B&O station museum shows off new old look

`Grand reopening' marks end of four-year project

May 21, 1999|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

The oldest railroad terminus in the United States recently got a $400,000 face lift, and about 150 people attended a ceremony in Ellicott City yesterday morning to celebrate it.

The Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum organized the 40-minute event to mark its "grand reopening" after an award-winning, four-year restoration project.

Funded mostly by county and federal grants, the restoration was completed late last year.

The Maryland Historical Trust recently selected the station as one of three 1999 Preservation Project Award winners, and it has also won a preservation award from the Howard County Historic District Commission.

"There is nothing left like this, and for that we should be very proud," Howard County Executive James N. Robey said.

Oldest railroad terminus

The station, built in 1830-1831, was the terminus for the first 13 miles of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

Recognized as the oldest railroad terminus in the nation, it became a prototype for thousands of small-town stations across the country.

CSX Transportation deeded the landmark station to Howard County in 1996 for $1. Historic Ellicott City Inc., the nonprofit organization that operates the museum, spearheaded the restoration efforts.

The project included the restoration of the engine house doors and 1863 turntable, the re-creation of the original section of 1831 track and modifications to provide access for the disabled.

At yesterday's ceremony, a replica of the first horse-drawn passenger train, the Pioneer, retraced its original journey on the tracks almost 170 years ago.

Museum volunteers in period garb rode the train.

Preservation commitment

J. Rodney Little, the state's historical preservation officer, praised Howard County's commitment to historic preservation, which he called "almost unique" in the state.

"In too many counties, that historic preservation effort is carried only by the private sector," Little said.

"Ellicott City's future is so great," said state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a former governor. "The tourists will just pour in."

He added jokingly, "Sometimes you will wonder to yourself, `Why do all these people come here? Why don't they just send their money?' "

Pub Date: 5/21/99

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