Hagerstown celebrates railroad heritage

June 10, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

The Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum's Railroad Heritage Days celebrate the transportation system that turned Hagerstown into the "Hub City."

The growth of the railroad from the first local track laid in 1841 to the network of rail lines that crisscrossed the city within the following decades enabled Hagerstown's manufacturing industry - including production of automobiles, airplanes and organs - to flourish, said William L. Knode, publicity director for the museum on South Burhans Boulevard.

"It made Hagerstown from just a farming community to a business community," he said.

The roundhouse museum brims with exhibits and artifacts that honor this rich railroad history. Roundhouse photographs are mounted within massive window frames salvaged prior to the building's demolition in 1999. There's a bell from a Western Maryland Railroad steam locomotive, a track switch stand, 1838 broadside announcing the start of passenger service on the Cumberland Valley Railroad and countless other artifacts. The museum also boasts several elaborate model railroad layouts and a gift shop.


Railroad Heritage Days highlights will include:

  • Unveiling of a bay window caboose designed to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the B&O Railroad.

  • Book signings by railroad writer Dwight Jones of Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday and Sunday.

  • Freedom train display. The new exhibit features photographs and memorabilia of the 1976 American Freedom Train, which made its maiden voyage to the Hagerstown Roundhouse in 1975 and returned to the area twice in 1976, Knode said.

  • Trains for Kids. The museum offers children a chance to ring the bell of the replica Civil War General, work the throttle of a diesel locomotive simulator, operate a 12-by-14-foot model railroad layout, and ride Thomas the Tank Engine and other battery-powered toy trains.

  • "HO"-gauge layout. The new model railroad display, which is half the scale of the popular "O" gauge, includes a model of the Hagerstown Roundhouse and rail yard and the B&O Railroad's Point of Rocks station. Scenery artist Todd Stotler of Sharpsburg crafted lichen-covered mountain passes, farms and other scenery elements from such materials as plastic foam, newspapers, chicken wire and plaster, he said. He was still painting rocks and placing tiny cattle in ground foam fields earlier this week.

"It's endless," Stotler said. "You never complete a model railroad."

That's part of the beauty of the hobby, Knode added.

"It keeps you going. It keeps you young," he said. "I'm never growing up."

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