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Polish Mountain, Maryland

This photo is taken at the top of Polish Mountain, MD, which at its highest elevation is 1,800 feet. The road starts in Baltimore, MD, and at its inception was the eastern start of the National Road, US 40 (MD 140). The Old Motor photo above shows a young mother and child who have posed with their Dodge at the top of the mountain for this 1923 photo. The first photo below shows a garage that is on the very left side of the photo above.

The second photo below is about two miles east of Flintstone, Maryland and shows the trip down the mountain road and the reason for the warning sign. This photograph is from the Maryland State Roads Commission, and is found on a great site, 125 M to B where there are many more photos and information about the road. The third photo below is taken from Down the Road which also has many great photos, along with more information about the Nation Road.


6 responses to “Polish Mountain, Maryland

  1. I would think that running downhill with the ignition OFF would cause a buildup of unburned fuel/air mixture in the exhaust manifold, muffler and tailpipe and when the ignition was turned ON, it could cause a major explosion! Sounds like bad advice to me.

    • Stewart, I figured someone would bring that up, but it was quite common thing to do in the day in as you can see from the large sign in the photo. I have only done it with cars where I could open the cutout, but have seen other people do the same thing on cars without a cutout without a problem. Most of the times an explosion as you mention is caused by a system that has leaks in it that will let in extra oxygen. Without any loose joints it is less of a problem but we can’t say that if will work on every car every time, nor will we buy you a new muffler if you have a problem.

      This is something that is the responsibility of the individual car owner to see if it works for their car. We are not endorsing it, just passing along history.

  2. It seems to me that would be hard on the engine and transmission, if nothing else. I’ve been reading a lot about this era, and I still don’t understand guys like Henry Ford or Ettore Bugatti fighting against advances in braking technology, or car companies trying to convince the public four wheel brakes were unsafe. Was it just sheer cussed stubbornness? The old “let em’ burn” mentality as in the Pinto debacle?

    • Andacar, You raise a good point about it being hard on the engine and transmission. I spent some time thinking about it and the engine would really only be acting as an air compressor without any explosive force. Sure it would wear some but maybe less than if it was actually running ?
      As to the transmission and rear axle gears it would be running up against the side of the gear teeth that see little if any wear in forward motion. The bearings would still be loaded though.
      I guess the trucking industry could answer the question as they have much experience with Jake Brakes which may do about the same thing.
      Do any readers that are truck enthusiasts know anything about this ?

  3. Panhard-Levassor around 1906-1910 had an extra pedal that shifted the cam for compresson braking,,,,If anyone wishes to look before I bolt it together,,is welcome
    One bump releases the compresson,,,
    bump 2,,eliminates the manifold vacuum and resulting bang,,,
    Engine is 5″x 6″,,,,,Cheers,,,Ben

  4. I’ve had experance driving trucks both gasoline and diesel hauling logs down long steep grades. First it’s a miscomception that the compresstion is what retards the engine, it’s the high vacuum do to the throttle being nearly closed with the engine turning at a RPM faster than the engine would idle. A diesel engine has more compression and has very little retarding effect do to the fact it has no throttle plate in the intake manifold. The Jake Brake will release the compression near TDC so the compressed air doesn’t push the piston back down for a net loss of energy.

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