As local students and people who have been active in its preservation watched, the former Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station was placed on its new foundation in Aberdeen Thursday and then secured the historic building throughout the day Friday.
"We had a two-day event," Bob Tarring, who heads a local group that has been temporarily calling itself Save the B&O Station, said. "We had a lot of students come out, because it's also an education experience, and they asked a lot of good questions."
The students, he said, came from nearby Bakerfield Elementary and Aberdeen High schools.
Tarring, 70, an Aberdeen native who lives in Towson and formerly owned a medical company that made prostheses, said trying to save the building, which has been sitting idle and falling apart for years, has "been a labor of love" for him and many others, but he also conceded they still have a long way to go – "and a lot of money to raise" – to accomplish it.
The building was moved from its original location along the CSX tracks in December and set on risers farther back on the property off West Bel Air Avenue until the new foundation could be finished.
Wolfe House & Building Movers, of Bernville, Pa., moved the station building and returned last week to lower it onto the new foundation.
Randy Comer, of Comer View Construction, of Norrisville, built the new foundation and did the carpentry work involved.
Vulcan Materials, of Havre de Grace, and Maryland Portable Concrete, of Abingdon, donated materials to the project.
The Historical Society owns the building, while CSX still holds title to the site, Tarring said. CSX still has to provide grading and a security fence, he added.
Their plan, he said, is first to landscape the site, including putting in walkways using bricks that were saved from the original platforms and parking areas around the station from when it was next to the tracks.
Then, they will repair the roof, restore the exterior to its original appearance, remove any lead paint and make some basic repairs in the interior, depending on the tenant they find to use the building.
"This is going to take a year plus, but we are looking for a potential tenant right now," Tarring added.
Tarring's non-profit group, which has been calling itself The Friends of the Aberdeen B&O Train Station, is working on getting a permanent name and will eventually own the building.
He said they are already fund-raising. He said he hopes to link the restored station in with the Aberdeen Room Museum & Archives and better promote the city's rich history.
"We have a lot of historic buildings," he said. "We really need to publicize what we have in Aberdeen."
Jim Lindsey, secretary for the train station group's 11-member board, said donations can be made through the Aberdeen Room, 18 N. Howard St. in Aberdeen, 410-273-6325. The museum's web address is http://www.aberdeenroom.org.
The train station was built in 1885, one of many in the eastern United States designed by the renowned 19th century architect Frank Furness. The railroad stopped running passenger trains between Baltimore and Philadelphia in 1958, but the station was then used for freight, track gangs, signal maintainers and equipment storage into the early 1990s, before the railroad boarded it up and left it to the elements.
The local effort to preserve the building has been going on for a number of years. The railroad was amenable to giving up the structure, but it wanted it moved farther away from the tracks, and the Historical Society eventually reached a deal to handle the moving.
Tarring, a member of one of Aberdeen's founding families, said he remembers when steam engines still used the B&O line between Baltimore and Philadelphia and remembers when he and his mother would board the trains at the station in Aberdeen for trips to Baltimore and New York.
"I grew up with it," he said. "We lived five houses away."
When the trains were five miles away, the foundations would shake, he said. The station served as both a departure and arrival point for troops in both world wars and Korea, he said.
On a more somber note, Tarring said he remembers during the Vietnam era when bodies of soldiers killed in action would be brought in by train and sent first to his family's funeral home and then to Aberdeen Proving Ground.
"That's a very painful memory," he said.
Tarring said CSX officials told him the Aberdeen station, along with one in Sykesville and another in the Philadelphia area, are the oldest buildings still standing along its tracks.
"This building has a tremendous history," he said. "I know there are naysayers who say 'tear it down and go away,' but not on my watch – that's not going to happen."