B&O Railroad Museum
901 W. Pratt St., 410/752-2490,
HOURS: Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
COST: $14 adult, $8 child, $12 senior
Historians make a pretty good case that railroads helped build America—and the birthplace of American railroading was in 1828, on Baltimore’s Pratt Street, with the creation of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
This facility was first known as the Mt. Clare Shops, and was a huge repair and maintenance center too, taking up some 100 acres. Now, though many of the original buildings remain, the museum is surrounded by row houses, but they’re still in the shadow of the 123-foot-high roundhouse that is the centerpiece of the museum.
Originally built in 1872, the structure served as an enormous turn-around point (a gigantic turntable was used) for steam locomotives and other rail cars. Partially destroyed in 2003 by a huge blizzard, the now-restored roundhouse holds many of the historic train cars in the museum’s collection, covering the growth of railroads from a small transportation option into a continental industrial behemoth.
There’s a short, 20-minute train ride on the same rail line first laid down nearly 200 years ago; the ride takes visitors past some of the outlying buildings still used to repair cars, as well as some of the decaying structures used in the past (and some of Baltimore’s less-than-thriving neighborhoods).
There are some impressive model train set-ups outside the roundhouse, and plenty of rolling stock everywhere on the grounds—even in the parking lot—to impress kids of all ages.
© Geoff Brown from Moon Baltimore, 1st Edition