Rail Days continues today

July 20, 2003|by TARA REILLY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - "Captain drinks a bottle of gin, now he don't know where he been," the Buckingham Lining Bar Gang sang out Saturday in the warm sun outside the Martinsburg Roundhouse Center.

The Buckingham, Va., group, which re-enacts the hard labor of early railroad work, demonstrated to the public at the Fifth Annual Roundhouse Rail Days what it was like to manually put displaced railroad tracks back into position. They used steel poles in unison to move and lift the tracks, often while yelling out a variety of humorous cadences.

"I got a girl in Kansas City, girl can't cook but she sure is pretty," the re-enactors sang out to the delight of the crowd.


One member of the Lining Bar Gang told the audience that the cadences - two- or three-line ditties - made "some fun out of hard, backbreaking work."

Other Rail Days festivities included arts and crafts booths, model railroad displays, musical performances and children's activities.

Clarence E. "Cem" Martin, chair of the Roundhouse Authority, said Rail Days had become so popular in past years that a second day was added to the event this year. It continues today.

Last year's one-day event attracted about 2,000 people and about 3,000 people were expected to attend this year's two-day festival.

The event is a fund-raiser for the Roundhouse Center's restoration.

The Roundhouse complex was built before the Civil War and destroyed by Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. It was rebuilt after the war.

The project will restore the center to its 19th-century appearance. Plans call for installing new floors, repairing or replacing doors and windows and cleaning up the walls.

Eventually, the facility will be rented out for concerts, conventions and other events.

Dave DeHaven of Martinsburg said that while his favorite part of Rail Days was watching Bill Haley's Comets play in the Frog & Switch Building, he was interested in all of the event's offerings.

"I wanted to see everything," he said.

Judy Lehecka of northern New Jersey said she and her husband, Anthony, decided to attend the event while in the area to pick up their daughter from a camp in Mercersberg, Pa.

"My husband is a model railroad enthusiast, and we go to all kinds of railroad events," Judy Lehecka said.

She said Rail Days was among the most elaborate and well-planned event they've been to.

"It's looking wonderful," Lehecka said. "It looks like they have a lot of interesting stuff."

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