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Roundhouse coming down

March 02, 1999

Roundhouse demolitionBy DAN KULIN / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Demolition work moves ahead on Hagerstown's roundhouse, turning it from landmark to memory, but a 100-ton memento is being saved.

Workers began tearing down the roundhouse building about two weeks ago, and by Tuesday afternoon less than half of the building remained standing. The rest of the building was expected to come down today and Thursday, said Robert Tracey, president of the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc. and a Herald-Mail employee.

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Also during the next two days, the 100-ton, 120-foot wide swiveling steel turntable in front of the roundhouse will be pulled from the ground.

The turntable once positioned locomotives for repairs in the 25 work bays in the roundhouse. For now, the turntable will be kept behind the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum a few hundred yards away, Tracey said.

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The museum at 300 S. Burhans Blvd. is not large enough to house the turntable, so it probably will remain outside for years until the museum expands or moves to a new building.

Tracey said the turntable would be an important piece in a planned working railroad museum.

The turntable was built in 1939 and is believed to be the second largest turntable remaining in the United States.

Tracey said the only one larger that he knows about is in Cheyenne, Wyo.

For weeks, Tracey has been receiving offers for the turntable from museums and private railroad companies, he said.

He has been offered as much as $30,000 for the turntable, but museum members won't sell it.

CSX Corp., owner of the roundhouse property, which includes the museum building, gave the turntable to the museum with the understanding it wouldn't be sold, Tracey said.

The fall of the roundhouse marks the end of the effort to save it.

For more than 10 years, Roundhouse Museum members worked to save the roundhouse complex and turn it into their working museum.

"No one has taken this thing (demolition) lightly," Tracey said.

"But this community has thrown history out the window. I envy those people in Martinsburg (W.Va.)," he said.

The roundhouse in Martinsburg was saved from demolition when the Berkeley County Commissioners agreed to buy the structure.

"But we're still looking ahead," Tracey said.

"This was always plan B," he said. Museum members plan to find another location or expand the museum, which Tracey said could take five to 10 years.

Tracey is among the founders of the museum group formed in 1988 to save Hagerstown's roundhouse, eventually rallying politicians from City Hall to U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., in Washington, D.C.

Beginning around 1910 and continuing for almost 60 years, hundreds of men and later, women, worked at the roundhouse complex where locomotives were taken for extensive repairs. Three active rail lines still converge there.

The nonprofit museum group sought to take over the roundhouse property and CSX had offered to give it to the museum if a government body would protect CSX from future lawsuits.

State and local governments were unwilling to take that risk.

CSX officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and it was not known if there were any plans for the 46-acre site once the demolition is complete.

Last month, Kevin Hurley, CSX director of real property, said the company did not know what would become of the Hagerstown roundhouse complex.

At that time, Hurley said the company probably would allow the museum to continue leasing the museum building indefinitely.

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