The "Iron Horse Express," Howard Community College's neglected mascot, is being scrapped.
The college put it to a vote, and 69 percent of the people who cast ballots thought the antique train should go. The informal election drew 360 votes from students, employees and county residents.
Four percent wanted to keep the mascot as is - the rest either voted for an updated locomotive or for a new image to go with the name.
A contest will decide the train's replacement. Residents can submit ideas through Dec. 1, and a seven-person panel will announce the new mascot Dec. 15.
The winner gets $300 toward tuition for a credit course at the school.
The college picked the Iron Horse Express in the 1970s because trains figured prominently in the county's history. Ellicott City was a major Baltimore and Ohio Railway station and its first depot.
But in recent years, the Iron Horse Express got neither attention nor respect. You can't find it on campus - not even in the gym. Many of the athletes didn't know it exists; no train rides across their uniforms.
HCC administrators, who are in the midst of revamping the athletic facilities, promise to do better this time. The new mascot won't be hidden, they say.
"We'd really like to make it stronger than what it was before," said Kate Hetherington, vice president of student services.
Some were partial to the train and will be sorry to see it chug off into the sunset. Athletic Director Diane Schumacher said that college employees, in particular, were more likely than others to vote for the Iron Horse Express.
Paul Bridge, a county resident who voted for the locomotive, said it could have made a great mascot had it been used well. He knows its storied history.
"The Iron Horse is really an icon of America's moving ahead in the 19th century," said Bridge, who volunteers at two Baltimore & Ohio Railroad museums. "It's just a shame that people didn't realize how significant that was."
The mascot simply didn't appeal to students, Hetherington said.
"It's hard for an athlete to envision themselves with an old train," she said. "It just didn't connect."
That's true for Katherine Vaughan, a freshman who is on the soccer team. "It's not really a mascot," she said, sitting in the gym. "I think something else would be better. You hear about animals, but not trains."
The judging panel is looking for mascot suggestions that are appropriate for a school, apply to all sports, have a connection to HCC or the county and reinforce the new campus promotional slogan, "You Can Get There From Here."
Administrators also want a mascot that's "fun and appealing" while projecting an image of strength, power and victory.