Exhibit shows rocky side of relationship between trains and Sykesville

The Town of Sykesville has had a long love affair with trains, but even true love can be strained now and then.

A new exhibit opening this month at the Sykesville Gate House Museum of History, "Gone Off the Rails: When Safety Fails," explores the times when the town's relationship with locomotives went a little off track.

The museum's curator, Mark Fraser, notes that from their earliest days, railroads have experienced a variety of accidents — from minor to devastating, including steam engine explosions, derailments, collisions with other trains, collisions with cars and trucks, collisions with pedestrians and livestock and employee accidents.

By the end of the 19th century, important safety advancements were made to reduce the dangers of train travel.

The railroad has always played a key role in Sykesville. In fact, development of the town took root in 1831 when the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad extended its main line through "Horse Train Stop" which was later named Sykesville after one of the first businessmen in the area.

Over the years, several accidents on the B&O; Railroad's Old Main Line have occurred in Sykesville and the surrounding areas — including a January 1949 accident in which an eastbound B&O; freight train derailed near Sykesville's Main Street crossing when a boiler ruptured, badly scalding three men on board and derailing more than two dozen cars.

The "Gone Off the Rails" exhibit includes photos and news reports of local train accidents, railroad safety posters and slogans, a review of the causes of accidents and a tribute to those who perished.

The exhibit will be open to the public beginning Thursday, Sept. 27, through late November.

The Sykesville Gate House Museum is at 7283 Cooper Drive, Sykesville. Hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. For more details, call 410-549-5150 or 443-974-501, or e-mail: mfraser@sykesville.net.

Jim Joyner

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