MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The former MARC ticket office in Caperton Train Station is expected to be staffed again soon, but the person behind the counter will be selling books and children's museum "passports" instead of taking rail-trip fares.
Martinsburg City Council on Thursday approved the relocation of the Washington Heritage Trail National Scenic Byway welcome center and bookstore to the former commuter train ticket office.
The council also voted to give the nonprofit heritage trail organization the equivalent of a $1,000 monthly stipend to operate the welcome center, but City Manager Mark Baldwin noted that funding requests would have to be made annually, as is the case for other outside agencies.
"We caution you in how you use that money," said Baldwin, warning of the possibility of a future funding cut.
In addition to the stipend expenditure, the council also approved the allocation of $10,000 to the Washington Heritage Trail for a matching grant to net $40,000 from the National Scenic Byways program. The city also agreed to administer a $50,000 grant the Washington Heritage Trail recently received from the North American Railway Foundation.
Aside from assisting tourists with information about the 136-mile heritage trail, which is focused on the George Washington's footsteps in the Eastern Panhandle, welcome center staff also will sell "passports," or tickets, to the For the Kids, by George Children's Museum, officials said.
The museum's galleries, an offshoot of the Washington Heritage Trail, are expected to be fully open by next summer, according to project director Jim Castleman and architect Lisa Dall'Olio.
"The bulk of (the museum work) will be done this winter for a soft spring opening," Dall'Olio said.
Castleman said he anticipates the welcome center will be moved this fall from the historic hotel building that is connected to the train station. The hotel, built before the Civil War, once housed the train station.
Dall'Olio and Castleman said the person staffing the welcome center still will be available to assist the traveling public and provide the city with additional security at the train station.
The $50,000 Scenic Byways grant will be used for interior and exterior signage for the welcome center, train station and museum, Dall'Olio said. Brochure racks, a large wall map for the Washington Heritage Trail and a 3-D projection "map table" that will depict how the region has changed and notable historical developments through the years, also will be purchased with the grant money, Dall'Olio said.
If there is sufficient funding, Dall'Olio said she and Baldwin also talked about installing banners on the decorative light poles along East Martin Street leading to the station from Queen Street.
Once the museum is open, Dall'Olio said the banners would be an effective way to help steer people to the galleries.
The Scenic Byways and NARF grants free up previously awarded museum funding for other exhibits in the 6,000 square feet of gallery space, Dall'Olio said. Including the two grants and stipend money, the total amount of money received for the museum and heritage trail projects is $516,000, Castleman said.
Dall'Olio on Thursday publicly recognized railroad historian John Hankey, who attended Thursday's council meeting, for helping the museum net the NARF grant. The NARF money will be used to produce and install the "Working on the Railroad" component of the children's museum.
"He was instrumental in teaching us about the NARF grant and helping us through the process and coming up with the idea," Dall'Olio said.
The Working on the Railroad exhibits will tell the story of railroad life and work as well as the story of the national railroad strike of 1877, which began at the historic B&O roundhouse and maintenance shops, which are across from the train station.
Baldwin thanked Castleman and Dall'Olio for their efforts to net the additional grants, which he described as a "great injection" for the museum project.
"The quality of life in one's community is in large part determined by how well they pass the heritage of our past onto our young people," Councilman Rodney Woods said in commending the work already done for the museum.