The sound of history: Berkeley Springs Depot receives a heavy donation – a locomotive bell

by Trish Rudder

A steam locomotive bell weighing between 220-300 pounds was recently donated from Berkeley Springs resident Larry Bowers to the Depot.

Mr. Bowers said on Monday that the bell was on the train that was retired years ago at the same time the engineer retired.

A donated steam locomotive bell is displayed inside the Berkeley Springs Depot.
photo by Susan Webster

“He took the bell and after he passed, his widow gave it to others and it was finally given to me,” Bowers said.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.

Bowers said he has lived in Berkeley Springs for 10 years and has been reading about the rehabilitation of the Depot in The Morgan Messenger.

He said he gifted the bell to the Depot because “I wanted others to appreciate it,” Bowers said.

Town of Bath Recorder Susan Webster who chairs the Depot Committee said the bell is from the same time period when the Berkeley Springs Depot was active.

“When I ring it, it is the sound of history,” she said.

“This is a gift that will be enjoyed by so many and will educate and entertain for years to come,” Webster wrote in her thank you letter to Bowers.

In the information Bowers provided, he wrote the bells were standard equipment on steam locomotives in North America from around 1840 onward.

“Their purpose was to make noise, alerting people and animals of an oncoming train. Steam locomotive bells were usually made of cast bronze or brass. They were typically between 11 and 17 inches in diameter (measured at the widest part). They could weigh hundreds of pounds.

When a steam locomotive was scrapped, the locomotive bell was often one of the few items saved from the torch,” Bowers wrote from “Bell of Torch Lake 3 at Greenfield Village; Bell on SP 2355. Mesa, AZ.”

Webster said the Depot committee will decide where to display the bell.

“It does have significance,” Bowers said.