The Reopening of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum
By: Courtney Wilson
American history is filled with significant dates. Presidents’ Day
Weekend celebrates two of our most well-respected presidents.
In 2003, the weekend became etched in American history once
again – not due to a celebration but rather a tragic
During Presidents’ Day weekend in 2003, a record-breaking
snowstorm swept through the state of Maryland, dumping a record
three-foot snowfall onto the roof of the Baltimore & Ohio
Railroad Museum’s signature building, the National Historic
Landmark 1884 Baldwin Roundhouse. The weight of the snow caused
a partial collapse of the roof which fell onto the backs of
rare 19th and 20th century iron horses. Majestic locomotives
peeked through an enormous pile of slate, wood and steel rubble.
With the goal of rebuilding, restoring and reopening this
national treasure, the Museum staff along with teams of architects,
engineers and construction crews have worked tirelessly throughout
the 22 months leading up to reopening. Throughout this process,
the Museum’s mantra has been “better than ever” and
they have worked hard to meet the goal of not only restoring
a national treasure but also making it even better than before – but
not without major challenges.
First and foremost, the Museum had to repair the lower roof
of the historic Roundhouse in such a manner as to preserve
the National Historic Landmark status, a distinction the 1884
Roundhouse shares with the most important architecture in America.
In addition to the lower roof, the Museum had to rebuild the
upper roof and dome--known as the clerestory and lantern. Knowledge
of the structural weaknesses in the upper sections of the Roundhouse
roof did not come to light until nearly four months into the
The Museum also worked to solve all the code compliancy issues
inherent in a building constructed in 1884, such as international,
state and city building codes, life safety codes and to provide
access for all people through the Americans with Disabilities
Act. During the planning and execution of this tremendous restoration
project, the management staff took the time to review, study
and consider the past in light of creating a new, progressive
and forward looking operational plan.
One of the most significant challenges was raising the funds
necessary to cover all of the expenses not covered by insurance.
These costs included reconstruction of the clerestory and lantern,
continuing operating funds to keep staff working and the lights
and heat on without revenue and, last but not least, restoring
the treasured locomotives, railroad cars and artifacts.
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum will celebrate the
rebirth of its signature Roundhouse when it reopens its doors
to the public the weekend of November 13-14, 2004. Visitors
will be able to celebrate the complete restoration of the 1884
National Historic Landmark Roundhouse, and also experience
some of the museum’s expanded facilities.
China - Railroad China exhibit
New exhibition galleries will host inaugural shows featuring
the Smithsonian’s Model Railroad Collection, Railroad
China and Silver, and Clocks, Pocket Watches and Railroad Time.
|Smithsonian models -
The Smithsonian's Model Railroad
Brand new interpretive panels will provide insight into the
historical significance and the cultural aspects of different
exhibits and the artifacts presented within.
Visitors will rediscover more than 150 pieces of the most
important and comprehensive collection of railroad locomotives
and rolling stock in the Western Hemisphere.
Train Shed - In order to make the collection accessible
to the entire public, the Museum constructed two large
exhibition platforms in the backyard
HO Gauge Layout
On the two new outdoor train exhibition platforms, visitors
get an inside view of many of the Museum’s trains unavailable
to the public prior to the collapse. Displayed in the C&O
#725 passenger car will be the new HO model train layout, which
depicts the lay-of-the-land from Baltimore’s port to
All aboard for train rides along the “most historic
railroad right of way in America.” The Museum will now
offer daily train rides from April through December and during
weekends in January. No train rides are scheduled during February
and March. Patrons will want to make sure they stop by the
new museum store to take home a souvenir of their return to
the birthplace of American railroading.
The Museum’s first major event is Holiday Festival of
Trains, a seasonal favorite and Museum tradition, beginning
on Friday, November 26, 2004 and continuing throughout the
holiday season until Thursday, December 30, 2004.
Patrons will want to mark their calendars for Memorial Day
Weekend 2005 when the Museum will unveil its state of the art
restoration facility and open the historic North Passenger
Car Shop to the public. For more information on the Museum’s
reopening celebrations and programs, interested parties can