By Anne Raines, Administrator, Capital Grants and Loans
This week in Aberdeen, residents and visitors traveling into town on Bel Air Avenue have been greeted by a surprising sight: the old B&O Railroad Station is on the move! Although the building isn’t moving far – about 60’ further away from the tracks and about 30’ parallel – the move has required a tremendous amount of planning and preparation. The project is spearheaded by the Historical Society of Harford County, which has engaged Wolfe House and Building Movers of Bernville, Pennsylvania, to orchestrate the move, after plans by architecture firm David H. Gleason Associates, Inc. and engineers Welsh Engineering and G.W. Stephens.
The 1885 station was probably designed by noted Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, who designed other B&O stations in Pennsylvania as well as stations at Riderwood and Stevenson on the Northern Central Railroad. The station incorporated both freight and passenger uses and had living quarters for the station agent on the small upper floor. The Aberdeen B&O Station was taken out of service in 1955 and was thereafter used as headquarters for track maintenance. When CSX, the current owner, considered demolishing the condemned building, the Historical Society, understanding the structure’s architectural significance as well as the importance of the B&O Railroad in the development of Aberdeen, stepped in. Over the past decade or more, the Historical Society and its partners have successfully negotiated with CSX, for control of the station and an adjacent parcel of land for its new location, have raised funds for the move and stabilization, including $100,000 in MHT Capital Grant funds, and have maneuvered through a complex web of codes, permits, and other requirements to finally arrive at moving day: December 16, 2014.
But how do you go about moving a building? While I don’t encourage you to try this at home, what follows is an illustrated layman’s version of the process.
- Poke beams through the walls of the building where the floor framing is deteriorated. Support the beams by bolting steel angles between studs.
- Thread beams under the building where the floor framing can still support the building.
- Place cribbing alongside the foundation, with jacks inside the cribbing.
- Place main beams (the yellow ones in the photographs) spanning between the cribbing.
- Generously apply bridge clamps.
- Jack up the building using the jacks inside the cribbing. (In some cases the building framing may need to be cut away from the foundation to free any bolts, anchors, or straps; in this case it was not necessary.)
- Demo the foundation and fill in the basement or crawlspace.
- Move wheels / dollies into position under the building.
- Start moving the building – it must be moved v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. The dollies have a “smart steer” system of sensors which help keep the building level and the dollies on course while it is being moved.
- Once the building is in its new position, determine the elevation for the top of the foundation and jack up the building to just above that elevation.
- Dig holes for cribbing and install cribbing to support the temporary beams.
- Repair the wood floor and wall framing and install the new foundation.
- Carefully set the building down onto its new foundation.
For now, the Aberdeen B&O Station gets a rest – it will stay on the temporary beams for another few weeks. Work on the framing and new foundation will begin during the first week of January, and once those are complete, Wolfe will return to the site to lower the building onto the new foundation. After that, the Historical Society plans to transfer ownership to the Aberdeen Room Archives and Museum, and the search for a suitable tenant will begin. Trackside coffee shop, anyone?