Sykesville toots whistle for its railroad history

May 31, 2002|By Carolynne Fitzpatrick | Carolynne Fitzpatrick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Celebrating its railroad past, Sykesville will hold the first Sykesville Model Railroad Festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow.

The festival features model railroad layouts, food, entertainment and train vendors along Main Street. A trolley car will provide free shuttle service to the festival from the Warfield Complex off Route 32.

"For years, people in Sykesville have been fascinated about trains and models," said Margaret Spurlock, Sykesville tourism director. "The idea of the festival has been incubating for years."

No wonder. Railroading is in Sykesville's history.

Years ago, trains brought visitors and commerce to the southeast Carroll County town. Baltimore residents came to summer cottages that fronted on a boardwalk and overlooked the Patapsco River.

Freight trains supplied the Main Street merchants, and factories and grain mills shipped wares on the rails.

The town has been working for years to revitalize its Main Street and transform itself into a railroad mecca. An 89-year-old switching station is being restored as a visitors center. Other attractions include a restored station that is a restaurant, a restored Pullman car and caboose that house a model railroad layout, and a miniature train, all within a block of one another.

In December, the Sykesville and Patapsco Railway, a group of railroad enthusiasts, brainstormed to create the festival.

"Without their enthusiasm, we would never have been able to have the festival," Spurlock said.

On Main Street, many shops have train layouts in their windows. Children can ride the Little Sykes Railway at the Gate House Museum.

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