The B&O Railroad Museum plans a $30 million transformation of its Southwest Baltimore campus to restore a historic railroad repair building, add exhibits and community gathering space, and create a new neighborhood-facing entrance.
CSX Corp., the corporate descendant of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, boosted the museum’s capital campaign for the project with a $5 million donation announced Thursday. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore also announced that the state would pledge $3 million to the project, designed to mark the 2027 bicentennial of the B&O that started on the museum grounds.
The B&O built the first miles of America’s railroad system in Baltimore, becoming the nation’s first railroad.
“Our heritage, our history started right here,” CSX President and CEO Joe Hinrichs said during an event Thursday at the museum to unveil the plans, along with Moore and Kris Hoellen, the B&O Museum’s executive director. “In 1827, the B&O started and brought this great railroad network that we have across this country today.”
While CSX is based in Jacksonville, Florida, it still has significant operations in Maryland, Hinrichs said, including in the Port of Baltimore, Curtis Bay and Cumberland.
Plans call for the museum’s South Car Works building, the oldest continuously operating railroad repair facility in the U.S., to be restored and house exhibits on its upper level, after being used mostly for storage since 1990. The lower level will be remodeled for classrooms and to house extensive historical archives, all open to the public.
A cafe and public plaza amphitheater, part of a proposed CSX Bicentennial Garden, will be added outside the building and become the new museum entrance.
The public spaces will be located outside the museum’s ticketed area and could be used for gatherings such as concerts or farmers markets, officials said.
With its donation, CSX became the first and largest corporate patron to pledge support for the museum’s capital campaign to fund the project.
Moore said the partnership between CSX and the state will help honor the birthplace of American railroading and serve his administration’s goals of connecting institutions with their neighboring communities and creating publicly accessible open space.
The original naming of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad represented “Baltimore’s’ strength,” Moore said during the event. “It represented Baltimore’s ingenuity. It represented Baltimore’s importance ... to this country.”
As the railroad’s 200th anniversary approaches, “it’s important to ... refuse to accept the narrative that our city’s best days are in the past,” the governor said.
The B&O left Baltimore in 1987 when it merged with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, which then became CSX and was headquartered in Richmond, Virginia.
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CSX also partnered with the state to pay for the $466 million expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel, which passes under downtown and serves as a vital link between the Port of Baltimore and the rest of CSX’s rail system to the south and west. Work on the tunnel began in 2021.
The railroad has been criticized by residents of Curtis Bay for its environmental record, particularly after a coal dust explosion in a silo at its coal terminal there in December 2021.
CSX’s $5 million pledge marks a milestone in the museum’s fundraising campaign, Hoellen said.
“We are a proud anchor institution of the community, and we hope that our project, all within our existing footprint, will prove transformative for the community,” Hoellen said during Thursday’s event. “We are striving to be the center of our community.”
Construction should start early next year and be completed by 2026, she said in an interview.
The restoration of the South Car Works building will allow the museum to expand the locomotives and other rolling stock on display and show those exhibits chronologically, said Jonathan Goldman, the museum curator.
The newly restored building will be used for an “Innovation Hall,” displaying the present and future of railroading technology, such as hybrid engines. Some of the current exhibits will be reconfigured in the North Car Works building and in the iconic 1884 roundhouse building.