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Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum library dedicated to railroad buff

July 08, 2007|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

Carroll F. Spitzer was heartbroken by the demolition of the Hagerstown Roundhouse in 1999.

His daughter, Sharon Gruber, remembers when CSX Railroad had the dilapidated historical building torn down.

"He fought it with every inch of his being," said Gruber, 58, of Jessup, Md. "It changed him. It took something out of him. He wanted to preserve it and he wasn't able."

Spitzer was born in Brownsville and grew up in Hagerstown. He had an interest in trains as a boy and became a history buff as an adult. Spitzer went on to spend his retirement years working to preserve historic railway equipment and provide public education on the value of rail transport.

Before he passed away in April 2001, Spitzer had written several books on Western Maryland history, and founded and established the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum.

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Spitzer's family, area dignitaries and museum supporters celebrated his work Saturday with the dedication of the Carroll F. Spitzer Memorial Library at the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum.

"This was what inspired him and motivated him, probably more than anything else," Gruber said. "He wanted to make a difference, and now, he has this legacy. This would have made him very happy."

Spitzer's great-grandson, Bryce Finn, 6, of Hagerstown, cut the yellow ribbon strung across the library entrance. A commemorative plaque hanging on a bookshelf read in part, "Carroll F. Spitzer Memorial Library - Charter member, curator, author, historian, and friend."

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Maryland state Sen. Donald F. Munson attended the event, along with a representative from U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski's office and a number of museum donors.

Munson said Hagerstown has a long heritage as a transportation community. He referenced the area's service as a major highway for covered wagons making their way out West. Later, the railroad flourished in Hagerstown, as well as airplane manufacturing. In between, the area was home to auto and bicycle manufacturing, Munson said.

"This is about keeping that heritage alive in a way that's especially connected to the community through our honoring Carroll," Munson said.

Munson called Spitzer a "great guy," and said he knew him personally.

Rick Eyler, president of the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, said Spitzer was resourceful in establishing the museum. In the late 1980s, a small group of local people, including Spitzer, formed a chapter of the National Railway Historical Society with the intent of saving the Hagerstown Roundhouse. When the group conceived of establishing a museum, Eyler said the building that eventually would house the museum was "in pretty bad shape."

"The group gave Carroll $100 and said, 'This is all we have. Do what you can to make a museum,'" Eyler said. "It just goes to show where $100 can lead."

Today, the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum hosts special events, programs and tours; houses a gift shop, library and various comprehensive displays of railroad memorabilia and layouts; and continues its efforts to preserve the area's railroad heritage.

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