State devotes $1 million to B&O museum project

19th-century passenger car shop, on historic register, to be restored


News from around the Baltimore region

July 13, 2005|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum received $1 million from the state yesterday to help restore its South Passenger Car Shop, which was built in 1870 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The check from the Maryland Department of Transportation matches a $1 million bond from Baltimore City and adds to $400,000 in contributions from the museum.

This new money is in addition to a $30 million restoration project that began after a 2003 snowstorm collapsed the ceiling of the B&O museum's roundhouse and damaged some historic locomotives.

The storm dumped 28 inches of snow on the city and forced the museum to close for 22 months for repairs. It reopened in November, although workers are still fixing some of the damage and upgrading other parts not affected by the storm, such as the south car shop.

"This is another great step in keeping Maryland's rich transportation history alive," Deputy Transportation Secretary James F. Ports Jr. said at the announcement.

Ports presented the state's check to museum Executive Director Courtney Wilson against a backdrop of a paint-chipped and boarded-up brick building flanked by Dumpsters loaded with discarded railroad ties, a radiator and other debris.

Wilson said restoration of the 40,000- square-foot south car shop will give visitors another view into the heritage of the "great railroad boom."

He added later that the project "fulfills the mission to preserve this historic museum. It's a national historic landmark."

The restoration work will include stabilizing the building, replacing windows and doors, and repairing masonry. It is scheduled to begin next spring and should be completed by the fall of next year.

Similar restorations were completed in September at the 20,000-square-foot north car shop. It is scheduled to be opened to the public for Labor Day and will house historic locomotives and other train memorabilia.

The museum recently opened a $6 million railroad car and locomotive restoration facility, financed by the $30 million campaign to repair the snowstorm damage.

In 2002, the last full year of operation, the museum recorded 160,000 visitors. Wilson said attendance is up this year by 25 percent to 30 percent.

Officials said that they do not know what exhibits they plan to display in the refurbished South Passenger Car Shop.

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