Elevator work begins at Brunswick museum
Tom Fedor/The Gazette
After nearly two decades of planning, hoping, and waiting, work began last week on an elevator to improve accessibility to the displays on the Brunswick Railroad Museum's second and third floors.
The elevator is necessary, museum officials say, because the layout of the building does not have a means for disabled people to access the higher floors of the museum, where some of its greatest treasures can be found, including its famous HO Scale model railroad layout.
"The main benefit is that now all of our visitors will be able to access our exhibits, especially our third-floor exhibits, not only the artifacts from the B&O days, but also our layout," said Catherine Tynan, president of the Brunswick Potomac Foundation. "The stairs are quite prohibitive for senior citizens, and impossible for people with disabilities. That's been our main goal for years is to make it more accessible."
The project is slated to be completed within six months at a price of $196,000 — more than double the estimate when it was first incepted — funded through a combination of Maryland Historical Trust grant, private donations, and a 2007 low-interest loan from the Maryland Historical Trust.
Volunteers and staff have been preparing the building for the construction since January. Since the building in which the museum is housed — the 1910 Red Man's Hall — has historic significance, and because an elevator shaft has to be installed, it required a significant amount of work to ready the space for the work by moving some items and putting others in storage.
The building will also lose office space to make room for handicapped waiting areas and for a third-floor restroom, which will replace the second-floor facilities that will be destroyed for the elevator shaft to pass through.
But despite all the destruction and construction, the museum continues to look to the future.
Volunteers have been working all winter to expand the 1,700-foot model railroad layout — which represents, in scale, the train ride from Brunswick to Washington, D.C. — to include the stretch of tracks from the west end of the Brunswick yard through Knoxville, Sandy Hook and Harper's Ferry, W.Va.
Volunteers are integral part of the museums' ability to function, according to Museum Manager Geri Reynolds, and the elevator will allow volunteers, and disabled visitors, to move freely about the museum.
"It's for handicapped accessibility. We have a couple of people with disabilities who can't get up to the second and third floors," Museum Manager Geri Reynolds said. "It would also help some of our seniors who volunteer here. It's really for us to improve their visit to the museum so they can see the whole building."
Construction on an also long-planned viewing platform overlooking the train yard below is not yet scheduled.
But Reynolds said it is still on the slate of projects museum officials and volunteers would like to move forward with.
"Right now we're taking in the elevator, and we have a lot of things going on as far as that, and [the viewing platform]'s not a top priority on our list," she said. "Things have to be done to our building before we go on with that project. We need new windows, for instance."
E-mail Connor Adams Sheets at firstname.lastname@example.org.