Documentation team at WB Tower, Brunswick, November 2019.
Six-to-Fix Update: Documenting Brunswick’s Outsized Role in Maryland’s Railroad History
11/25/2019 By Smart Growth Maryland
Preservation Maryland is pleased to partner with the leaders and citizens of the City of Brunswick to help support the preservation of their railroad heritage and specifically to relocate and interpret the historic WB Tower.
The City of Brunswick was an important location along the extension of the B&O Railroad from Baltimore City through Ellicott City and further on westward. At the peak of operation the Brunswick railyard covered 5 miles of the, operated 24/7, handled over 100,000 cars per month, and employed thousands of workers in and around the yard.
The ca. 1907 two-story frame tower is known as the WB Tower based on its telegraph coordinates. Workers in the WB Tower were responsible for the safe movement of trains in Brunswick, during loading and unloading, staffing, maintenance, and other essential movements. Inside the tower, workers set the correct switches and signals for movement along the East- and Westboard lines and through the yard running tracks. The tower in Brunswick also controlled the movement of trains at Weavertown, three miles west of Brunswick, and at East Brunswick, near Point of Rocks, about three miles east of Brunswick. Operations continued every hour of every day until 2011.
WB Tower in Brunswick, MD, 1975. Photo by Ray Soderberg.
WB Tower in Brunswick, Maryland, just after construction, ca. 1910.
The WB Tower and its largely intact interior machinery and communication cabling is a rare-remaining physical vestige of B&O Railroad’s long history in Brunswick. Many of the buildings related to the massive footprint once held by the B&O and related industries in Brunswick are now gone including the massive roundhouse, formidable YMCA, and many auxiliary buildings. The City of Brunswick has worked diligently to continue operations of the historic Brunswick station that still serves to issue MARC tickets and also has relocated a refurbished caboose that is open to visitors. When the WB Tower is relocated it will become part of the town’s Railroad Square to provide an amazing viewing location for passing trains and hands-on look at the technology needed to manage such an important role in railroad operations.
Preservation Maryland is supporting the City of Brunswick’s vision and plan for the relocation of the WB Tower through the organization’s Six-to-Fix program. One of the first efforts will be to measure, document, and draft as-is floor plans and elevations of the historic tower. Detailed measurements and field notes were taken in earlier this month and will inform architectural drawings. These architectural plans will be provided to the City for their use in determining future needed repairs and modifications during the entire relocation and rehabilitation process. The City is contracting with a professional building moving company and expects the move to occur in Summer 2020.
Preservation Maryland would like to thank Kelly White, Chair of the Brunswick Preservation and Revitalization Committee, Andy St. John, Councilman for the City of Brunswick, and Norman Cornelius, a life long Brunswick resident, for their partnership in this project.
Smart Growth Maryland
Smart Growth Maryland is a major program of Preservation Maryland which advocates for a more environmentally and economically sustainable future that creates opportunities for all Marylanders through better development patterns.