B&O gets $500,000 to help it rebuild

Railroad museum will use federal parks grant to reconstruct roof

October 20, 2003|By Reginald Fields | Reginald Fields,SUN STAFF

The B&O Railroad Museum has been awarded a $500,000 federal grant to help reconstruct the roundhouse roof that collapsed after a snowstorm last winter.

The grant equals the largest ever awarded by the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures program.

B&O officials had sought $1 million, but say they're not disappointed at receiving half that amount.

"I'm so pleased that of all the projects they had considered, they chose the B&O to be their top priority," said Courtney B. Wilson, executive director of the Southwest Baltimore museum.

Wilson also thanked the Maryland congressional delegation, which in June wrote a letter on behalf of the B&O to the National Park Service urging that the museum be selected for funding from the annual grant program. Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski led that effort.

Sarbanes and Mikulski also are trying to secure a $500,000 congressional appropriation for the museum.

Wilson is seeking capital support from the city and state and meeting privately with corporations. On Friday, he was in York, Pa., at a model train collectors convention hoping to form new partnerships and raise money.

On Feb. 17, during a snowstorm, half of the roof over the museum's roundhouse - its centerpiece attraction - collapsed. The museum has been closed since and is not expected to reopen before spring.

A museum report blamed the collapse on what it called a poor building design that failed under the weight of six-foot snow drifts.

The roundhouse was built in 1884 as a train car mechanic's shop and converted in 1953 into a museum.

The cost to rebuild and restore the building and damaged exhibits is more than $15 million; much of that amount is being covered by insurance.

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