Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Collecting Coal Along the Pope's Creek Line in Bowie

During a recent excursion with the kids to hunt for railroad spikes in Bowie, we came across a man collecting coal along the side of the tracks. The coal fell out of rail cars, and the man said that he was collecting it for a "friend" who burns it in a wood stove during the winter for heat. I'm not sure if he was just being frugal or if he fell on hard times.

Picking up coal along railroad tracks was a common practice during the Great Depression. The following is a copy of a public service poster from the 1930s discouraging parents from letting their kids pick coal along the tracks.

Photo from the Black is the New Black blog
Danger!! Parents: See that your children play in a safe place! Do not sent them out on the railroad tracks to pick coal!

Tons of coal are shipped through Bowie each day on the Pope's Creek Rail Line bound for power plants in southern Maryland.

The Pope's Creek line begins in Old Bowie at the Amtrak Northeast Corridor main line near the railroad museum. The northern sections of the track run along Chestnut Avenue and High Bridge Road, and the tracks eventually take a path that parallels Route 301.

Coal cars entering the Pope's Creek Rail Line at the intersection with Amtrak's Northeast Corridor main line in Old Bowie near the railroad museum.

Coal cars crossing Chestnut Avenue

Coal found along Pope's Creek Rail Line in Bowie

Coal and Railroad spike found along Pope's Creek Rail Line

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  1. Mike, you make a good and rare thing with your Bowie Living Blog - you take a small thing and make it interesting.

    But it's not a small thing in the end, it's where you and our family live, and that's a big thing.

    I lived nearby for a time, but that's enough to make your micro-specific blog interesting to me.

  2. Bob, thanks for the kind words. Have a Happy New Year!