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Harpers Ferry Station to be Restored

Reconstruction of building's interlocking tower is proposed

by "Railroad Rob" Brzostowski

First, some history... It's 1894 and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad has just completed the relocation project of the main line through Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. With this completion comes a brand new interlock tower / train station. Designed by Francis Baldwin, the station complex consists of a baggage/express office, two waiting rooms, a ticket office, and a two-story interlock tower known as "HF." This tower is located on the east end of the station. A pair of semaphores extend from the north side of the tower. HF Tower protects the junction of the "Valley Line" from Winchester, Virginia, and the main line from Baltimore to Cumberland. An interesting feature of the physical plant is a double-slip switch on the eastbound track. Located on the bridge crossing the Potomac River, this switch forms the apex of this simple interlock.

Moving forward... It's now 1931 and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad has just completed its second realignment through Harpers Ferry. With this new alignment, the main line project completed in 1894 has now been downgraded to secondary status. The railroad has decided to keep the earlier alignment as a backup in case there should be a problem. What is about to take place is a big event. As people gathered around, the station is carefully lifted up and slid over to the old double track mainline. The station is then rolled some 600-plus feet west to the general area of its new home. Carefully, the station is moved into its new spot.

As we reach the middle of the 1950's, we watch as the railroad removes the two-story tower, leaving only the bottom half. The functions of the operator are transferred to the ticket office. (The operators' positions were abolished in 1986; functions were moved to Brunswick, Maryland.)

Let's move forward to today... Last August, the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park received ownership of the train station and surrounding property from CSX Transportation. Currently, the train station is in its first phase of restoration. Drawings of the current condition are being made by the Historic American Engineering Record (division of the U.S. Department of Interior). The park archeologist is researching the history of the station. At the end of August 2002, the archeologist and the HAER team will hold a presentation to park management.. [see UPDATE below]

The park would like to reconstruct the interlock tower and restore the existing station. (No physical changes will be seen for at least another year.)

I have been asked by the Park Service and the HAER to assist in the research and documentation of the train station. In the near future, I will be writing more articles on the station and the progress of its restoration.

It is good to know that this piece of American railroading will be preserved for generations to come.

-- "Railroad Rob" Brzostowski


UPDATE, AUG 21, 2002 . . .

by Walton Stowell, Jr.
"Railroad Rob" Brzostowski

On August 21, 2002, the National Park Service Harpers Ferry Train Station Project reached a milestone. A meeting was held in downtown Harpers Ferry presenting completed architectural drawings. The drawings (on record with the NPS) detail the current condition of the train station, as well as some historic conditions. In attendance were over 20 people from the town, the park, and surrounding areas.

The presentation began with park architect Peter Dessauer introducing the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) project and team. Other influential project members spoke, including project supervisor Christopher Marston and team leader Walton Stowell, Jr. Team foreman Kris Key presented various findings about the drawings, including structural details. Team members Paul Girouard and Xenia Olah also discussed their contributions to the drawings. Lastly, team member Rob Brzostowski recalled his work on the project, presented a collection of railroad images in frames, and culminated the meeting with a slide presentation.

The collection of 13 drawings was on display on the walls of the second floor of the Master Armor's House (Park Information Center). The drawings were labeled as: (1) Title Page; (2) Timeline; (3) Baldwin Stations; (4) Site Map; (5) Floor Plan; (6) East & West Elevations; (7) Lateral Sections; (8) North & South Elevations; (9) Longitudinal Section; (10) Roof & Foundation Plan; (11) Doors; (12) Windows; and (13) Details.

Although most of the drawings were completed, two team members will be finishing details until the end of September. Soon the project will be a permanent part of the Historic American Building Structures/ Historic American Engineering Record collection in the Library of Congress, and will eventually be available on the Library of Congress's "American Memory" website.

The August 21 presentation nears the conclusion of the initial stage of the station's restoration project. Current plans for restoration include reconstruction of the interlocking tower that stood above the east end of the building until the 1950's.

For photos and drawings.. CLICK HERE


UPDATE, SEP 23, 2003 . . .

HARPERS FERRY TRAIN STATION RESTORATION GETS ON TRACK: Superintendent Donald W. Campbell, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, is pleased to announce that the first stage of restoration of the Harpers Ferry Train Station will begin on October 6, with the removal of hazardous materials. The removal of asbestos and other chemical materials is expected to last approximately two months, during which time the entire structure, including the ticket office and bathrooms, will be closed to the public. Ticket information may be obtained at Passenger Service Operations at the Brunswick or Frederick, Maryland stations. Port-a-john facilities will be available to the public. For public safety, the station will be fenced off and a contractor's staging area will be erected adjacent to the building. This process will eliminate 11 parking spaces next to the station, however eleven temporary spaces will be constructed to maintain the same number of spaces and keep disruption of commuter train service to a minimum. Planning and restoration work will continue through 2005 with selection of a contractor, pre-construction meetings, and construction to restore this historic depot to its 1930's appearance. [National Park Service, 9-23-03]

UPDATE, DEC 12, 2003 . . .

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ISSUES DRAFT ON HARPERS FERRY, WV, DEPOT RESTORATION: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Superintendent Don Campbell has announced that the planning phase of the Harpers Ferry train station restoration is underway with the preparation of a draft Environmental Assessment (EA). The EA includes several alternatives for rehabilitating the station's exterior features and the interior of the building for adaptive reuse. The purpose of the project is to preserve the train station so that it may be used and enjoyed by park visitors and citizens of Harpers Ferry. To accomplish this, the National Park Service plans to protect and maintain the character-defining features of the train station through rehabilitation and restoration and add displays to improve the station's interpretive value. Rehabilitation of the station is needed to preserve the historic resource, improve public safety, maintain a public transportation resource, and to provide opportunities for public education. The 107 year old station is a key historic resource that was acquired by the National Park Service in 2001. The station continues to function as an active passenger rail operation and is an essential part of the transportation system at Harpers Ferry. The draft EA is available for public review for 40 days from December 12, 2003 to January 23,2004. Copies have been placed in public libraries in Charles Town and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and in the park's Morrell House headquarters on Fillmore Street. The draft EA has also been posted on the park's website. [National Park Service, 12-12-03]