Museum would add to need for staffing at transportation center

December 25, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A children's museum, which is on track to open at Martinsburg's train station in about two years, will all but complete the vision for restoring the city's historic gateway, according to project director James L. "Jim" Castleman.

Yet the Washington Heritage Trail (WHT) project, the "for the kids, by George" educational exhibit center, only will add to the need for full-time security and maintenance staffing at the downtown intermodal transportation center, Castleman said in a Wednesday interview.

"This used to be our front door -- where everybody saw our city first," Castleman said of Martinsburg's station along East Martin Street, where passengers have been boarding trains since the 1840s and now also is a regular bus transit stop.

Part of the Federal Highway Administration's Scenic Byways Program, the Washington Heritage Trail is a 136-mile loop in the Eastern Panhandle that takes tourists near 126 historical sites, ranging from a stone structure known as "George Washington's Bathtub" in the Town of Bath, W.Va., in Morgan County to the Washington family estates in Jefferson County.


While Interstate 81 has become Martinsburg's major transportation artery, the train station remains "the busiest place" downtown, serving 8,000 to 10,000 MARC and Amtrak train riders annually, Castleman said.

And once the museum opens, possibly in 2011, Castleman said schoolchildren will be making regular visits to what will be a hands-on, interpretive education center.

Restored and expanded in the late 1990s, the train station operates in a new addition that is connected to the restored pre-Civil War station/hotel building.

The new and old parts of the city-owned complex are expected to be used for the museum, according to Castleman.

Plans for the WHT's museum include installing exhibits about the community's history with an emphasis on George Washington's connection to the region and an orientation gallery in the present train passenger waiting room. The project was jump-started with a $290,000 federal grant announced last year that is expected to be matched with $72,500 worth of in-kind services. West Virginia Department of Transportation officials in November gave the city and the George Washington Heritage Trail Association notice to proceed with the project's design.

The Washington Heritage Trail Welcome Center is among several tenants that currently occupy the floors of the historic station building.

City Manager Mark Baldwin said Wednesday that almost all of the available spaces for rent in the complex are occupied.

The exception is the booth space that MARC staffed for its weekday commuter train service as part of a contract with the West Virginia State Rail Authority.

"Their last payment was in November," Baldwin said.

Tickets for MARC and Amtrak service now are sold from a machine in the waiting area.

Baldwin said the city has yet to market the space, which Castleman said was originally envisioned by the architects for the revamped station project to be a visitors center. The community's visitors center currently operates in downtown on North Queen Street, but previously was in the historic station building where the Washington Heritage Trail's welcome center now is situated.

With the redevelopment of the historic B&O roundhouse and shops property appearing to gain some momentum with the inland port proposal, Castleman said he hopes the new tenant for the former ticket booth space will be able to help with security and maintenance for the station, which is connected to the roundhouse property via a pedestrian bridge.

"If you have all that going on down there and you have a museum ... you need a full-time person down there," Castleman said.

The Herald-Mail Articles