The nostalgia express rolls along daily at Railway Historical Society museum

January 14, 1994|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Contributing Writer

The Western Maryland Railway was dissolved as a corporate entity in 1983, but its 131-year history remains alive and well at the Western Maryland Railway Historical Society in Union Bridge.

And, although Christmas is over and everyone else has dismantled their annual scale model train layouts, the historical society's layout is chugging along from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Sunday through January.

"It's traditional to have an open house at Christmas, but everybody does that and everybody's busy, so we decided to do it in January," said Gerald Reese, chairman of the open house. "We focus on the layout for our open house."

But the museum is a lot more than the 10-foot by 14-foot N-scale layout. Visitors start their tour to the left of the main entrance in a room filled with Western Maryland memorabilia, including a crossing light, lanterns, schedule board and train car furnishings.

A second room has pictures of Western Maryland trains and more items from the trains and station. The tour continues upstairs to the layout room.

The layout takes up most of the room and is backed up by a 6-foot-tall model of a 1951 diesel engine, the first diesel the Western Maryland Railway purchased.

"The Western Maryland was primarily a coal hauler, so the layout is a coal mine and coal town in West Virginia, or what it looked like, no specific place," Mr. Reese said.

The layout goes from the West Virginia town to Little Orleans, Garrett County, where the Western Maryland line ran above the Potomac River close by the Baltimore and Ohio line.

Around on the other side of the layout is Union Bridge as it was in the 1940s and the area toward New Windsor.

"If you look out the window, you'll see a lot of these buildings still here today," Mr. Reese said.

While the coal mining town and Little Orleans side of the layout is finished, the Union Bridge side is still being worked on. Ask a train buff, and he'll tell you a layout is never finished.

If you're lucky, while the N-scale train is running, you'll hear the whistle of the real thing -- the EnterTRAINment Line rumbling through Union Bridge beneath the window of the museum.

Visitors can finish their tour at the gift shop, filled with T-shirts, hats, mugs, calendars, patches and other train-related items.

The annual January open house has been a treat especially for families with young children the past two weekends. Despite the icy weather, about 100 people toured the facility Jan. 2, Mr. Reese said, and last Sunday a steady stream of people of all ages visited the museum.

"This is a neat kind of activity for the family and trains are really big with children," said Nancy Johnson, who brought her son Brian, 8, and his friend Andrew Wolfe, 7, to the museum last Sunday.

"I'm keen on history and I think it's nice to have authentic things to discuss, especially right where you live," she said, as the boys debated the proper use of various items. "So often we don't appreciate things that are close by and are terrific resources."

Admission to the museum is free, but donations are accepted. The museum is housed in the Union Bridge train station on Main Street.

Information: 775-0150.

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