Historic Train Station Exterior Renovations

Train Station

Thanks to the 2020 MHAA Grant!

The Maryland Heritage Area Authority (MHAA) FY21 funds support heritage tourism projects and activities that draw visitors and expand economic development and tourism-related job creation throughout Maryland, and the Town of Mount Airy's Community Development Team applied for the grant to fund the Historic Train Station Roof and Gutter Replacement Project.

The full list of awardees can be seen at this link: MHAA 2021 Grant Award Recipients

This project will replace approximately 4,600 square-feet of deteriorating asphalt roofing shingles and 210 linear feet of missing, improperly-installed or deteriorating gutters. This project will result in a new 50-year warranty as well as new, correctly installed gutters.

The Town invested $132,860.62 to create a Downtown Vision Plan in February of 2019 pulling together key stakeholders, site reconnaissance, data collection in a multi-phase endeavor. As part of this vision, the town has focused on the train station and the railyard as a future town event complex.

The Downtown Mount Airy Vision Plan Guiding Principles establish appropriate criteria to influence future development. These principles incorporate strategies for creating a thriving, cohesive community that better serves its residents and visitors. The guiding Principles for Mount Airy as determined by the plan include: Announce Identity, Create Walkable Centers, Integrate a Mix of Uses, Strengthen Building Frontage, Establish Open Space Amenities, and Promote Complete Streets with focus on establishing and celebrating an authentic identity and welcome visitors while building on Mount Airy's history and culture. While elements vary, a consistent aesthetic is critical. The train station renovation project ideally aligns with these principles, and this project will continue to allow the town to feature the train station as the backbone of our historic tourism draw. It will also serve to preserve our modern-day experiences for future generations to come. Preserving and showcasing the station will also add to our regional tourism pull as it is centrally located in the heart of our Historical District and Main Street designation.

Full Downtown Vision Plan can be seen at https://www.mountairymd.org/183/MasterVision-Plans  

Mount Airy's Railroad History

Parr's Ridge created a formidable obstacle for the railroad due to its peak height of 830 feet, the highest point between Baltimore and Braddock Heights. In 1838, the B&O Railroad bought the right-of-way for a new route from the first resident of Mount Airy. The rerouting allowed the rail-line to traverse a lower elevation. The rail-line attracted settlers, leading to the construction of the train station and eventually the town's formation.

The National Registry states; "...the brick B & O Railroad station represents the town's origin as an early transportation center for the region; the present building was constructed in 1882, a B&O depot had been established on the site as early as 1838."

During the Civil War, "...Company K of the Fourteenth New Jersey Regiment was sent to Mount Airy to guard the Railroad, the chief means of transporting men and supplies from the North to the Armies concentrated south of the Potomac River," (From the book, "A Vision of Home" by The Town of Mount Airy)

Train station construction adjTrain Station circa 1882

Train Station circa 1918

Date of Construction / Alterations

  • A portion of the parcel that the train station now rests on was purchased in 1838 from Henry Bussard, one of the original settlers of Mount Airy. Click to see original Deed from May 14, 1838
  • The original brick single-story Mount Airy Train Station was built in 1876
  • Bricked passenger waiting room added in 1882
  • In 1949 the last passenger train made its run through Mount Airy
  • Prior to a private owner purchasing the building in 1981, the station stood vacant for decades
  • In 1981 the station was sold to a private owner, Marlaine Enterprises, LLC, which sold to another private owner, Rail Road Property, LLC in 2009
  • In 2017, the Town of Mount Airy purchased the building and soon after gutted the majority of the structure for the build-out of the Historical Society Museum
  • The grand opening of the Historical Society's museum was August 25, 2018

The roof is being repaired as recommended to prevent serious damage to the interior of the train station including damage to the newly renovated Historical Society museum displays and archives, as well as potential structural damage to a celebrated historic building. Most of the museum artifacts are irreplaceable and priceless. The station itself is a cornerstone of the town's history and its efforts to revitalize the downtown area.

Mount Airy is located within the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area (HCWHA). The first goal of the HCWHA is to bring an economic benefit to Main Street communities by guiding people to town visitor centers. Another HCWHA goal is to foster appreciation for historic resources. The town uses the Train Station to house the Historic Society's museum. A nearby historic caboose functions as a visitor center. Both structures help to draw visitors, who then patronize our local eateries and shops on Main Street. The station's roof needs to be repaired to keep the building functional.

A third HCWHA goal involves storytelling and interpreting human interest stories involving the Civil War. The landscape surrounding the train station still looks much like it did during the Civil War. Visitors can experience what life was like for people living during that time period. The displays in the museum highlight personal stories of local residents. For example, students had to stop attending school when Union soldiers were stationed here. Although no major battles occurred in our area, the rail-line was critical to the Union's success. Company K of the 14th New Jersey regiment was sent to town to protect supplies being transported from areas in the south and to facilitate supplies sent to and from Northern troops stationed in the south. The station's location between Carroll and Frederick County in southern Carroll County meant that the town and rail-line were quite involved and important to troop movement.

Sustaining Regional Identity: Mount Airy was a small railroad community when the Civil War began in 1861 and continues to look much like it did 150 years ago. The town has built on its railroad history by having an events center including a caboose, the Train Station museum, railyard and Rails-to-Trails path. This events center highlights our regional identity and complements other railroad resources in the heritage area, such as the B&O Railroad Museum, the Brunswick Heritage (Railroad) Museum and Sykesville’s miniature railroad. Tourists can visit all these locations during a day trip.

Building Partnerships: The Town partners with two local nonprofit organizations, the Historical Society and the Mount Airy Main Street Association, to host events downtown and interest visitors in the region's railroad history. The town partnered with a nonprofit to refurbish and locate a historic caboose near the train station. Town leaders and a volunteer group converted part of an abandoned rail-line into a rails-to-trails nature path.

Developing Heritage Tourism Product: Visitors can enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience featuring recreation, history and shopping. The station and caboose are located on Main Street, which is home to restaurants and retail shops. A store selling model rail equipment is located steps away from the station museum while the rails-to-trails path links downtown to popular Watkins Park. Mount Airy itself is centralized in the heritage area, with proximity to Baltimore, Washington DC, Frederick, Hagerstown, and Westminster. The National Road, the U.S.'s first federally-funded highway, also runs through town along Md. Route 144. 

With a new roof, the Train Station structure and the museum's exhibits will be protected. A team of volunteers has devoted countless hours constructing a 1/4-scale model of the Main Line with working engines from 1870, 1890 and 1915, which will make stops at mills, factories and even a model replica of the train station itself.

While still a work in progress, the display will be expanded to include cut-away models of mills and warehouses that once stood in Mount Airy and that shipped their goods as freight between Baltimore and the C&O Canal. A local model train enthusiast is wiring the display to bring the motion and sounds of the railroad — including steam engines and whistles — to life again. While the model is the single largest display inside the museum, the historical society aims to also highlight numerous industries that grew in Mount Airy due to the railroad.

Currently, the museum receives roughly 2,000 visitors a year and attendance continues to grow. 

The train station includes ADA-compliant bathrooms, public parking, self-guided tours and signage.

Project Progress

  • January 10, 2020: Town staff attend MHAA grant information workshop
  • January 29, 2020: Town staff submit online MHAA "Intent to Apply" form
  • February 3, 2020: Town staff meet with MHAA representative to discuss project and visit Train Station
  • February 4, 2020: Town staff begin the application process including obtaining support letters from local government representatives
  • February 7, 2020: Town staff submit draft application to MHAA for feedback
  • February 24, 2020: Town staff submit draft project budget to MHAA for feedback
  • February 28, 2020: Town staff submit final application including letters of support, history of train station, train station photos, train station deed, project budget, project bids, project need justification and complete project outline
  • July 9, 2020: Mount Airy is notified that we are awarded the MHAA Grant for FY 2020
  • August 3 2020: Recommendation presented and approved at August Town Council meeting to award contract to Dorman Home Remodeling, Inc. for project
  • August 12, 2020: Initial meeting with contractor, Mount Airy Historical Society Representatives and Town Staff
  • August 13, 2020: Shingle selections provided by contractor to team
  • August 18, 2020: Town Staff attend virtual MHAA requirements meeting
  • August 26, 2020: Final shingle selection made, change order sent, signed and returned to contractor
  • August 28, 2020: MHAA Historic Train Station Roof and Gutter Replacement Webpage created
  • August 27, 2020: MHAA project announced in Town of Mount Airy Newsletter
  • August 28, 2020:  MHAA Capital Grant mid-project report submitted
  • September 1, 2020: Meeting with contractors, Mount Airy Historical Society representatives and town staff to discuss details of the project including pros and cons of adding fascia to project, how to handle gutter in rear of station, the bead board replacement, replacement of rear door and chimney repairs needed before roof shingle installation
  • September 2, 2020: change order #2 (adding powder coating to snow guards, relocating of rear gutter, and replacement of rear door) submitted, signed and returned.
  • September 9, 2020: Town staff meet with mason to discuss chimney repair
  • September 10, 2020: Mount Airy Historical Society Meeting where project update is presented
  • September 15, 2020: contractors send project team rake molding options 
  • September 26-27, 2020: Masonry contractor grinds out old masonry joints and repoints; installs new flue liners, chimney crown and chimney cap; and seals brick.
  • October 1, 2020: Rake boards replaced and given 1 coat of paint.
  • October 3-4: Old shingles removed and underlayment inspected.  Full length of bottom of north side was found to be rotted and in need of replacing.  This was expected and estimated in the original project scope. New shingles installed.
  • October 5 (week of): removing old gutters, cutting concrete for new downspouts, clean up
  • October 12 (week of): gutter installation
  • October 19 (week of): finishing up last row of shingles and remaining loose ends.
  • October 23 - Final Walk-thru and sign off on completed project!

See the Photo Gallery which shows the work in progress!