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Roundhouse's water, sewer, bridge projects moving along

July 09, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

The installation of a pedestrian bridge over the Capitol Limited rail line from the Caperton Train Station to the historic B&O Roundhouse complex in Martinsburg will require two cranes and the halting of locomotive traffic for about four hours.

But the executive director of the Martinsburg Roundhouse Center doesn't expect much of a crowd to be on hand to watch the connecting structure be put in place.

"I wouldn't be surprised if its (done) during the night." C. William "Bill" Hayes said last week. "The contractor expects that, too."

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"The intent now is to have it done, possibly by early December, but definitely by the end of the year," Hayes said.

Considered a key transportation link to the roundhouse center, the bridge project was stopped when officials discovered an agreement with railroad owner CSX Transportation had not been obtained.

Hayes said various lawyers tasked with hammering out a deal "couldn't get coordinated," and acknowledged the delay undercut momentum to make the National Historic Landmark more readily accessible to tourists. The bridge was envisioned by architects more than six years ago, and in August 2003, the project was selected for an award by the West Virginia Economic Development Grant Committee.

Once in place, the bridge will be deeded to the City of Martinsburg, and more importantly, eliminate the need to take a bus or drive a circuitous route on several back streets to reach the roundhouse.

"The access - that's what it's all about," Hayes said.

Water and sewer concerns



Of course, the cluster of buildings still is in need of a couple of other necessary amenities - water and sewer service.

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., announced Friday that a $586,357 federal appropriation already designated to pay for the water and sewer infrastructure was released. Byrd plans to attend and speak next Saturday at the eighth annual Roundhouse Rail Days at the center.

According to Hayes, the federal money will be matched with a $146,589 state grant.

Hayes expects waterlines to be installed first, noting existing lines for fire hydrants already there did not provide enough capacity for the cluster of buildings that date to 1866. Work on the infrastructure could begin this fall, and ultimately will include storm-water management improvements, he added.

"Storm water did not concern the railroad when they built this," said Hayes, explaining how heavy rain still flows into the roundhouse building.

But the "big surprise" for officials was the apparent lack of public sewer service at the complex, Hayes said. It isn't clear where waste traveled from the few restrooms once at the complex, he said.

The Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority, which hired Hayes and has overseen the rehabilitation of the site since county leaders decided to purchase it in 1999, does not have enough money to complete a necessary addition to the Bridge and Machine Shop building, but Hayes remains optimistic.

Once bathrooms and an elevator are installed in the addition, the shop building on the north side of the roundhouse will be used as a revenue generator for the center's operational expenses. Hayes hopes a restaurant occupies the first floor.

Money also is needed for installation of discreetly placed heating and cooling units for all buildings to comply with historical standards. The floors in each building will be revamped with radiant heating units, Hayes said.

"We're probably looking at another $8 million," Hayes said of the outstanding needs. The addition alone is expected to cost more than $1 million.

Volunteers pitch in



Though substantial sums still must to be identified, Hayes said the Roundhouse Center has benefited tremendously from the volunteer efforts of the Bunker Hill (W.Va.) Train Club.

"They're a great bunch of guys," Hayes said.

On July 2, club members resumed work on the Miller Tower, scrapping and priming the exterior of the relatively small structure the group relocated from the northwest Berkeley County community of Cherry Run along the Capitol Limited rail line and Potomac River. Towers like it once were used for signal and track switch operations, and only one in Morgan County, off River Road, remains in the area, club President Joseph Vanorsdale said.

Vanorsdale said Friday that the 28-member club hopes to continue rehabilitation efforts, including needed roof, millwork and other aesthetic repairs.

"Time is the biggest thing - I'm trying to work on my house," Vanorsdale said.

The club also recently signed a 15-year agreement with the authority to lease the Martinsburg Fruit Exchange building south of the Roundhouse complex off East Burke Street to house a model train diorama depicting the B&O Rail Shops at Martinsburg and the surrounding areas during different historic periods.

Hayes said he expects to learn the outcome of a grant application to resume work on the Fruit Exchange building later this year.

"If you want an old piano, there's an old upright (model) in there," Hayes said of the remaining oddities inside the brick structure.

"Structurally, it's in pretty good shape," he said.

Despite the continually growing expense involved with adapting the historic railroad site for reuse, Hayes believes it ultimately will pay dividends.

"Our real objective is to help tourism for the City of Martinsburg," Hayes said. "That's what it's all about."

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