Efforts under way to preserve railroad history of Odenton with bigger museum, office space Boarded-up building was bustling in 1940s

November 04, 1997|By Kristi E. Swartz | Kristi E. Swartz,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

One hundred years ago, people were without cars, railroads were the main form of transportation and one could hardly travel in the mid-Atlantic region without passing through Odenton.

The town that most people cruise through on Interstate 97 or Routes 170 or 175 was the area's major railroad junction.

"I used to call it 'the little engine that tied it all together' -- with Baltimore, Washington and Annapolis," said Roger White, research director of the Odenton Historical Society.

While Odenton now is mostly a commuter stop for business people headed to Baltimore or Washington, the society has been trying for nine years to preserve its rail history through photographs and biographical data, White said.

Room is running out.

The group needs new room for a bigger museum and for storage and office space, White said. Ideas include converting a historic house into a museum or occupying a former switch tower at the edge of the Odenton MARC station parking lot.

The boarded-up one-story tan and brown building was a bustling place in the 1940s where railroad workers switched the railroad track either west to Fort Meade or east to Odenton, White said.

Military officers and politicians often rode the rail because it connected the port of Baltimore to the state capital in Annapolis and to the nation's capital in Washington.

"The junction is what's responsible for the existence of Odenton, and we want to be at the heart of it all," White said.

The group in 1993 bought and restored the former Citizens State Bank -- the town's oldest bank -- across from the MARC station. Volunteers staff the part of the small stone building which is now a museum and office. The other half is rented to Dunkin' Donuts, which opens for morning commuters, White said.

"We only have half of the building for our exhibits," White said. "That's why we need more space."

Negotiations to buy or rent the switch tower are in the early stages, White said. The building is so old, there's ownership confusion between Amtrak and MARC, he said.

Both railroad groups are doing research to figure out who owns that parcel of land, which had been divided many times by railroad companies and the state, he said. There's no dispute, but no one is clear about ownership.

"Whether it's another building or the switch tower, the whole point is growth," White said. "We need a little more space for a very small office that's still staffed by volunteers."

Pub Date: 11/04/97

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