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Railroad heritage to be celebrated in W.Va.

July 19, 2007|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

MARTINSBURG W.Va. - More than 140 years of railroad history will be celebrated this weekend at the ninth annual Roundhouse Rail Days at the Martinsburg Roundhouse Center.

Festivities - held rain or shine Saturday and Sunday - include live entertainment, food and children's activities (think magician, Moonbounce and Velcro wall). Also, seven local clubs will have trains on display. Four bands will perform during the weekend. Headlining band The Sensational Soul Cruisers, an 11-piece band that plays covers of Motown songs, will perform at 4 p.m. Saturday. Two gospel acts, The Kerstetters and Gospel Bond, are scheduled to perform Sunday. Country singer Bob Plunkert is lined up for Saturday afternoon.

The festival typically draws 3,500 to 4,000 people each year, said organizer Judy Martin, a member of the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority.

The Martinsburg Roundhouse Center is the three-building complex that includes the B&O Roundhouse. The complex was built 141 years ago to service steam locomotives, Martin said. The site was closed in 1988 and reopened in 1998.

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Organizers say the event reflects the culmination of nearly a decade's worth of preservation and renovation efforts - which came with a multimillion-dollar price tag.

"The roof had to be redone, the windows had all been broken up," Martin said.

Preservationists felt the site was worth saving because of its ties to the Civil War - Confederate troops burned the initial roundhouse complex; the one now standing was built in 1866 - and because protesting railworkers there instigated the first nationwide strike in 1877.

Clarence "CEM" E. Martin III, chairman of the authority (and Martin's husband), said $8 million has already been raised for renovation costs since 1998, but another $8 million would be needed in order to modernize and put other finishing touches on the facility.

Installing an elevator, functional bathrooms and new floors are among the outstanding projects, Clarence Martin said.




If you go ...



WHAT: Roundhouse Rail Days

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 21, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 22

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

COST: $5 adult admission; free for children 12 and younger.

MORE: Visit the Martinsburg Roundhouse Center online at www.martinsburgroundhouse.com.

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