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Hagerstown's train heritage on display

June 06, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN -- It was Christmas 1954, and Bob McCourt was hoping to find a Davy Crockett toy rifle under the tree.

Instead, his parents gave him a Lionel locomotive, fueling a lifelong passion for trains.

"When I opened that box, it was love at first sight," he said. "I quickly forgot about that rifle."

Today, McCourt still has the black locomotive and much more.

"It's become a bit of an addiction," the Hagerstown resident said. "Some people have trains in their basement. I have them in every room of my house."

McCourt said there is no limit to his interest in trains. So where else would he be Saturday than at Railroad Heritage Days, a two-day event hosted by the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum.

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The festival continues today from noon to 5 p.m. at the museum on South Burhans Boulevard, as well as the Hagerstown Railroad Museum at City Park. A trolley will shuttle people with paid admission to both sites.

According to Crystal Sprecher, chairwoman of the event, the celebration is a way to spotlight Hagerstown's railroad history.

"Some people don't realize that the nickname 'Hub City' comes from the large railroad traffic that came through Hagerstown," she said. "Through a wide range of activities, visitors learn a great deal about our train heritage."

Sprecher said the festival always has been a popular event, with visitors coming from across the United States, as well as other countries.

"Every year, it continues to grow," she said. "There are train buffs everywhere."

This year's Railroad Heritage Days coincides with the museum's 20th anniversary, Sprecher said. The museum was founded by members of the Hagerstown chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and has operated in an old Western Maryland Railway building at 300 S. Burhans Blvd. since 1989.

Sprecher said this year's festival features a wide range of activities, including locomotive and caboose tours, a Thomas the Tank Engine trackless train ride, operational model train layouts, displays of train memorabilia, railroad art and photographs. There also are displays of military and firefighting equipment.

"It's really a fun event," Sprecher said. "I think it's a tossup as to who enjoys it more, kids or adults."




If you go



What: Railroad Heritage Days

When: Today, noon to 5 p.m. Railroad songs and stories from 1 to 3 p.m.

Where: Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum, 300 S. Burhans Blvd., Hagerstown

Cost: $4; 75 cents for ages 12 and younger

For information, call 301-739-4665.

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