- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

BALTIMORE Standing beside smashed railroad cars, B&O; Railroad Museum officials said they would need financial help to fix a historic collection devastated in a roof collapse.
Heaps of splintered wooden beams and shingles still cover some cars nearly a month after the roof of museum's roundhouse caved in Feb. 17 under the weight of snow.
James T. Brady, chairman of the board of directors, said he hoped insurance would pay to repair the building, but museum officials have not been able to estimate how much damage was done to the railroad cars, which the museum could not afford to insure.
Clearly, Mr. Brady said, the museum will need help from the public and private sectors.
"This is a mammoth effort that will be undertaken over the next year," Mr. Brady said, standing beside a smashed wooden coach from 1868 that was filled with debris that had crashed through its ceiling. He said the museum was forming a committee to search for ways to raise money.
The roundhouse, which was built in 1884 and rises 123 feet, lost about half its roof. Mr. Brady said he hoped to have the building repaired by next year.
The surface of the museum's 60-foot wooden turntable, which allowed one person to push a railroad car to a different location in the roundhouse, was warped by flooding when the snow melted.
Courtney Wilson, the executive director, said structural engineers told him last week that the building had been stabilized "enough to stand under relatively normal weather conditions." Efforts to improve the building's stability were expected to last weeks longer.
The museum has been closed since the collapse, and officials don't know when they will be able to reopen it.
The collapse forced the museum to cancel a summer fair celebrating 175 years of American railroading on the site of the nation's first train station. Museum officials had hoped to draw an international audience to the event.
Ed Williams, the museum's deputy director, said about 20 cars have been moved into another building to protect them from further damage while the roof is repaired.
Mr. Wilson said he was humbled by initial offers of financial help, volunteer labor and assistance from other railroad museums, as well as from people from as far away as Japan and Germany. He was touched by a letter from a child that included a crayon drawing of the roundhouse with the words: "I miss the trains." Forty-two cents in change was taped to the paper.
"We're committed to rebuild, to restore and to give new life to this magnificent part of Baltimore's skyline and the historic collections within," Mr. Wilson said.
The museum includes a 1926 replica of the Tom Thumb, the first American-built locomotive, and the St. Elizabeth, one of the last steam engines built in the United States (1950).
Luckily, the museum's William Mason locomotive had been moved out about a month before the collapse. The 1856 locomotive is the oldest in operation in the country.
Mayor Martin O'Malley said he hoped the museum would end up better than before.
"This is not a day for mourning," Mr. O'Malley said. "This is a day for celebrating what the B&O; is about to become."
State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer said the wreckage gave him a "heavy heart" as he recalled when the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad turned the roundhouse from a workshop into a museum 50 years ago.
"But out of all this will come a much greater museum, I hope," said Mr. Schaefer, the former Baltimore mayor and governor.

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