Station repairs near end of the line

Station's repairs on track

Restoration: After six years of toil, Hampstead's historic former train stop is on track to have its renovations complete.

Carroll County

October 19, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Fresh red and gray paint has been applied and a new slate roof and a distinctive brick chimney have been rebuilt, although plywood still covers the windows of the 1912 Hampstead train station.

A lot of restoration work remains to be done on the station, which once was a stop for passengers on the Western Maryland Railroad's "Old Dutch Line" from Glyndon to Hanover, Pa. But after more than six years of work, a local official who spearheaded the renovation is predicting a spring ceremonial opening for the building as a museum and visitors center.

Wayne Thomas Sr. moved to town in 1991. It was when he went to a council meeting a year later to talk about his that he noticed the train station on the town seal.

Shortly thereafter, he said he was shocked to find that the iconic structure was falling apart and at risk of being demolished.

"I have fond memories of my first day inside the station," Thomas said. "I fell through a hole in the floor into the basement. I didn't want to step on this old trap door - I was afraid it would cave in - so I jumped across it."

A councilman since 1993, Thomas also serves as president of the nonprofit Hampstead Train Station Committee Inc., which he incorporated in September 1997 to save the structure.

"We are so close to being done," Thomas said last week. Although the windows and other critical items are not yet installed, he said he foresees a dedication ceremony "probably next April."

Thomas and the committee's volunteers have worked to buy the building and secure state grants and contributions from local groups for its renovation. The committee members have poured time and money into the project since March 1998, after they acquired the building from the town for $9,200 at 5 percent interest over 10 years.

"We quite literally have rebuilt this thing over the last six years," Thomas said.

The original budget was about $102,500, he said, but the cost increased as the price of building supplies rose during the years of obtaining the title and grants.

The Maryland Historical Trust gave a grant of about $49,000, and another for $5,000 came from Preservation Maryland, said Thomas, who also took out a personal line of credit.

Richard Brand, administrator of financial assistance and easements for the Maryland Historical Trust, visited Hampstead for the first time in June and was charmed by the train station - and the town. "It still has an historic feel to it," he said.

His impression of the station, formed after seeing early photos, has changed, he said.

"In the initial pictures, it just looked like a terrible building and I was sort of sorry we got involved," he said. Now "it looks great, and they're doing a great job."

Thomas is especially proud of the tongue-and-groove wainscoting and the period glass he finagled for the project from the windows of the old Hampstead bank building, which became the town's police station.

The train station's roof had fallen in several places. A $44,000 slate roof was installed three months ago, after the underlying trusses and boards were rebuilt.

The project is about $20,000 over budget, said Thomas, a project engineer for a Hunt Valley software company.

"We applied for the [Maryland Historical Trust] grant well over two years ago," he said, and it was delayed for more than a year while CSX, the state attorney general's office and the Maryland Historical Trust ironed out the wording of the agreement on the ownership of the station.

As a result, he said, "we have a `management easement' to use the building, but CSX still owns the land under the station."

Another delay has been caused by the volunteer nature of the work, Thomas said, as he and six or seven other volunteers work their regular jobs and put time in on the station on nights and weekends.

The Maryland Historical Trust extended its deadline for substantial completion of the station to Oct. 31, Brand said.

"Like any organization, we want them to hurry up, so we use the carrot and the stick," he said. "As long as they keep showing progress - and they really are showing progress - the money will still be there."

Thomas said the committee "asked the folks at the Maryland Historical Trust if they would give us a little leeway." It may "take a small miracle," but he expects to get most of the work done by the end of this month.

"We are very appreciative of all their efforts," Brand said. "It's a great asset to the town. ... I think we're all happy with it."

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