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Rail Days event honors Byrd

July 16, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD


Military control of the B&O Roundhouse during the Civil War switched hands more than 50 times, making it a "fascinating" historical site and "jewel of early American railroading," U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., told a group gathered there Saturday.

"This piece of yesterday can be a key piece of tomorrow," Byrd told the group of more than 100 people gathered in the Frog & Switch Building of the Martinsburg Roundhouse Center as part of its eighth annual Roundhouse Rail Days, which continues today.

A plaque was unveiled to mark the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Martinsburg Shops' 2003 designation as a National Historic Landmark.

Built in 1866, the roundhouse was known for its innovative 19th-century engineering and its involvement in the nation's first labor strike.


Clarence "CEM" E. Martin III, chairman of the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority, also unveiled a plaque to honor Byrd, 88, for his help in securing funds for the roundhouse's refurbishment. The plaque also will be placed in the center.

"You would not see the level of preservation and restoration you're seeing today if not for his support of this project," Martin said.

Photographs of Byrd, depicting a young violin student through his time spent serving in the U.S. Senate, were tacked on the shop's walls. A local band, Allegheny Uprising, sang "Take Me Home, Country Roads," and a song its singer, Betty Jo Rockwell, wrote in honor of Byrd.

"I found inspiration in Senator Robert Byrd. I found inspiration in his words," Rockwell sang.

Earlier this month, Byrd announced $585,000 would be set aside from federal funds for the center. Overall, Byrd helped secure nearly $3.6 million for the project, according to a written release from his office.

Martin said $8 million has been raised over the past eight years to turn the center into a site for tourism and economic development.

"He truly is the architect of the future of West Virginia," Martin said.

Comparing Byrd to Cicero, Daniel Webster and Sir Thomas More, Martin applauded Byrd's convictions and love for his country and its Constitution, which he carries close to his heart.

If you go

What: Roundhouse Rail Days

When: Today, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Martinsburg Roundhouse Center, 100 E. Liberty St., Martinsburg, W.Va.

Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and younger. Tickets will be sold at the front gate.

For information, call 304-260-4141 or go to

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