A restored Pullman car helps preserve the past

March 17, 1995|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Sykesville and Patapsco Railway owns a sidetracked, single railroad car that visitors are lining up to get aboard.

The S&P Railway, a model railroad club, shows off its collection in a 80-foot long Pullman car parked on town tracks behind Main Street.

"Our goal is to provide interesting displays and to preserve old equipment and the railroad history," said Mark Bennett, the club president. "People are coming to town just to see the displays."

Club members report that interest in the display is high and visitors are many.

Two weeks ago, during a monthly open house, about 150 people visited the car and its contents. In December, during Sykesville Business Association's open house, about 1,100 people visited.

"We are committed to keeping trains on display in a unique setting and bringing people in to see those displays," Mr. Bennett said.

Lionel model trains, donated to the town three years ago, are the foundation of the display in the aging passenger car, which was revamped to transport American troops during World War II.

The club, which has about a dozen members, hopes soon to surround the display with models of a miniature Sykesville.

In 1993, CSX leased the century-old Pullman to the town for $1 a year.

Volunteers have gutted and repaired the interior, restored the metal roof and replaced all the windows, several of which had been sealed since the war years.

"Warm weather will allow us to do the exterior work," Mr. Bennett said. "Our No. 1 goal for this spring is to paint the entire exterior."

The Pullman should stand out when it is repainted in its original blue and gold colors, he said.

Sykesville, which also owns two cabooses, has built its hopes for tourism on its railroad roots.

The town's restored train station is a restaurant.

"The railroad plays an important part in the marketing of downtown," said Mayor Jonathan Herman.

"We should use the railroad history as an agent to draw people to downtown."

A gift shop recently opened in the red caboose, which is attached to the Pullman.

"Business there has been dormant, but we are hoping it erupts," the mayor said.

The town is looking for volunteers to restore its blue caboose. The Town Council would like to park the caboose along Route 32 as a signal to visitors.

"We are hoping to make the railroad area of the town special," the mayor said.

From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. the first Sunday of each month, the modelers' club opens the Pullman car to the public. Admission is free, but the club accepts donations to defray restoration costs.

& Information: 795-3157.

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