Garrett County Government - Department of Business Development

Oakland B&O Museum Has Full-Sized Display History

Last Updated on Jul 2, 2020 at 2:42pm | Tourism & Recreation

Article courtesy of NCWV Media - The Republican. From Staff Reports. Submitted photo.
The Oakland B&O Museum has a restored 1920 Baldwin steam locomotive, tender, caboose and boxcar on display.The history of railroading is intertwined with that of Garrett County, Maryland, and one of Oakland’s three museums is dedicated to commemorating that past with a life-sized display of its very own train.
From locomotive to caboose, the four cars on display represent years of work by museum officials to obtain the collection, which preserves a glimpse of what traveled on the rails from the early to mid-20th century.
The Oakland B&O Museum opened in 2013 in the town’s former railroad station, an 1884 building that is viewed as one of the state’s best examples of the Queen Anne style used in many of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad stations.
Garrett County itself is named for John Work Garrett, who became president of the B&O in 1858 and led the railroad through massive growth for three decades. The county was the last of Maryland’s 23 counties to be formed, being named in honor of Garrett in 1872. Garrett died at his summer home in his namesake county in 1884.
In its heyday, the railroad station was the center of activity in Oakland, serving as a local freight depot and as the stopping point of a popular tourist destination.
Following the Civil War, the B&O created several luxury hotels in Western Maryland, billing them as cool and relaxing getaways in the Appalachian Mountains available via train from the cities — eight hours from Baltimore and 11 from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Three such hotels were built in Garrett County in the 1870s and ’80s: in Oakland on the hillside facing the station, in nearby Mountain Lake Park, and in Deer Park, which became a favorite of U.S. presidents seeking respite from the mid-summer heat of Washington, D.C. The Deer Park Hotel hosted Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Grover Cleveland, who brought his new bride to Garrett County for a five-day honeymoon.
The Great Depression brought a decline in the popularity of luxurious vacationing, and after World War II, passenger service waned as America turned to air travel and the highways for faster and more convenient travel. Amtrak passenger trains stopped visiting in the early 1980s.
The station stood empty until the town of Oakland took ownership in 1999 from CSX Transportation, which had been planning to demolish the structure.
The station, which had aged more than 100 years, was given a series of restorations and renovations. Historical accuracy was the primary goal — from finding the original quarry when the slate roof was replaced to recreating and refinishing the waiting room benches and ticket window.
A decade later, a decision was made to turn the station into a full-fledged museum, which joins the Garrett County Museum of Transportation across the street and the Garrett County Historical Society Museum around the corner. In 2013, the Oakland B&O Museum was established, serving as a home for pieces of railroad history, children’s activity programs and lecture series.
Since the museum’s inception, officials have had a goal of filling the pair of siding tracks with railroad cars. The earliest additions were a caboose provided by the B&O Museum in Baltimore, as well as a boxcar that serves a dual purpose.
During the summer, the car is opened as the End of the Line Bookstore, a not-for-profit venture that resells used books to raise funds for the local Girl Scout troop and the Garrett branch of the American Association of University Women.
The entrance to the boxcar bookstore also serves as a performance stage, with several rows of benches available for watching summer shows.
The museum’s crowning achievement would be to have a steam engine in front of the station, but the goal remained elusive for years — not only finding a historically appropriate locomotive in restoreable condition, but also in raising the money to buy one.
In December 2017, museum officials received a call nearly out of the blue from the trustee of the Daniel E. Offutt III Charitable Trust, a legacy fund that had been set up by an Oakland native to fund local improvements after his death.
The trust provided the rest of the money needed to purchase an engine available in Michigan. Local residents Tom and Sara Kuhn decided to cover the other costs associated with the display.
The Engine Committee in Oakland decided to save costs by restoring the acquisition as a non-working display, which would still be a picture-perfect model of a B&O standard.
In August 2018, the first pieces of the locomotive arrived in Oakland, and the rebuilding was completed in a month.
The Oakland B&O Museum, located on Center Street, remains closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak, but the railroad vehicles are easily accessible in front of the museum.