Tomblin in Martinsburg for event that blends roundhouse authority and W.Va. National Guard

March 19, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, left, is introduced by Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, head of all West Virginia National Guard units, Monday afternoon at the historic Martinsburg Roundhouse.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Since 1998, when it was created, the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority has struggled in its effort to turn a 19th-century railroad engine repair roundhouse complex into a viable entity for community use.

Clarence E. Martin III, authority chairman, said to date more than $10 million has been raised and spent renovating the roundhouse and two large machine shops. Included in the total was the cost of an enclosed walkway above the tracks that connects the Martinsburg rail passenger station to the roundhouse area.

At the start of the Civil War, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had two roundhouses in Martinsburg. Confederates destroyed them both in May 1861. They were rebuilt, along with the machine shops, in 1867. The roundhouses were used until about 1950, when diesel engines replaced steam-driven ones, according to a local history.

One of the roundhouses was destroyed by arson in 1990.

In 1998, CSX Railroad gave the remaining roundhouse, machine shop buildings and 13 acres to Berkeley County.

On Monday, it was announced by the authority and West Virginia National Guard officials that the Guard will lease a two-story former bridge and machine shop next to the roundhouse for an equipment repair facility.

The first-year lease is for $80,000. Next year, it goes up to $100,000, National Guard officials said. The roundhouse authority will use the money to continue its renovation efforts, Martin said.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, on hand Monday to cut the ribbon blending the two agencies, praised the ability of federal and state governments, and the community to work together for the benefit of the roundhouse project.

“It’s a great marriage,” he said. “The people in the West Virginia National Guard are a special breed of people.”

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, head of all West Virginia National Guard units, said the agreement is important to all military branches because it will streamline equipment-repair operations and save the Department of Defense money.

The new Martinsburg shop will employ 10 workers at first, with a promise of more to be hired later, Hoyer said.

Applicants are already being interviewed, said Lt. Col. Joseph Peal. They Include current National Guard personnel, military veterans, retirees and local citizens.

Peal said the National Guard plans to build repair facilities in all 55 West Virginia counties.

The new Martinsburg shop is the fifth to come on line following those in Kanawha, Mason, Putnam and Roane counties. The one in Kanawha County is the largest in the United States, Peal said.

William Farrell, a retired lieutenant colonel who served for 40 years with the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard in Martinsburg, will supervise the new repair facility.

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