Roundhouse Rail Days is Martinsburg center's main fundraiser

July 18, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

If you go ...

What: Roundhouse Rail Days

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday

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

Admission: $5; free for those younger than 12

For more info: or call 304-260-4141.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Except for a couple of festive days in July, the historic B&O Railroad roundhouse and machine shops in downtown Martinsburg have remained generally quiet, devoid of much activity other than restoration work for the last 10 years.

On Saturday and Sunday, the 10th Rail Days festival returns to the grounds of the 19th century National Historic Landmark, but without the contractors' equipment at the 13.6-acre site off East Martin and Race streets.


But that wasn't necessarily by design, according to Rosetta Chiofalo, Martinsburg Roundhouse Center's executive director.

In fact, much work still needs to be done to restore the economic engine of an industrial complex where the nation's first labor strike began in 1877 and much American Civil War strife unfolded years before that, Chiofalo said.

Matching local money still is needed to draw down more than $500,000 in grant funding announced in 2006 for installing sewer service, running water and bathrooms, among other accessibility needs, Chiofalo said.

The grant money was specifically targeted to make the Bridge & Machine shop building a revenue generator for the restored complex now dubbed the Martinsburg Roundhouse Center.

As it stands now, Chiofalo is relying on revenues generated by the Rail Days festival for operating money and now only works part-time, three days a week at her office that adjoins the 16-sided roundhouse.

"There's just enough (money) to pay what we need to pay," Chiofalo said.

Chiofalo said organizers of this year's festival are offering more with less after requests for a financial contributions from the city and county were turned down amid an economic slowdown.

Eight area bands are slated to perform on three stages, about 45 model train and craft vendors are on board, as are Civil War re-enactors, Chiofalo said.

A blacksmith demonstration, model train displays and a presentation of B&O artifacts also is being set up, she said.

This year's festival will be the first served by a fully functional, elevator-enabled pedestrian bridge that connects to the city's train station at 226 E. Martin St.

Chiofalo welcomed candidates for public office to take part in the weekend festival, which begins at 11 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m., each day.

The roundhouse complex was all but officially abandoned when the Berkeley Count Commission purchased it in 1999. The Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority has since overseen about $8 million in building restorations and improvements.

The most recent improvements have included the installation of the pedestrian bridge and new water lines and hydrants for the property, which came about as a result of a partnership between the City of Martinsburg and the Roundhouse Authority.

In an attempt to raise more money, the Roundhouse Authority recently decided to retain a consultant to maximize the potential use of historic tax credits for continuing the property's revitalization.

A use plan adopted in 2005 for the property envisioned the facility being used for concerts, trade shows, exhibits and other public events as well as long-term lease space and museum space.

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