B&O Railroad Museum

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum and Mount Clare Station

Mount Clare Station and roundhouse
Location 901 West Pratt Street
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Coordinates 39°17′7.42″N 76°37′56.63″W / 39.2853944°N 76.6323972°W / 39.2853944; -76.6323972Coordinates: 39°17′7.42″N 76°37′56.63″W / 39.2853944°N 76.6323972°W / 39.2853944; -76.6323972
Built 1829 (original site)
1851 (current station structure)
1884 (roundhouse)
Architect Ephraim Francis Baldwin
Architectural style Georgian
NRHP Reference # 66000906
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL September 15, 1961[2]

The B&O Railroad Museum is a museum exhibiting historic railroad equipment in Baltimore, Maryland, originally named the Baltimore & Ohio Transportation Museum when it opened on July 4, 1953. It has been called one of the most significant collections of railroad treasures in the world and has the largest collection of 19th-century locomotives in the U.S.[3][4] The museum is located in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's old Mount Clare Station and adjacent roundhouse, part of the B&O's sprawling Mount Clare Shops site begun in 1829, the oldest railroad manufacturing complex in the United States.[5]

Mount Clare is considered to be a birthplace of American railroading, as the site of the first regular railroad passenger service in the U.S., beginning on May 22, 1830.[6][7] It was also to this site that the first telegraph message, "What hath God wrought?" was sent on May 24, 1844, from Washington, D.C., using Samuel F. B. Morse's invention.[8][9]

The museum houses collections of 19th- and 20th-century artifacts related to America's railroads. The collection includes 250 pieces of railroad rolling stock, 15,000 artifacts, 5,000 cubic feet (140 m3) of archival material, four significant 19th-century buildings, including the historic roundhouse, and a mile of track, considered the most historic mile of railroad track in the United States. Train rides are offered on the mile of track on Wednesday through Sunday from April through December and weekends in January. In 2002, the museum had 160,000 visitors annually.[3]

The museum also features an outdoor G-scale layout, an indoor HO scale model, and a wooden model train for children to climb on. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, local model railroad groups set up large layouts on the roundhouse floor and in select locations on the grounds of the museum. A museum store offers toys, books, DVDs and other railroad-related items.

The museum and station were designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1961.[1] In 2008, the Museum won three awards in Nickelodeon's Parents' Picks Awards in the categories of: Best Museum for Little Kids, Best Indoor Playspace for Little Kids, and Best Indoor Playspace for Big Kids. Television and film actor Michael Gross is the museum's "celebrity spokesman".[10]


The inaugural horse-drawn B&O train travelled the 13 miles (21 km) of the newly completed track from Mount Clare to Ellicott Mills (now Ellicott City, Maryland), on May 22, 1830, the first regular railroad passenger service in the U.S.[6] The existing Mount Clare station brick structure was constructed in 1851.[6] The adjacent roundhouse designed by Ephraim Francis Baldwin was built in 1884 to service the B&O's passenger cars.[3]

For much of its history, the B&O had been collecting locomotives and other artifacts from its history for public relations purposes. This collection was stored in various places, until the railroad decided to centralize it in a permanent home. The car shop of the Mt. Clare Shops was chosen, and the new museum opened on July 4, 1953.

The museum ended up outliving its parent B&O Railroad, and was kept intact by both the Chessie System and CSX Corporation. In 1990, CSX deeded the property and collection to the newly formed, not-for-profit museum organization governed by an independent board of directors and provided it with a $5 million endowment. In 1999,[11] the museum became affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.[12]

The Museum on February 17, 2003, shortly after its blizzard-caused roof collapse

In the early morning of February 17, 2003, heavy snow from the Presidents' Day Storm collapsed half of the roof of the museum's roundhouse.[7] Although the structure's central support columns remained standing, the supporting iron struts and ties of the destroyed roofing sections failed under the snow load. The museum suffered heavy damage not only to the roundhouse itself but also to the collection within the roundhouse. Some of the items were damaged beyond repair. Reporting on the devastation the following day, The Baltimore Sun said, "...hours after the collapse, columns of mangled steel stuck out from the roundhouse ... Locomotives and passenger cars in the museum's collection, some dating from the 1830s, could be seen covered with snow and debris."[3] The roundhouse, with a newly repaired roof, reopened to the public on November 13, 2004, with the damaged locomotives and cars were surrounded by a plexiglass barrier. As of September 2015, all damaged exhibits have been restored to their original appearance.

After the roof collapse, subsequent fund raising and restoration allowed the museum to upgrade many of its facilities. In 2005 the museum opened a new service facility west of the roundhouse for restoration of historical equipment and maintenance of active equipment.


External video
American Artifacts: History of the B&O Railroad 30 minutes in the B&O Railroad Museum, C-SPAN[13]
B&O Railroad Museum Television Network - Jan 2012, Museum locomotives in Hollywood films

The museum's holdings include both originals and replicas, some of which were built by the B&O for its centennial "Fair of the Iron Horse" in 1927. Exhibits include:

Ellicott City Station

Main article: Ellicott City Station

The B&O's station in Ellicott City, Maryland, also part of the museum, is the oldest surviving railroad station in America.[4][16] The Main Depot building was completed in 1830-1831 by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The site also includes the 1885 freight house, a replica of the first horse-drawn passenger rail car, and a 1927 "I-5" caboose. Exhibits highlight the people who built and operated America's first railroad, the role of the railroad in the Civil War, and the changes wrought by the development of rail transportation.

The freight house features a 40-foot HO-gauge model railroad layout showing the first 13 miles (21 km) of commercial rail track between Baltimore and Ellicott Mills (as Ellicott City was known in the 1830s). The museum announced plans to sponsor an Explorer post under the aegis of the Boy Scouts of America beginning in 2010, for teenage participants to help maintain the freight house's model railroad, as well as helping with large events at both the Ellicott City Station and the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.[17]

The museum also offers living history programs. Museum members are entitled to visit the Ellicott City Station free of charge.

See also


  1. 1 2 Joseph S. Mendinghall, Historian. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination: The Baltimore & Ohio Transportation Museum" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved June 14, 2008. and Accompanying photos
  2. "B&O Transportation Museum & Mount Clare Station". Maryland's National Register Properties. Maryland Historical Trust. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Jamie Siegel & Frederick Rasmussen (2003-02-18). "Snow causes roof of railroad museum to partially cave in". The Baltimore Sun. p. 9A. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
  4. 1 2 Wrinn, Jim, ed. (2009). Tourist Trains Guidebook. Waukesha, Wisc.: Kalmbach Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-87116-273-1.
  5. Yearby, Jean (1984). "Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Mount Clare Shops" (PDF). Historic American Engineering Record. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. p. 1. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 Harwood, Herbert W. Jr. (1979). Impossible Challenge. Baltimore, Md.: Bernard, Roberts and Co. pp. 1221. ISBN 0-934118-17-5.
  7. 1 2 "About the Museum: History of the Museum". Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. 2005. Archived from the original on 31 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
  8. Stover, John F. (1987). History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press. pp. 5960. ISBN 0-911198-81-4.
  9. Samuel F. B. Morse Papers: Invention of the Telegraph"
  10. "What's Here– A message from Michael Gross". B&O Railroad Museum. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
  11. "History of the Museum". B&O Railroad Museum. October 23, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  12. "Smithsonian Affiliiations: Affiliate Detail: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum". Smithsonian Institution. 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  13. "American Artifacts: History of the B&O Railroad". C-SPAN. May 5, 2013. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  14. "Save America's Treasures" (B&O Railroad Museum), December 2009.
  15. http://www.movingfullsteamahead.com/content/co1309/
  16. "What's Here: Historic Site". B&O Railroad Museum: Ellicott City Station. 2005. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
  17. "Ellicott City Station to host Boy Scout Explorer Post on Model Railroading". Train Mail. B&O Railroad Museum. December 2009.

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