Little blue caboose could lead way to Sykesville

January 01, 1995|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

A caboose could lead visitors to Sykesville if the town can sidetrack the railroad car along Route 32.

"We are going to try to put the caboose on a lot along Route 32," said James L. Schumacher, town manager. "It will be a sign promoting Main Street, a really great drawing card."

Where to park the caboose depends on property owners and the State Highway Administration, Mr. Schumacher said.

The town, which hopes to build its tourism industry on its railroad roots, owns two cabooses and leases a Pullman car, which houses its model railroad exhibit, for $1 a year.

A Howard County businessman hopes to open a shop in one caboose. The other sits idly on the tracks behind Main Street. If things go according to plan, Sykesville could put the little blue caboose to work as a guide into town.

"It will take a bit to get the caboose to the highway," said Councilman William R. "Bill" Hall Jr. "It will need a crane to lower it onto a trailer and a truck to haul it to the road."

And, it must be situated where it won't cause gaping motorists to have accidents, he said.

"Route 32 already is not that safe. If you have people turning and looking, you might have accidents," he said.

Then, there is the matter of color. People might stare even harder at a blue caboose.

"Most people think of a caboose as red," Mr. Hall said. "Maybe, we could get volunteers to paint it."

Restoration work on the century-old car may involve more than paint, but the town is undeterred.

The Sykesville Business Association is also behind the project. The group of 35 businesses is all for anything that touts Main Street, said Craig Taylor, association president.

"The caboose can't do anything but help us," Mr. Taylor said.

He has long been a proponent of more town signs "to let people know there is a town here."

Along the highway, which many call the Sykesville bypass, a single green sign, posted in Howard County near the intersection at College Avenue, welcomes visitors to town.

"We are going to be bypassed for ever," Mr. Taylor said. "People go by so fast and wonder how to get into town after they have passed it.

"There is only one sign to tell them, and that's at a bad turn," he said.

The caboose would be "like a flashing light" beckoning visitors, he said.

"It would say, 'We are here' to everybody," Mr. Taylor said.

He would like the car parked near the intersection of Route 32 and Sandosky Road -- the only one of four town intersections with a traffic light.

"Once they make the turn, they will be able to see down the road to Main Street," Mr. Taylor said. "We could guide them into town with arrows and maybe point them to the information center."

About 80 percent of the daily traffic is commuters, he said. That leaves a sizable percentage of people who may have time to stop and shop or dine at one of the town restaurants.

"We really will have our work cut out for us as Routes 26 and 32 develop more businesses in Eldersburg," Mr. Taylor said. "Sykesville can stay historic and unique, but we have to let people know how to get to us."

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