Hampstead's depot of possibility Mission to save old train station deserves strong town support.

July 01, 1996

IT MAY BE abandoned, but Hampstead's old train depot is a building of promise and possibility.

Constructed in 1913 at the cost of $4,100 -- quite a bit of change in those days -- the one-story clapboard structure is one of the oldest buildings in town. While its faded paint is flaking, the original Victorian gables remain intact. The local landmark seems eminently restorable.

That's why the effort by Kenneth Hankins, a teacher and potter, to acquire the unused depot from CSX Transportation Inc. merits strong public support. The easiest way to get involved is to attend a meeting on the plan at 7 p.m. tomorrow in Hampstead Town Hall.

Mr. Hankins is not the first who has tried to save this structure. But he seems to be making progress in negotiations with CSX, which previously insisted that the depot be moved 15 feet from the tracks. CSX still says safety is its top concern. But the Florida-based conglomerate may now be satisfied if a fence is built between the building and the tracks. Although a freight train rumbles past the town every morning and afternoon, trains have not stopped in Hampstead for years. In fact, the last scheduled passenger train called on Hampstead Dec. 31, 1942 -- a year after Pearl Harbor.

It was train No. 44, eastbound to Baltimore's Hillen Station from Gettysburg, Pa. Many thought the service would be restored after the war when equipment could be freed from the busier Baltimore-Cumberland mainline. But, by that time, local passenger railroads had already begun their decline.

Because the Hampstead depot was a standard Western Maryland Railway design, there is nothing architecturally unique about it. But that's not the point. Until it was closed and boarded up in 1979, the rail depot symbolized the town. In some ways, it still does -- as a fixture on Hampstead's town seal and official stationery.

Hampstead has changed quite a bit over the years. Lower Gill Avenue, where the depot is located, hasn't been called Railroad Avenue for years. But railroading was an important part of the town's development. Other burgs have restored their stations -- into museums, restaurants, visitor centers. Hampsteaders should not sell their own station short.

Pub Date: 7/01/96

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