City residents, preservation proponents and rail enthusiasts alike gathered in Brunswick on April 2, 2022 to watch the culmination of ten years of advocacy, determination, and planning. On that very crisp and sunny morning, the historic West Brunswick Tower—an early-20th century two-story frame structure from which Baltimore & Ohio Railroad workers ensured the safe movement of trains—was moved by Wolfe House & Building Movers about 100 feet up the rail yard banks to a new location out of harm’s way.

Documentation team at WB Tower, Brunswick, November 2019.

Documentation team at WB Tower, Brunswick, November 2019.

So named for its telegraph coordinates, the WB Tower has been a Brunswick fixture for more than 100 years and is the last remaining structure from a bygone era along a 93.5-acre stretch of steel track. During that time, the city served as an important location along the extension of the B&O Railroad from Baltimore City through Ellicott City and further westward. At the peak of operation, the Brunswick railyard covered 5 miles, operated 24/7, handled over 100,000 cars per month and employed thousands of workers in and around the yard. Rail employees in the tower were responsible for setting the correct switches and signals during loading and unloading, staffing, maintenance and other essential movements along the East- and Westboard lines and through the yard running tracks.

However, the tower and its largely intact interior machinery and communication cabling—a rare remaining physical vestige of B&O Railroad’s long history in Brunswick—were taken out of service in 2011 and in danger of being irreversibly removed from landscape and memory. Not wanting to lose this increasingly rare and significant piece of history, citizens and city officials rallied together and began a ten-year process to save the structure.

In 2019, Preservation Maryland added the tower to its Six-to-Fix program, providing technical assistance that supported planning for the tower’s relocation. The following year, the City of Brunswick received $8,000 through our Heritage Fund grant program, a cooperative effort between Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust that provides direct assistance for the protection of the state’s historical and cultural resources.

After countless hours dedicated to coordinating ownership transfer, structural analysis, location deliberation and moving logistics, the City set the move date for April 2, 2022 and invited all those interested to join in watching a truly fascinating feat. After ensuring a clear rail line with CSX Transportation, Wolfe House & Building Movers started the tower on its short but treacherous journey at 7:00 am. Set on a giant Buckingham Power Dolly System, over the next five hours the tower inched across the tracks and up the sloping ground where it was rotated 180 degrees and set on its new foundation with sighs of relief from many. Thank you to the Mayor and City Council for making this preservation effort a reality.

Watch the tower cross the tracks in our time-lapse video here:

The success was an occasion worth celebrating and one that could not have been achieved without the dedication and cooperation that so many committed to the project. While there is still more work to be done—such as restoring and incorporating the tower into the train watching park that lines the rail yard—this move means the iconic WB Tower will continue to overlook the yard it so long protected, serve as representative of a history that profoundly shaped the City of Brunswick’s identity and development and remain a central feature downtown for years to come.

Historic Property Redevelopment Manager Laura Houston at the WB Tower move.

Preservation Maryland’s Historic Property Redevelopment Program recently announced another project in Brunswick, Maryland: the rehabilitation of “Snoots House,” located in the Historic District of Brunswick, Maryland.