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.
View Pope's Creek Rail Line in Bowie, Maryland in a larger map
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