Station repairs on track

Restoration: After six years of toil, the renovation of Hampstead's historic former train stop is nearing completion.

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. was at a 1992 council meeting when he noticed the train station on the town seal. 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 town councilman since 1993, Thomas also is 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," he 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. Thomas also took out a personal line of credit.

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 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.

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.

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