Ferndale pays homage to history


February 15, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

When light rail comes to Ferndale, residents hope passengers will take note of their town and its railroad roots.

For the past several years, community leaders have worked toward that end, helping the Mass Transit Administration (MTA) distinguish the North County community's rail station from others along the six-mile southern portion of the line.

With the station on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard just months from completion and rail service expected to start in July, the community's efforts have begun to take shape, from the hipped roof on the shelter to the brick clock tower and gray and black color scheme. A special plaque will note that the former town of Wellham became Ferndale in 1921, and that Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad trains passed through, carrying up to 1.7 million passengers a year, until 1950.

"We wanted the community to take part in creating a stop that represents their community well," said Beth Robinson, a customer and community relations officer for the MTA. The administration offered residents a menu of options -- such as planters, extra benches, landscaping or lighting, archway entrances or special markers -- and $10,000 to spend.

Unlike other stops along the line that are on the edge of a community, Ferndale's stop is located prominently in the middle of town, with a center platform and tracks on either side. Residents sought to give the new station, on the site of the old one, a historic flavor.

When the MTA asked the Ferndale/Linthicum Area Community Council for its wish list, "We wanted some semblance of the old [B&A] railroad station," said Leo Harnen, the group's president. The group chose a clock tower.

"It sort of made it look like a railroad town," Mr. Harnen said. "We wanted everyone coming through to know where they are and what it looked like."

At first, the three-member committee appointed to work with the MTA wanted a replica of the old station. But when that idea proved too costly, members settled on giving the new shelter's roof the old station's look, said Carol Wagner, a committee member and member of the Ferndale Garden Club, which has cut the grass and trimmed the shrubs at the old railroad site for 18 years.

"We were trying to put the old look of the old station and tie into an antique look of Ferndale," she said. "We didn't want to lose that little bit of history."

But they had to convince the MTA. "They were trying to talk us out of it," until some preliminary sketches convinced the MTA the slanted roof could work, Mrs. Wagner recalled.

Construction on the station began about two years ago, when the MTA ripped out the B&A's old metal rails and wooden ties and began to rebuild the trestle at Hollins Ferry Road.

Most of the station and track work is finished, Ms. Robinson said. Workers still must paint the shelter roof, install the plaque, finish the clock tower roof and install railings on two high blocks, platforms that disabled and elderly passengers can use to board trains.

Workers will install lighting, signals and poles to support the overhead wire system that feeds electric power to the trains. Later, they'll landscape and install crossing arms and gates at the Ferndale Road intersection.

The state has opened 16 miles of the 22.5-mile line from Timonium to Dorsey Road, a $443 million system.

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