Here in the archives, we sometimes come across something that is only marginally related to the University of Maryland, but too cool not to share. This is one of those cases.
In 1954, Andrew J. Campbell had an idea. An engineer from Cabin John, Maryland, Campbell got that idea down on paper and distributed it to notable D.C. area figures, including then-University of Maryland President Emeritus Harry Clifton “Curley” Byrd. His idea? Well, he called it the “National Capital and Metropolitan Area Rapid Transit Subway System.” Take a look:
Campbell envisioned two main stations in the District, at Union Station and Lafayette Square (see the detail print below). These stations would feed four two-track loops. The North Loop would go from Union Station through Hyattsville and Byrd Stadium here in College Park and up to Wheaton before coming back down through Silver Spring. The East Loop was to go across the Anacostia and out to Waldorf and Upper Marlboro before returning to Union Station by way of the Capitol. The West Loop originated at Lafayette Square and went out to Bethesda and Potomac. And the South Loop was to go from Lafayette past the Pentagon and Airport, returning through Falls Church and Vienna. If you squint a little, it starts to look and sound like a Metro map of today, doesn’t it?
Campbell’s information packet, which you can read here, was written by a man with the heart of a salesman. He says that the idea came to him after seeing a line of miserable folks waiting in the bitter cold for a bus on Pennsylvania Avenue: “It tugged at my heart strings to think of the economical necessity that compels them to accept this condition of travel, knowing there could be better.” Campbell writes “can you picture the time saved and comfort of a good rapid transit system … No slow crowded long street car or bus rides with plenty of red lights to make the going slower. And the cost? “PLENTY — But tomorrow it would be MORE.” Campbell even takes into account the power needs of such a system, suggesting a hydroelectric dam be built near Great Falls.
In the end, Campbell’s idea was way ahead of its time. The Washington Metro opened in 1976, 22 years after he put his idea out there, using lines that dead-end instead of Campbell’s loops. While the Metro certainly is convenient, we think some regular Red Line riders might take issue with Campbell’s assertion about the amount of time it saves…
This post is based on documents found in the President’s Office files, Accession 94-85.