came out on the third floor and discovered the first of the two factory floors. The flooring must have once been beautiful but was now rotting and lifting in places with the damp.

The clock in station was intact with the clock stopped at 1:59. This factory once produced tailored high end mens' clothing from the 70's and closed around 1985.

There were dozens of sewing machines on tables pushed together and work benches stacked up.

I was amazed to see customer records still intact and this one was a rush order showing the detail that went into the gentleman's outfit.

I found this old pamphlet on the floor, incredible that it had survived.

There were many kinds of sewing machines, each for a different purpose, and this was a button hole machine. A repair shop was at one end of the factory with machines on shelves either repaired or waiting for repair, and rows of drawers containing spare parts.

I came across a fabulous selection of buttons still in their boxes waiting to be used.

It was sad to see these bolts of fabric slowly perishing, most seemed to be good quality materials.

Around the factory, I saw many relics from the trade and more buttons for jackets.

There were different presses on the floor and old irons. I couldn't work out what this press was for but maybe for pressing lapels or collars? Out the back was also a huge Cleaver Brooks boiler for washing the fabrics.

The most astounding sight of all was these coats and jackets, rows and rows of them all over the factory. There were beautifully made and hanging waiting to be worn. From corduroy sports jackets to tailored raincoats to heavy silk-lined winter coats, they just hung in the gloom slowly being eaten away by the damp.

Maybe some can be rescued and distributed to shelters once the building is cleaned out in the near future. I finished with a quick look around on the roof then headed to the exit.

Walking to my car, I snapped this shot of a group of friends sitting in chairs in the middle of an open space surrounded by row house many of which were derelict.

A little further on, I grabbed this shot from my car, and then had to turn my camera off, otherwise I'd be editing photos for the rest of the week! What a satisfying day!

The B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore

I got up very early on Saturday and headed up to Baltimore to the B&O Railroad Museum as a VIP guest would be attending, Thomas the Tank Engine! I could hardly contain my excitement as I marched as fast as my legs would go towards the entrance, barely glancing at the many old and wonderful trains outside in the parking lot. Once inside, I headed straight to the queue of people waiting to have their photo taken with Thomas and patiently stood in line with scores of kids. I chatted to one of the staff members, George, who gave me history titbits on some of the trains and encouraged me to look in a building beyond the photo area which is often missed by the public.

Here I am with Thomas, well worth the wait! I was very disappointed though to discover that none of the Steam Team were present, no George, Edward or Emily. Just Thomas and apparently the Fat Controller would also be putting in an appearance.
I headed towards the building George had mentioned humming the Thomas theme tune which, although it constantly played throughout the day, it surprisingly didn't become annoying. I walked into the cool building and nearly fell over backwards. The largest train I had ever seen was in front of me gleaming in chrome and a beautiful yellow. The 490 is the only survivor of 4 Hudson type locomotives owned by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. It was rebuilt in 1946 from a Paific type locomotive which was originally built in 1926, clearly showing the beautiful Art Deco style that was so popular then. I had seen a lot of photos of these trains and had no idea that I'd see one today.

I found this photo on the internet of the 490 outside the museum, what a gorgeous train.

Here's George and I. I kept crossing back and forth and stopping to chat with him about trains and cameras, so he became quite a friend by the time I left.

Thomas spent the day chugging in and out of the station giving people rides. Here he is coming back from one of his excursions.

As he entered the station, he announced his arrival with plenty of whistles and steam.

Inside the Roundhouse, where many trains are kept, there was a Lego model railway featuring Thomas and friends, and this fabulous Lego Thomas.

There were a lot of spectacular trains here, but as only a few can be mentioned, here are my favorites. By the 1900's many new trains were having problems with tight clearances on the tracks. This train, CE-15, would go through tunnels and other problem areas with all the blades sticking out like a porcupine. As it passed through, the blades would fold back if they touched an obstruction, and readings were shown on gauges at the base of each blade.

Built in 1901, the 592 Camelback had a larger firebox so the train could go faster. This produced speeds of up to 90 mph pulling passenger cars between New York and Philadelphia. Although faster speeds could be obtained, it was dangerous for the engineer and fireman so production stopped, yet some railroads used them into the 1950's.

Here is the Fat Controller with a young fan. I wasn't brave enough to stand in line again with small kids so I had to content myself with this photo.

In 2003, the roof of the Roundhouse collapsed under heavy snow damaging trains that were housed within. You can see the new roof above the train. The 600 above had its cab crushed along with other damage, but should be restored within three years with the help of donations. Built by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1875, it won first prize for its appearance at the U.S. Centennial Exhibition in 1876.

This is the Stourbridge Lion, built in England around 1829. John Jervis was interested in purchasing locomotives for the Pennsylvania railway and sent his engineer to England. The engine became the first commercial locomotive in the Western Hemisphere and instigated American steam railways.

I had a look in the gift shop and found these t-shirts, printed by Emblemax! Even after 7 years, I still get a kick when I see our shirts on sale or being worn by someone.

This made me laugh. A car converted to ride on the tracks and even given a number like the locomotives. The 101, built in 1942, was used by management for inspecting the railways.

After saying goodbye to George and taking another long look and more photos of the 490, I headed towards my car, looking at the engines parked on rails in the parking lot. I loved this 2705, one of 12 remaining Kanawhas built by C&O Railroad built in the 20's, I believe. This train looked like it had been built for a Mad Max movie.
It had been a great morning and I felt I had achieved a lot in a few hours, but it was only midday as I sat in my car and pondered, where to next...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bull Run Conservancy

On Sunday, my friend Barb and I headed out towards Haymarket for a hike. The forecast was rain in the afternoon but the weather was warm and cloudy so it was perfect hiking conditions. Arde, Barb's woofer, came along for the walk too, this being his longest hike to date. The course was supposed to be about 6.5 miles reaching an elevation of about 800ft so it wasn't going to be too arduous.

We came across an old ice storage pit which was basically a large deep hole in the ground lined with rocks. A little further along the path we came across this wonderful ruin of Chapman Mill built in 1742 which ground cornmeal and flour for American troops through seven wars, from
French and Indian through to both World Wars. During the Civil War, the confederates used it to store more than two million pounds of meat. By 1876, the Beverley family had restored the mill to its intended purpose and it operated until 1951. It was gutted by fire in 1998 but a nonprofit organization has purchased the property with intentions to preserve the structure.

Just a few yards further up the trail, we found this tree and had many laughs as we climbed in and out for photos, fervently hoping we wouldn't get stuck inside. Arde declined to participate.

This fallen down homestead was just up from the mill but we couldn't find any information about it. The rusty bedsprings and an old retro fridge could be seen under the collapsed rafters.

The summit was well worth the trek. This vista is actually on private land but other hikers and reports on line informed us that everybody went past the park boundaries to take advantage of the views.

I loved the lichen growing on this quartz and granite boulder.

We sat for 40 minutes eating our lunch and enjoying the beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains while swallow tail butterflies fluttered round our heads and turkey vultures lazily swept circles in the sky.

We headed back downhill and Arde enjoyed the creeks which was just as well as we had to cross quite a few.

These fabulous plants were growing in the wet areas near the creeks. Their leaves were so vibrant against the brown leaves that because nothing else was growing nearby and they were so large and fleshy, they reminded me of John Wyndham's triffids.

Along one of the creeks we found some strange artifacts. Somebody had hung this rusted wheel which looked like an old farming tool, and we found the strange skull under a tree. Defintely not a deer, but I had no idea what wild animal would have this long head.

These stone benches were near an old quarry area but we were a little tired of creek hopping to take advantage of them so looked at them from the other side.

I had never seen a tree such as this before, and we thought it looked like it belonged in a fairy tale. It was forming a natural waterfall, with its roots like fingers coming out of the bank. The branches had been carved with initials but sprouting buds proved that it was still alive.

Our last stop was at the Dawson graveyard, a small area with two stones and a simple stone wall surrounding them.. The foundations of the Dawson homestead were nearby.
We got back to the car after nearly six hours. We'd lost our direction a couple of times and gone in a circle repeating our steps once so we'd probably covered about 8 or 9 miles in all. This was a great hike with plenty to stop and look at and we were fortunate only to feel a few drops of rain.
Barb and I headed to our homes to clean up and enjoy a glass of wine. Arde got home and slept.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Distillery, Baltimore

On Saturday, a few of us trekked to Baltimore in the pouring rain to explore an old brewery which had been closed since 1989 but had once called itself "America's largest independent distillery". Much of the place had been stripped and most of the windows smashed but we managed to stay dry for most of the time.

I found a fermentation log book with the date 11/30/66 in the top right hand corner.

The water tower was still intact but a lot rustier from photos I found on the web. The Distillery used to have an innovative marketing department that wouldn't seem a bit out of place in today's beverage marketing world. They called their 98% rye mashbill RYE-E-RYE, and their label sported a trade-marked proprietary logo offering assurance that BPR contains "Real RYE-E-RYE", not unlike the American Dairy Association's "REAL" cheese logo.

There used to be large copper tanks here for the whiskey but now you look from the top of the opening down to the three floors below.

This wonderful weight was still hanging near one of the vats and there was also one still standing on the floor.

These beautiful old vats are still in pristine condition and were bone dry inside when I climbed up and opened one of the hatches to look inside. We thought the wood was cedar and it smelt wonderful. I hope they will be saved and not left to slowly rot.

This wooden floor was in the room next to the vats above and was open to the elements, hence the moss growing abundantly. There were plenty of holes in the floor which we gave a wide berth.

These were the only grain feeders we saw in the whole building, some more relics which I hope will be saved.

Over 6 years ago, contractors slowly started gutting some of the buildings. It did not look as though this was being continued as we walked round unless progress is very slow. The site is destined to become a modern industrial park.