A rail ride takes passengers back in time

For John R. Moxley, 89, it was a homecoming.

Moxley, accompanied by several family members, joined about 100 others Saturday morning who boarded the four-car Mile One Express passenger train at the B&O Railroad Museum for a leisurely one-mile journey over the original set of tracks for the B&O line, founded in Baltimore in 1827.

"I grew up in a rowhouse right near the Mount Clare Shops," said Moxley, who recalled the industrial sounds of his youth during the 1930s and 1940s.

Moxley, who now lives in Florida, remembered chugging steam engines, clanging bells, steam whistles and clouds of coal smoke that seemingly encased all of Southwest Baltimore day and night.

The star of the show Saturday was the Royal Blue, a round-end observation car painted in the B&O livery of royal blue, gray and gold that seats 40 people in comfortable green and brown chairs that line either side of the car.

In the lounge area, Brittany Bury, a B&O Museum sales associate during the week, played the role of steward, offering passengers soft drinks, water and light snacks. Passengers could sit at a counter or at one of six tables.

The car features an Art Deco-style stainless-steel exterior. The interior is painted a soft sandalwood, highlighted with blonde wainscoting, deep-green Venetian blinds and recessed neon lighting that runs the length of the car.

It was built by the Budd Co. in 1948 and operated by the Pullman Co, first for the New York Central Railroad, and later for the Kansas City Southern Railroad. Pullman retired the car in 1970.

During its retirement, the car passed through several private owners until being purchased by MARC in 1995, where it was used it for special events and charters.

In 2009, MARC donated the car to the B&O Museum, which restored and repainted it, christening it Royal Blue.

"When we have train rides at the museum we always use it," said Harrison Van Waes, the museum's director of operations and volunteers, who said the car can be chartered for parties or special events.

As the 11:30 a.m. departure time approached, passengers lined the platform along Track 2, while Ron Sperling, dressed in traditional conductor's garb, greeted passengers and punched their tickets.

Up ahead, a growling GP-38 diesel locomotive numbered 3802, prepared to get the train underway.

"The next stop is Chicago," bellowed Sperling, to the amusement of passengers.

Swaying gently down the line, it passed historic Mount Clare. the home of Charles Carroll, Barrister, a lawyer, farmer, legislator and a framer of Maryland's Declaration of Rights, who died in 1783.

It rolled by the remains of the old Mount Clare Shops, long demolished, and the museum's large restoration shop where rail equipment is refurbished.

Jen and Jenna Aubert-Utz, a Parkville couple and devoted rail travelers, were delighted at the chance to ride a piece of vintage railroad equipment.

"Just riding this car makes me pause and it takes me back to another time. I am so glad that it was preserved," said Jen Aubert-Utz, an assistant Baltimore County fire chief.

"We love riding trains all over the country and last year we rode them in Europe. And we're taking the train to New York next week," said Jenna Aubert-Utz, a retired Prince George's County police officer. "We're hoping to go cross-country soon. We want to see the Rockies."

They both said they enjoyed the restful and casual atmosphere that a journey by train can provide. They also like sleeping on trains and being lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the rails.

Liam Honnoll, 8, a rising third-grader from Jonesboro, Ark., another diehard rail fan, was visiting the museum and riding the One Mile Express with family members for the first time.

"I like trains. I like riding them. I like watching them," he said with a wide grin.

"Now you know why we spend a lot of time at grade crossings," his grandfather, John Honnoll, said with a laugh.

One Mile Express trains will operate Sunday at 1 p.m. For further schedule information, call the B & O Museum at 410-7572-2490 or www.borail.org.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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