"Track is back. . . Rail is coming back as a means of transportation," pronounced O. James Lighthizer, state transportation secretary, as Aberdeen celebrated the recent opening of its restored historic train station.
Improving commuter rail service is essential to meeting Maryland's mass transit goals, easing highway congestion and reducing auto exhaust air pollution, he emphasized.
While often prized for their role in American history, trains can offer a modern day solution to the traffic jams, on the roads and in the skies, of today's commuters. The MARC commuter trains that carry 60 passengers a day between Aberdeen and Baltimore and Washington can expect even heavier patronage as limits are imposed on Harford County's auto commuters by the federal Clean Air Act in 1997.
This $400,000 restoration of the 1940s rail station provides more than just a shelter from the elements for hardy Aberdeen travelers waiting for the train. MARC rail service began nearly two years ago, and at least 14 trains, MARC and Amtrak, have scheduled stops at the station daily.
The refurbished depot also revives a historic legacy for the city that traces its origin to the development of the railroad. By rebuilding the Aberdeen station to its 50-year-old design, the city hopes to evoke the spirit of the local railroad's heyday.
Its attractive appearance promises to win new riders to train travel. The old vandalized and burned-out station, hidden under pedestrian and vehicular overpasses built in the 1980s, clearly discouraged all but the determined rail commuter.
For more than 150 years, there has been a railroad stop in Aberdeen, since a Scot named Winston built his home near the tracks of the Port Deposit & Baltimore Railroad and set up a ticket office. He called the place Aberdeen after his birthplace in Scotland.
The trains first carried milk from Harford farms to Baltimore, then the produce of its canning industry. Later, it was instrumental in transporting troops and materiel to and from Aberdeen Proving Ground during two world wars. In the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, the train was a vital link for military personnel stationed at APG with their families along the East Coast.
For three decades, the station was allowed to deteriorate. The commitment to rebuild the station recognizes the revival of rail travel and the hopes of Aberdeen for future development.