To those who know the scene, the thought of Baltimore's Transit both past and present evokes a number of images. To those who appreciate the present, these thoughts often contain images of the Light Rail Line operating at 8 1/2 minute intervals, NABI buses working familiar routes such as the #8 and #13, and Metro Subway trains making the journey out to Owings Mills in less than half an hour. Students of the past recall Red Rockets on #26 line, Witts on the #25, Pumpkin PCCs closing out the Streetcar era, and belching steel monsters on the massive bus lines created with the help of Traffic Guru Henry Barnes.
Mention the word "OBSCURE" to one of these enthusiasts, and depending on the era, one might mention today's #24 line, or the #9 and #35 Jerkwaters of yesterday. However, mention any of the following operations to these same enthusiasts, and you're likely to be greeted with a blank stare! With this in mind comes this look into some of the most obscure transit operations in Baltimore.
Route 0 - Druid Hill Avenue Streetcar
While not really obscure to streetcar buffs, the presence of a Route #0 may come as a suprise to many of today's transit enthusiasts, to whom the presence of a "Zero Line" seems incomprehensible. Although not marked as "0" on car markers, and operated in the days before folding schedules, Route #0 operated along a former Cable Car Route from Druid Hill Park to Patterson Park. The route was officially the "Zero" by virtue of the car numbers that were assigned to it. In these days, car lines were designated by the number before the suffix numbers of the Car number - hence car #418 was operated on the #4 line, and car #2430 was a car from the #24 line. Cars of the Druid Hill Avenue Line were simply assigned two digit car numbers, hence the Druid Hill line was officially the "Zero." This operation began in 1897, and lasted until April of 1920, when it was absorbed by Route #5 out Park Heights Avenue. The designation has never been used since then, although with the recent delivery of "0000" series coaches, the time may yet be ripe for a new generation Zero Line!
Route 17 - East Fayette Street Line
In the years following 1947, the BTC began to gradually redesignate it's lettered bus routes to numbers. Among the lettered bus lines during that time was Route G, a here-again off-again operation that had been taken over from independent operators following the War. This route would later be absorbed by an extension of Route P when it became redesignated as the #23 on January 22, 1950. Before this would occur, Route G itself would be redesignated as Route #17, to follow the route of the original Route G, with one modification that would later find it using Monument Street to loop Downtown as a result of Centre Street being made one way effective August 17, 1949. While no official record survives to indicate when the "G" was redesignated as the #17, the bulletin that describes the route change is directed to "Operators of Route 17," which indicates that the designation was at some point prior to then. While it is questionable that bus roll signs displayed "17," at least one public schedule printing for the line was made with the cover marked "17."
Route 20 - West Arlington Streetcar Line
See History of Route #5-33 for details of this brief operation.
Route 24 - Brooklyn - Curtis Bay
Obscure operations are not simply limited to the long ago past. The not so distant past contains a few obscurties as well. Among them is Route #24, which was instituted following a revision of Route #64 in June of 1986. The route began operations on September 2, 1986, running from the Brooklyn (South Baltimore) Park & Ride Lot out Patapsco Avenue along the route of the Former Route #64 line branch to Curtis Bay. Little is known about why this route was initiated, perhaps out of complaints that the revised #64 line routing did not adequately serve riders during the base period, as the route was operated only on Weekdays in the middle of the day. No fold-out schedule was issued for the line, only a mere Rider Bulletin advised patrons of its existence. The line apparently failed to garner the ridership needed for survival, as it was discontinued with the schedule change of June 21, 1987. It is about certain that the line operated from Bush Bus Division.
Route 35 - U.M.B.C. - Catonsville Community College
The #20 West Arlington Streetcar may be the only route that operated for a shorter period of time than this obscurity. Still, despite the slightly longer duration of operation and the fact that it is far more recent, this strange route may have less known about it than most other obscure operations. Inaugurated on September 19, 1966, Route #35 was established to operate as a shuttle from University of Maryland Baltimore County to Catonsville Community College. The routing is uncertain, as is the vehicles that were operated on the service. Based on assumption alone, it seems logical that the line was operated with Bush Street 1100 Series coaches. Perhaps instituted as a contract operation, the line was discontinued with the end of operations on November 18, 1966, to total the operation at 61 days. No reason is stated in the bulletin as to it's discontinuance, but it might be reasoned that this was a temporary arrangement instituted until UMBC was able to supply its own transportation service. This, however is speculative.
Route 56 - Murray Hill
While among the less obscure of these operations, the #56 line was still off the beaten path for most transit riders who had no previous intention of using the line. Established on August 1, 1948 along a former #11 line branch, Route #56 initially operated from Murray Hill to Bedford Square, primarily along Charles Street (with selected trips looping at Charles & University). From inception to discontinuance, the line was continously operated from Kirk Division. Initially, the line was operated with Ford Buses, but would later see Brill buses assigned to it as well.
The only significant change to occur to the route happened on January 29, 1950, when following abandonment of the #24 Streetcar line, Route #56 was extended across Wydhurst, Keswick, Cold Spring, and Roland to U-Turn at Somerset Road to a layover just North of there on Roland. At the same time, selected trips on the line were extended West on Woodbrook Lane to a "designated loop" at an unverified location. This would allow former #24 Car patrons a relatively proximate transit journey that would still allow a direct connection with the #29 Bus Line. This elaborate set-up was almost certainly the result of directives of the Maryland Public Service Commission. These "via WOODBROOK" trips appear to have lasted until the end of Route #56 operations on April 18, 1953. The following day, Route #11 service was extended to Murray Hill along with selected trips on Route #29. The rather lonely and inconvenient #56 line was now a thing of the past.
Route #59 - Colgate
Another of Baltimore's obscure routes was the #59 - Colgate Shuttle. This line was operated on Weekdays and Saturdays during Rush Hours from a connection with Route #20 at Holabird & Ponca to the Colgate Warehouses via Holabird, Newkirk, and Leland to loop at the Colgate Warehouses property. Operated from Eastern Division, this line was entirely operated by Ford Buses. It is likely that one coach was all that was needed for service on this short line, as trip time was likely less than 5 minutes. Despite the fact that the line must not have been too costly to operate, Route #59 was discontinued effective August 3, 1952.
Route #61 - Parking Lot Line
Though now rather obscure, the former Parking Lot Line was once one of the more promoted and monitored lines in the city. Inaugurated on August 26, 1946, the line operated from a Parking Lot at Howard & Preston Streets down Howard, Saratoga, St. Paul, Light, and Redwood to loop and return via South, Guilford, Lexington, and Howard into the lot. Initially, the Fords of the line operated from the Potomac Street Division, but later operated from Kirk Avenue once opened. Fare for the line was 5¢, or a Parking Lot Ticket which cost 25¢ and included parking and round-trip bus fare. The line was a reasonable success. However, the year 1948 would bring a number of changes that would ultimately end the route. On January 7, 1948, Parking Lot Tickets increased in price from 25¢ to 35¢, although bus fare alone remained at 5¢. Later that year, on September 14th, the route was extended to serve a second Parking Lot on Pier 6 off of Pratt Street. Parking fees at both lots were now 50¢, while bus fares increased to 10¢ for adults and 5¢ for children. Hours of operation were now only on Weekdays from 7:30am to 9:33am and from 4:00pm to 6:03pm.
This changes must have been detrimental to the line, as the Pier 6 lot closed on January 3, 1949. As a result, the #61 line was discontinued. Later experiments were tried to encourage people to use "Fringe" parking, but the #61 Line was the first, and for a time, it did meet with relative success.
Routes X and #63 - Pennington Avenue
Route X held the distinction of being the highest lettered line in the BTC bus system. It's later redesignation resulted in the highest route number in the system at that time. Regardless, the X and 63 lines lived a life of rather obscurity deep in the far Southern pockets of the city. First established as the X line on New Years Day of 1946, the Pennington Avenue Bus Line was basically a shuttle from the end of the #6 Streetcar line at Curtis Bay to two major points, the Coast Guard Yard and the sprawling Davison Chemical Complex off of Hawkins Point Road. For these two magnets were this Bush Division line's primary purpose. Around 1948, the X was redesignated as the #63, which served just as the X had. However, since the #6 Streetcar line was converted to a bus in 1948, there was no real purpose in continuing the service as a separate line. It took years however for the BTC to realize this, as Route #6 did not absorb route #63 until about 1951.
Route #65 - The ARDC Shuttle
I could tell you about the ARDC Shuttle line, but then I'd have to kill you. While not quite the top-secret stuff of the CIA's making, the #65 line would certainly qualify as among the oddest of BTC's routes. First of all, this was not a "Public" transit line at all. BTC bulletins advise operators to use their own good judgement when operating the #65 line, as the only patrons permitted on this service were personnel from the U.S. Air Force. Despite the circuitous Downtown routing, the only stops on the line were at 600 Fallsway, 420 Fallsway, and the Sun Building at Charles & Redwood Streets. Before and after operation of the "City Service Loop" as it was called, trips were operated to and from Fort Holabird non-stop along the path of Route #20. Route #65 was operated from Eastern Division, beginning with the start of its service on November 1, 1956. The line, operated under contract with the U.S. Air Force operated for several years, apparently as late as the early 1960's.
Route #67 - Howardsville Station - Sudbrook
NEW PAGE ON ROUTE #67 - CLICK HERE!!!
While not as priveledged in ridership as the #65 line, Route #67 was another contract operation that made up one of the most obscure tales of Baltimore Transit. Many followers of Baltimore Transit denied its existence. Yet, photos exist of the line in operation, while publicly prepared BTC reports make mention of the route as well. Despite this obscurity, Route #67 operated for nearly 12 years, and to paraphrase a famous saying "Yes Virginia, there was a #67 line!" Started in 1957 in the years following the abandonment of Commuter Train Service along the Western Maryland Railroad, a group of commuters from that line banded together to form a daily charter from the former WM Howardsville Station on Milford Mill Road, through the Sudbrook Park Community, and then directly operating non-stop into Downtown. Returning, the #67 would leave St. Paul & Pleasant Streets at 5:20 returning the commuters to Sudbrook in the evening. While the route of the line may have many times changed, and while it is not certain if any additional Downtown stops were made aside from St. Paul & Pleasant, route #67 continued to hold a number of steady riders for a number of years. By the mid-1960's, the ability of the riders to continue to subsidize the line began to diminish. Despite efforts to increase ridership that included a bulk advertising, and a revised route, efforts of the riders to gain new members gained only 2 added riders to the service. As a result, the last trip of the #67 left its Pleasant Street terminal on December 1, 1968, perhaps bringing to a close the "longest charter" ever!
Route #73 - Penn Station Shuttle
An obscurity right in the era of the Information age?!? You'd better believe it. Route #73 ran for a few months at most, as almost nothing exists to support its existence. Route #73 was intended as a way to help MARC commuters bound for Baltimore in the Morning get into Downtown, without facing the already crowded buses operating on the #3 and #61 lines. The route, operated from Kirk Avenue, consisted of three trips only, originating at Penn Station and operating South on St. Paul to Lombard to end its run at Redwood Street. This operation is quite obscure, and no information exists to state when it was discontinued, although it was at some point soon after it was started. Why?!? The possibility exists that Kirk Avenue may have had a lack of manpower or equipment around 1991, and thus was unable to regularly put the bus out to make the three trips required. In any event, Route #73 vanished soon after it started.
Route #73 - Monet - BMA Shuttle
In 1992, the Baltimore Museum of Art was priveledged enough to be able to display many of the works of the master Artist Monet. Expecting a rise in attendance beyond the capabilities of the BMA's parking facilities, the BMA contracted out to the MTA a charter operation between arranged annex parking on the property of Eastern High School and the Museum. The service, designated as Route #73, operated 7 days a week non-stop between the two locations. In essence, it was an MTA bus line for people who had never ridden the MTA buses before. The free bus was usually Kirk Avenue #9017 or #9025, as these two buses were demonstrators for chrome wheel covers, thus presenting a slightly spiffier external appearance. Destination codes were programmed reading "73 MONET - BMA" Although lightly ridden, the line continued to operate until the exhibit closed in early 1993.
Route # 80 - Uptown Shuttle
Another of the obscurities of that was actually a common sight to many people was the #80 line. This shuttle route was on June 22, 1959, and appears to have operated out of Kirk Avenue Division. Run primarily as a Lunch Hour Shuttle from the State Office Buildings to the North Avenue Business District, the line operated on Weekdays from 11:00am until 2:00pm and ran with a 10 cent fare. While the line may have attracted a modest ridership of State Workers, it was likely unfeasible, thus being discontinued on October 9, 1959. At the behest of the North Avenue Merchants, the service returned from the Dead with their sponsorship. A free Uptown Shuttle began operation for the Holiday season beginning November 27, 1959 on Weekdays from Noon until 2:00pm. This service lasted until Christmas Eve, when it was mothballed only to be instituted yet again the following Holiday Season. This arrangement lasted until at least 1962, when the last known bulletins advising of the service arrangement indicate.
Route #87 - Johns Hopkins Express
Perhaps the biggest of MTA's obscurities is the #87 line, a little known operation that has very little to document it. In fact, research through MTA files reveals only two references to the #87 line, while the leading reference of Bus Routes during the era fails completely to mention the route at all. The most significant official reference to the line is a December 16, 1974 bulletin that states the fares charged for the different services. From this it can be assumed that the #87 line was, for the most part, a Park & Ride operation from six pick-up points directly to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Buses of the #87 line operated from Westview, Timonium (two different pick-up spots during the program), Pimlico Park & Ride, Memorial Stadium Park & Ride, City Hall, and the Park & Ride Lot at the Gem East Store. Since little else is noted about the line, it can be assumed that the operation was not a success. Should further information become available on this operation, this capsule will be expanded.
Route #90 - Sinai Hospital Shuttle
Another of the short lived bus services in Baltimore was the little #90 line, operating from Belvedere Loop to Sinai Hospital. Inaugurated on November 29, 1959, it would be the last new service to run from the Belvedere Division, offering an improved connection with buses of the #19 and #32 lines as well as cars of the #15 line. The line offered a single bus running a short route along Belvedere Avenue to serve the Sinai Hospital. It was likely started mid-pick, and as such, was intended to be only temporary. Indeed it was temporary, as Route #90 was absorbed by Route #19 once Belvedere Division closed, effective February 14, 1960, thus also ending the use of the Belvedere Loop as well.
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