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Roundhouse showcased at Rail Day

July 21, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

Muskets cracked and boomed, toy trains rolled along and the crowd bustled in and around the Martinsburg B&O Roundhouse complex during the Fourth Annual Roundhouse Rail Day on Saturday.

The event gave many people a chance to see the roundhouse up close as it goes through a $5.2 million face-lift.

In addition to opening up the 1866 roundhouse and adjacent buildings, the event featured Civil War re-enactors battling across railroad tracks and arts, crafts and food vendors inside and outside the buildings.

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Logan Cloud, 7, of Martinsburg, came just to see the model trains running along tracks inside the old buildings.

"They're cool," Logan said.

Logan's mother, Kathy Cloud, 43, said she also wanted to get a look at the inside of the roundhouse, which was shut down about 14 years ago.

"I expected it to look old like this," Cloud said, adding that she agrees with those who want to restore the roundhouse because she wouldn't want to "let history die."

The buildings that make up the roundhouse complex look rundown and dirty, with paint peeling and scores of broken windows.

There is a $5.2 million plan to restore the outside of the roundhouse complex buildings, said Clarence E. Martin III, chairman of the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority.

During the last four years, about $2.5 million of that $5.2 million has been spent to fix up the complex, he said. Most of the money has paid for new roofs, woodwork around roofs and repairs to the trusses that hold up the roofs.

Martin said the $5.2 million plan is being funded with $3.7 million in federal grants, about $1 million from the state and $500,000 from several private and smaller state grants.

Phase II of the project will entail renovating the inside of the buildings. Martin said there is no cost estimate for Phase II because the group has not decided how the buildings will be used.

Martin said it is important to preserve the roundhouse complex buildings because of their historic significance. The roundhouse was where the first national labor strike began in 1877, Martin said.

Also, the roundhouse might be the oldest cast-iron frame roundhouse in the world, he said.

"It'd be a travesty not to save it," he said.

Martin said the Rail Day festival is also a chance to draw tourists.

Richard Linger, 65, of Martinsburg, said the event was a welcome change of pace.

"I liked it," he said.

Linger said he, too, thinks it is important to restore the buildings.

"I think they should bring the history back. I think we forget too often or too quick," he said. "I think we need to be reminded of our history."

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