• B&O Railroad Museum,
901 W. Pratt St., Baltimore, (410) 752-2490
Fischer, Washington Sidewalk
Baltimore became a
railroad center in the mid-19th century because it's a couple of hundred
miles closer to the American interior than the other northeast seaports.
The city became a major center of railroad history in 1953 when the
B&O Railroad's Mount Clare Shops were converted into the B&O
Railroad Museum. Located a mile west of Inner Harbor, the museum now
consists of five major buildings on more than 40 acres of land, 194 pieces
of equipment, thousands of photographs and a model train set (HO gauge)
that Santa would die for.
The museum has solid reasons for calling itself "The Birthplace of
American Railroading." The B&O (Baltimore & Ohio) Railroad
was America's first chartered line, the Mount Clare Shops its first
station and principal maintenance facility. The first U.S. passenger train
departed from Mount Clare (on Jan. 7, 1830, an excursion to the Carrollton
Viaduct construction site 1¼ miles west), and Samuel F.B. Morse sent the
first telegram – "What hath God wrought?" – on wires along
the B&O right of way from Mount Clare to Washington.
Many pieces of rolling stock from the ages of steam and diesel are on
display atop the vast original wooden turntable within the world's largest
circular industrial building, the 22-sided roundhouse. There's a replica
of the ancient Tom Thumb train and a Lafayette steam engine that Steven
Spielberg recently rented for Amistad (it's still wearing
"Re-elect Van Buren" banners). Out in the yard, you can see the
320-ton, 7,500-horsepower Allegheny steam locomotive – the heaviest and
most powerful engine ever built – and little engine No. 377, a plausible
stand-in for the popular Thomas the Tank Engine. Kids also appreciate the
string of colorful cabooses and the opportunity to climb on board some of
the engines and coaches.
On weekends and most holidays, the Mount Clare Express conveys visitors
from the museum to the spot where the first stone was laid for the B&O
line. Instructional programs and films are offered every Saturday. The
gift shop sells reasonably priced train souvenirs, including attractive
B&O tableware and glasses.
Directions: From the Capital Beltway, take Interstate 95
north to Interstate 395 (Exit 53) in Baltimore. Exit right onto Martin
Luther King Boulevard – you can see the museum's yellow cupola straight
ahead as MLK curves past Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Turn left on
Lombard Street, then left onto Poppleton Street. Cross Pratt Street into
the museum parking lot. As the museum's own Web
site points out, "Safe parking is FREE."
Also: SoWeBo – where to eat near the B&O Railroad Museum