Roads and Rails Museum, Frederick, Maryland

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Frederick, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C., is the second largest city in the state.  It is a town rich in history that has many great treasures to include the Museum of Civil War Medicine, the home of Barbara Fritchie, a Unionist during the Civil War who was part of American folklore, the Carroll Creek Walk and Baker Park.  You also had the Battle of the Monocacy which took place on the south side of the town.  It is a major crossroads with the National Road (U.S. 40) and U.S. 15 as well as Interstate 70 with Interstate 270 and U.S. 340 branching south.  With all of this, it is easy for a place like the Roads and Rails Museum to be easily overlooked… but it should not be.

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From the outside, it is just an old brick building.  You enter the building, and you see a store that sells train stuff.  You say to yourself, “This cannot be it.”

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This is not it.  You pay the admission, and then… you have officially been transported into a whole new world.  You find yourself in the subway station, but you thought that this was just model trains.  Then you walk a little further.  A new world has just opened.  The trains are everywhere.  Trains are going through the farms, passing through the towns, passing through cities, going around the mountains, passing by waterfalls, passing through tunnels and over bridges.  You stop to watch the circus, but you must move on because the volcano is about to erupt.  All this is going on as you make your way though, and then… you find yourself back in the store again.  You look at the person at the register and ask, “Can I do this again?”

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The Roads and Rails Museum features a hobby shop and a model train display that is one of the largest in the United States.  They are located at 200 N. East Street in Frederick, Maryland.  It is just minutes from Interstate 70 and from U.S. Routes 15 and 40 and a short walk from the historic district and visitor center.  They are open Friday to Monday from 10:00am to 5:00pm (12:00pm to 5:00pm on Sunday).  Admission is only $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for children.  (Three and under are free.)  Parking is behind the building and on the street.  You can get more information and learn more about the layout at http://www.roadsnrails.com.

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The next time you are approaching Frederick, follow the roads to the Roads and Rails Museum.  You will be glad that you stopped by.

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Thurmond, West Virginia

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Thurmond, West Virginia was once a thriving town in the south-central region of West Virginia.  Located in the New River Gorge next to the New River, Thurmond was a served by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.  It played a major role in the coal mining industry.  Incorporated in 1900, the town was a town like any other town with a train depot, a post office and two hotels.  It was the home of a rail yard and rail shops.  For many years the town was only accessible by the train until 1921 when a connecting road was built.  In the 1930’s one of the hotels burned down.  The town was in its decline until the 1950’s when it officially became a ghost town.

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There is only one road that enters the town.  The road runs alongside of a rail line that you cross a few times.  You arrive at the New River, and you drive across a long one lane bridge (which is shared with the rail line) to enter the town.  You see the depot and what remains of the town.  You stand around and feel the ghosts of the trains and the people walking around.  You walk around, and you come upon the C&O Walk which details the history of this town.  You look around, and you see just old structures.

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Today, the facade of the main street remains, and there are only a handful of residents.  The yards and the shops are gone.  Only the main line and the depot remains.  The depot is now a visitor center for the New River Gorge New River National Park and it only open seasonally.  CSX continues to roll through the town.  Amtrak does have a stop here, but very few people use this stop.  (It is said to be the second least used stop on Amtrak.)

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The town of Thurmond is accessible by Amtrak and by Thurmond Road which is a short drive from U.S. 19 south of the famous New River Gorge Bridge.  The town is accessible twenty-four hours a day, but the only paved parking is at the depot / visitor center.  Most of the old town is mainly accessible by foot with very little handicap access.  The tracks are still active, and if you are fortunate enough, you may see a train roll by just like the good old days of Thurmond.

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Welcome to the town of Thurmond, West Virginia, a ghost town where the ghosts are alive with the heart of the railroad.

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The Freedom of the Train in America

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The Declaration of Independence was signed in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1776.  The United States of America was born.  People came from across the oceans to live in this new land.

Then the railroads came.  The people were able to go farther into this new land.  When the Golden Spike was driven in Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869, people were able to take the train from coast to coast.  What began in Baltimore, Maryland became the open door to the United States of America.

As the railroads was a source of freedom in America, it is not the case in some countries.  In nations run by dictators, the railroad is used to send people who were declared enemies of the government to concentration camps or slaughterhouses.  They were shoved into box cars until they were packed like sardines, and they traveled in these box cars even in harsh weather.  Most of these people did not survive.  To them, the railroad was a killing machine.

The next time you are standing at your favorite railroad watching site, think about the pride that the railroad brings to this nation.  Think about those men who signed a very important document that made this nation free, and think about the American railroad that brought the people to freedom.

The Story of Albert Carpenter Kalmbach

Who is Albert Carpenter Kalmbach?  He was born on June 25, 1910 in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.  What is he famous for?  He printed newspapers.  Commonly known as Al C. Kalmbach, he brought a small printing press at the age of twelve with moving from his savings account, and he printed papers for the Milwaukee Sun.  After he graduated from Marquette University and losing a job due to the Great Depression, he started the Milwaukee Commercial Press where he printed newspapers for churches.  He died on October 14, 1981, but he left a legacy for many to enjoy.

Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful.  He printed newspapers in Milwaukee and made a great life of it.  He must have been a great guy, but journalists seem to turn me off.  However, I am more interested in railroads.  Therefore, I will not be reading about Al C. Kalmbach in print anytime soon or anytime later.”

Who is Al C. Kalmbach?  He did grow up around the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, and he did print newspapers, but that is just the beginning.

Al Kalmbach is known for printing newspapers, but he also had another great interest in railroads.  He grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin near the shops of the Milwaukee Road (a railroad company).  He became interested in model train when he helped one of his friends build their later.  (This friend later became the mayor of Milwaukee.)  After high school he began to build a model railroad layout in the attic of his parent’s home.  After graduating from college, he had a job offer with the Pennsylvania Railroad working with the electrification project which sadly fell through with the Great Depression.  In 1932, he started the Model Railroad Club of Milwaukee.  In 1935, he organized a convention for the National Model Railroad Association bringing model railroaders from the United States and Canada together in Milwaukee.

You can say that Al Kalmbach accomplished a lot, but this is not his real accomplishment.

Before the first model railroad convention he published ‘The Model Railroader’ with the release of the first issue in January of 1934.  It did not receive much enthusiasm.  Some told him to give up the magazine.  His wife, Beatrice, encouraged him to continue with the magazine.  After many years the magazine was successful with model railroaders and eventually made a profit, and it became the official magazine of the National Model Railroad Association.

In 1940, Al Kalmbach began another publication known as ‘Trains Magazine’, a publication that tells about railroads in general.  ‘The Model Railroader’ and Trains Magazine’ were the two main publications of his company, Kalmbach Publishing.  The company continued to print books and magazines.

Through his life, Al Kalmbach promoted the hobby of model railroading to the general public.  From 1952 to 1953, he was the president of the Hobby Industry Association of America.  He continued to promote model railroading until his death in 1981 at the age of 71.  Although the company based in the Milwaukee area still bears his name, he is also remembered at the Al C. Kalmbach Memorial Library at the headquarters of the National Model Railroad Association in Chattanooga Tennessee.

Today, you can go www.kalmbachhobbystore.com and see all kinds of products from books to videos to magazines to model trains to scenery plus so much more.

The next time you read ‘Trains Magazine’ or the Model Railroader’ or the next time you visit a model train show, think about a man named Al C. Kalmbach whose legacy continues on.

Who Is Kent Courtney?

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Who is Kent Courtney?  Those of you who do not live or travel in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States may not have heard of him.  For those who attend Civil War events may have seen him at reenactments.  Although he has done a little acting in Civil War documentaries and have written a few books about the war, most people who have met Kent Courtney know him for his music.  He performs old authentic Civil War songs with his guitar before crowds at events commemorating the Civil War.  If you have ever heard this man in concert, regardless of if you are interested in the Civil War or not, you will not leave disappointed.

Some of you are saying, “This is cool.  I love reading about the Civil War, and I enjoy Civil War events.  I do think that it is important to keep the history of the Civil War alive so that many generations can learn about the war.  What does Kent Courtney have to do with railroads?”

That is a very good question.  The answer is that Kent Courtney has performed many songs about the Civil War, and he has performed songs about the railroad.  In matter of fact, his album ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ is a collection of railroad songs.  You have famous titles like ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad’, ‘Casey Jones’, ‘Wreck of Old 97’ and, of course, ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.  Whether you are an old timer or a young one, you will have a great time listening to Kent Courtney.  You can learn more about Kent Courtney and where you can catch one of his shows at www.kentcourtney.com.

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The Burke Lake Railroad, Burke Lake Park, Burke, Virginia

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Burke, Virginia, a suburb of Washington D.C., is a town named for Silas Burke, a man who donated his land to make way for the railroad.  The town once had its own depot on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad line, and it was the site of a raid during the American Civil War.  Sadly, the depot did not survive demolition, and neither did the town although some of the town structures did survive to include the home of Silas Burke, the post office and a windmill that are now part of a senior complex.  Although the railroad still passes through it is only a commuter train stop.

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When you pass through Burke today, you will not see much of its railroad heritage on display.  If you make a visit to Burke Lake Park, you will see the railroad with a new life.

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Welcome to the Burke Lake Railroad, a miniature railroad with a replica C.P. Huntington locomotive that takes you back to the old days of Burke.

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You arrive at the Burke Lake Railroad Station to buy your ticket.  You board the train.  Everything looks normal here.  The train pulls away.  You roll through the trees seeing Burke Lake on your right.  You then arrive at the tunnel and pass through…

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You come out the other end.  Wait a minute.  You a crossing a trestle.  You continue until… wait.  You see Burke Station.  You realize that you are in the original town with the depot and the old windmill.  You just went back in time.  You pass by the town.  You go through the loop and make another pass through the town.  You cross the trestle and go through the tunnel.

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Now you are back to the present time.  You return to the Burke Lake Railroad Station, and you go back to normal life.  As you step off the train, you say to yourself, “This is not your average miniature train.”

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The Burke Lake Railroad is in Burke Lake Park in Fairfax Station, Virginia.  The park is located on Virginia Route 123 (7315 Ox Road) between Fairfax and Occoquan (I-66 and I-95).  There is a $5.00 park admission fee per vehicle for those not in the Northern Virginia region while Northern Virginia residents are free.  Train tickets are $4.00 for adults.  Trains run from April to September.  You can get information at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/burke-lake/rides.

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Old Stevensville Depot, Stevensville, Maryland

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Where is Stevensville, Maryland?  You have probably passed by this town many times that is if you are a regular traveler across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge as Stevensville is located on the east end on the bridge.  The historic district is located just north of U.S. Route 50 / 301 on Maryland Route 18.  A walk through the historic district gives you a feel of life in the old days of the town.

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Now some of you are saying, “I love visiting these old towns.  The problem is that there are no railroads in Stevensville.  Therefore, there is no reason for me to visit this town.”

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You are right.  There are no railroads in Stevensville, but that was not always the case.

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Before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was built, the only way to cross the Chesapeake Bay was by ferry.  A ferry terminal was located at Love Point on the north side of Kent Island of which the town of Stevensville is located.  From this terminal, the ferry transported passengers and goods to points across the bay saving travel from having to travel around the north end of the bay which would today add three hours of travel.  (In the old days, it would take at least a day.)  How did people and goods get to and from Love Point?  One of the ways was the Queen Anne’s Railroad Company.  The railroad ran from Love Point to the coastal town of Lewes, Delaware.  One of the stops on the line was the town of Stevensville.  Sadly, the rail line was discontinued, and the tracks were taken up.  The Stevensville depot was spared demolition and was moved to a location behind the Rustico Restaurant and Wine Bar on Cockey Lane.  The island portion of the rail line is now the Cross Island Trail, and you can walk along the route when trains once ran.  The depot can be seen twenty-fours hours a day and features the depot, and old caboose (with no wheels), and a short stretch of track plus a railroad crossing sign.  The depot is part of the Historic Sites Consortium of Queen Anne’s County.  (The depot itself is not open except on certain occasions.)  Parking is available right next to the depot, but the grounds are not suitable for wheelchairs.  You can read more at https://www.historicqac.org/historic-site/stevensville-train-depot/

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They next time, you go across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, take a short detour into the Stevensville Historic District, a district with a history of a railroad.

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