Depot renovations uncover busy past

by Trish Rudder

The Berkeley Springs Train Depot is slowly being brought back to life.

Standing inside the ladies waiting room, (left) Building Systems, Inc. supervisor Kevin Goode, Town of Bath Recorder Susan Webster, and Lee Stine, craftsman with Building Systems. Inc. showed the ongoing Depot renovations.

Building Systems, Inc. of Hagerstown, Md. has been performing the renovations inside the historical building since late May.

Supervisor Kevin Goode and craftsman Lee Stine said they enjoy working on historical renovations. They both have worked on projects in Maryland, and Stine learned his trade at the age of 14 when his parents renovated an old farmhouse from the 1790-1810 era.

Stine said during that renovation he learned to use the original tools that were used back then.

Goode said renovating historical buildings requires you “to use your brain a little bit,” he said.

Goode was excited to show that the renovations uncovered the original ticket and original baggage windows that were in use when the depot was in operation.

Bath Town Recorder Susan Webster presented that information at the June 7 Town Council meeting. Webster is the committee chair for the town-owned depot on the corner of Williams and North Washington streets.

Goode said the windows will be kept and displayed on the depot walls as part of the historical features.

Spirit of the depot

Even though it is being renovated, an overwhelming feeling of spirits milling around the depot was present, giving a sense of what was happening when the train station was active and alive with passengers.

The metal sliding door in the Depot Baggage Room showed how to door was opened and the baggage was ready to be placed on the train.

The baggage room on the north side of the station shows the metal doors that open onto the platform where the baggage would have been loaded onto the train.

You could imagine the hustle and bustle when the train was ready to receive them.

The ladies waiting room was on the opposite side of the building on the south side.

Benches were along the wall where women and children sat and waited for the train to take them to their destination. There was a connected entrance into the bathroom.

Women in the 1920s and 30s usually dressed up for public gatherings. They would have worn dresses and hats and baskets of food to eat would be sitting next to them to feed their family during the trip.

Excitement was in the air, and you could envision their anticipation of a vacation or family visit — children who could not sit still and wanted to see the train appear and allow them to board. You can imagine kids standing on the benches to look out the windows watching for the train.

Goode and Stine surmised that the men congregated on the opposite side where they smoked and talked together.

In your mind’s eye, you could see the milling around of the menfolk, swapping stories with the other men awaiting the train.

In its heyday, the train brought many people from the city for the healing waters of the Warm Springs that Berkeley Springs was and is famous for.

But residents also used the easy access to train travel.

Webster said her great, great grandmother Mary Kesecker owned and operated a millinery shop in a building that was located next to the old courthouse on East Fairfax Street.  She and her family lived upstairs above the shop.

Webster said when her grandmother, Nellie Miller Webster, was a child, her great, great grandmother took her with her to the depot where they would board the train to travel to New York to buy items for her shop.

Webster said it was her understanding that the train traveled from Berkeley Springs to Hancock, where the station was located on the West Virginia side of the Potomac River, and passengers would switch to another train to continue to their destinations.

Webster said her great, great grandmother took train rides from the old wooden depot before the railroad replaced the structure in 1915. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) had been serving Berkeley Springs since 1888.

According to research, the depot was in use during the 20s and 30s. The train shipped produce and wood pulp, but it stopped serving passengers in 1935.

Renovating the depot has been years in the making

The town bought the Berkeley Springs Train Depot for $1,000 in 1963 from B&O. The town-owned water department, Berkeley Springs Water Works, which was housed in the depot at that time, wrote the check for the town and the town was deeded the property, Webster said.  In 2013, the lot on the property was gifted to the town from CSX.

The town has been working toward renovating the historical train depot since 2008, Webster said. It has used the depot as town office space and also rented it out to local businesses.

Webster said renovating the depot to its historical importance will bring more tourists to Berkeley Springs where it will be showcased as another element of the town’s rich history.