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B&O Roundhouse Roof Collapses

[Photo by Alexander D Mitchell IV]

A major portion of the roof of the historic 1884 roundhouse of the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore came crashing down in the early morning hours of February 17, 2003. A record snowfall - officially 28.2 inches as recorded at BWI Airport - resulted in heavy weight, the apparent cause of the collapse. There were no injuries - nobody was inside the building at the time - but the roof fell upon a number of the displays that were housed within the roundhouse. An assessment of the damage to exhibits is ongoing, but it has been reported that two post-Civil War wooden coaches were destroyed. The damage also caused an indefinite closure of the museum. In the meantime, efforts to stabilize the roundhouse and protect its exhibits are top priorities.





[Source: B&O Railroad Museum]

[Baltimore, MD, February 28, 2003]... The Board of Directors of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum has announced the cancellation of the Fair of the Iron Horse 175, Festival of Trains, due to damage the Museum incurred during the recent snowstorm in Maryland.

The railroading exposition was scheduled to take place June 28 through July 3, 2003, at the Museum and in Baltimore's Carroll Park to commemorate the 175th Anniversary of American Railroading.

"Due to the catastrophic damage to this historic Roundhouse and its magnificent collection, the Fair of the Iron Horse must be cancelled," stated Jim Brady, chairman of the B&O Railroad Museum Board of Directors.

"Our focus now is to restore, re-build, and re-open this national treasure. This Herculean effort is already underway. It is imperative that this process be driven by the highest standards of historic preservation, restoration and museum programming. I have the greatest confidence in the team that has been assembled to face this challenge. We look forward to the re-birth of the Birthplace of American Railroading when this national treasure is returned to an even greater state of glory," added Brady.

During the height of the storm, the Iron Structure of the 1884 Baldwin Roundhouse, the Museum's signature building and collections exhibit space, collapsed under the weight of the snow and force of wind. Fortunately, no one was in the Museum at the time of the collapse. Structural engineers are working daily to stabilize the building and protect the collection from further damage. The Museum is home to the oldest, most comprehensive collection of railroad artifacts in the Western Hemisphere.


UPDATE, MARCH 7, 2003...

[Source: B&O Railroad Museum]...

Artifact handlers have begun to remove small objects from the Roundhouse to ensure their safety during the restoration process and to make room for additional "shoring" towers. Small artifacts, such as those in the Miniature Marvels exhibit, are being moved into a triage area located in the Education Station. Each piece undergoes an initial damage assessment and cleaning before it is packaged for temporary storage. In addition, rolling stock from the Museum's front yard and in the vicinity of the Roundhouse has been moved to allow room for overhead cranes.



UPPER ROOF AT B&O MUSEUM ROUNDHOUSE TO BE REPLACED: Structural engineers working with the B&O Museum in Baltimore have discovered that the clerestory upper roof of the roundhouse does not have the structural integrity to meet current building code standards. This was not caused by the February snowstorm that caused extensive damage to lower portions of the roof, and repairs to the upper roof will not be covered by insurance. The museum has decided to remove and replace the upper roof at a cost estimated to be in excess of $2-million. Moreover, this work is expected to add another six months to the overall roof replacement project.


UPDATE, NOVEMBER 26, 2003...

[Source: B&O Railroad Museum]...

Dear Friends of The B&O Railroad Museum:

At this time, the construction team completed the lower roof wood construction of the Roundhouse. As we move into the Thanksgiving holiday, the Museum has much to be thankful for, but many challenges still to overcome. Preparations to remove and repair the upper clerestory roof are still underway. We would like to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.


UPDATE, NOVEMBER 13, 2004...

The B&O Museum reopened to the public on Saturday, November 13, 2004. The museum had been closed since the collapse of its roundhouse roof on February 17, 2003. The roof has now been replaced and exhibits that were in the building when the roof collapsed are once again on display. Some of the exhibits still show the damage that resulted - these are displayed within glassed-in enclosures. A number of improvements have been made to the Mount Clare Station, including a new entry door, new exhibit areas, and a larger gift shop. Museum hours are 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Monday through Friday; 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. Saturday; and 12 Noon to 5 P.M. on Sunday. It is closed on major holidays, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. In the event of inclement weather, call 410-752-2490. For further information go to www.borail.org.


UPDATE, MAY 28, 2005...

REBUILDING RAIL HISTORY AT B&O MUSEUM: There's no piece of machinery more powerfully attractive than a railroad locomotive and no better place to savor the romance of these technological marvels from an earlier era than at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. The museum, on a 40-acre yard in Southwest Baltimore where American railroading was established in 1827, has long been a must-see destination for rail fans. In 2003, the extraordinary B&O collection of locomotives and cars, the heart of which was assembled for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, was endangered when heavy snow collapsed the roof of the cathedrallike Baldwin Roundhouse. The 1884 roundhouse has since been rebuilt and reopened. A $6-million high-tech train shed built for the repair of locomotives and cars damaged by the collapse, opened May 27, complete with an elevated platform to allow visitors to observe the work. Next month, the first damaged equipment will be moved in. Among the most seriously damaged is the J.C. Davis, built in 1875 for hauling mail and passengers over steep grades. Workers have already begun the painstaking work of rebuilding that locomotive, including recasting key iron parts. Total restoration of nine storm-damaged locomotives and cars is expected to take another five or six years to complete. [Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, 5-28-05, from Baltimore Sun website article by Larry Williams]