York Town Square

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Part II: Historic Adams County town loses piece of its history

These familiar Baltimore & Ohio Railroad passenger coaches along Route 30 in New Oxford fall prey to the excavator. The two train cars, that housed Paul’s Model Railroad Shop, have been sold for scrap. Also of interest: Part I: Historic Adams town to lose piece of its history and American Picker goes antiquing in New Oxford, Pa. and Lincoln Highway Communities: ‘I know I’ll be back’ and York County railroading: ‘Something that gets into your blood’.
We’ve read about landmark structures of a century ago that were inexplicably demolished.
We wonder why.
So here’s one such structure – two railroad cars arranged in a V along Route 30 in New Oxford – that went before our eyes. They made up Paul’s Hobby Shop and various businesses since 1972.
But decay and operational costs and the economy meant that they had more value as scrap than any possibility they could be rehabbed as future Lincoln Highway businesses.
So, it’s a good lesson here on how good things pass. Perhaps it’s a call for those of us who are interested in history to spread our enthusiasm, donate our time and patronize such businesses.
Closer to York, here’s a railroad landmark that appears that could soon become a candidate for the bulldozer: the old Western Maryland Railway station – the Orange Car – on Roosevelt Avenue.
Here are excerpts from the Hanover Evening Sun story that tells about the scrapping on these landmark cars… .

Six months ago a scrap dealer stopped into Stephen Hieber’s office and inquired about purchasing the two passenger train coaches that sit next to his business on Lincolnway West in New Oxford.
Hieber told the man from Hub Scrap Metal of Hagerstown, Md., that he’d consider it. His PWI Incorporated had owned the two blue-gray Baltimore & Ohio Railroad coaches since acquiring them at auction in 1999, and Hieber felt a personal attachment to them.
But with one of the coaches in need of a replacement roof and another coat of paint, Hieber decided to finally give in and sell the coaches for scrap.
“I got to thinking about it. I had to make an economic decision,” Hieber said. “We held out for six months.”
Hieber said the coaches, which have sat vacant for the past three years, had become too costly to maintain for the company, which specializes in the design, installation and maintenance of petroleum dispensing products.
“The upkeep, with no tenants, made it cost prohibitive,” Hieber said.
Wednesday, as a Caterpillar excavator torn into one of the coaches and methodically dropped metal and debris into a waiting truck, some visitors to town and passersby stopped for a brief look under the hot sun.
The two B&O coaches came to rest in New Oxford in 1972 thanks to business owner and railroad enthusiast Paul Wagner, who purchased the discarded cars and had them delivered and carefully placed in a V shape next to the tracks on the south side of Lincolnway West.
Wagner used the coaches as home for his Paul’s Model Railroad Shop, which became well known in model train circles. Connecting the two coaches is a small “switch tower” Wagner had built to control the heating and house active train layouts. Wagner also operated Amro Ltd. in town, a shop dedicated to model foreign trains.
“It was a business that was very unique,” said Mike Hertz, who worked for Wagner while in high school and college. “He had a lot of creativity.”
After Wagner’s death in the late 1990s, the rail coaches, a house, and three small parcels went to auction. Hieber said he couldn’t stand the thought of the coaches being sold and leaving town.
“I liked them and I really didn’t want to see them go,” Hieber said. “We made a decision we wanted to keep them in town and it just didn’t pan out.”
Through the years, the company has rented out the 80-foot coaches to various small businesses. They have served as home to a sandwich shop, a novelty store, and an ice cream shop among other things.
But for the past three years, Hieber said, he has had no one willing to take on the expense of renting the coaches.
“There is no way a small business can afford the heating and cooling costs,” Hieber said. “There is no insulation. They are literally steel cans.”
The company used one of the coaches for a while as a conference room until it completed its customer-training center.
“It was very nostalgic,” Hieber said. But he noted that none of the original interior seating was still there.
The coaches, built in 1930 by the Pullman Company and rebuilt in 1948 in the B&O shops, were used for service between St. Louis and Washington, according to a 1972 Hanover Sun story.
Dave Shackelford, chief curator with the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore said the value of the coaches to a collector or museum would depend on their condition and rarity. Shackelford said just moving one of the 83-ton coaches could cost as much as $50,000 to $60,000 because it would have to be trucked.
“The cost to move it nine times out of 10 is what’s prohibitive,” he said. “The potential to move them by rail is no existent.”
Add to that the cost of restoration, and any rail car project is very expensive, Shackelford said.
“By the time you get it here, you’re still having to look for resources to restore it,” he said. “It’s got to be really rare and really unique.
“I hate to see anything go for scrap, but when you start looking at the costs it’s very expensive,” Shackelford said.

Also of interest:
If you’re on Facebook, check out the extensive commenting about the demolition at the end of the Hanover Evening Sun story: New Oxford rail cars sold as scrap

The two passenger cars sat in New Oxford for 40 years.
All York Town Square posts from the start. (Key word search by using “find” on browser.)
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square posts on Google. For example, search for yorktownsquare and trains and you get this.

Photos courtesy Hanover Evening Sun