Drumheads are a type of removable sign that were often used by North American railroads during the first half of the twentieth century, These signs were mounted on the rear of passenger trains and consisted of a circular metal canister with a tinted panel of glass (later Plexiglas) that bore a logo of the railroad or of a specific named train. The drumheads were electrically wired to illuminate the sign at night. Because of their shape, they resembled small drums and came to be known as drumheads. Some “drumheads” were also made in rectangular or other shapes. They were normally only made for a railroad’s most important passenger trains and never used on local service or commuter trains. They would always be on the last car which was often a lounge or observation car. The signs were made to be movable so they could be used on whatever last car made up the consist of a particular train on different days. Although drumheads were mostly prevalent in the era of steam trains, they survived on some railroads into the streamlined diesel era.
The Capitol Limited drumhead on display in the Silver Spring B&O station was originally on steam powered trains and was manufactured at the railroad’s Mt Clare shops in Baltimore Md. These drumheads were replaced with blue metal plaques with gold script lettering when the railroad transitioned to new streamlined equipment in the late 30’s. This piece was originally acquired by the father of onetime Silver Spring resident Ed McHugh. Mr. McHugh’s father worked in the mechanical department at Mt. Clare.
This drumhead made many stops at the Silver Spring station during the Capitol Limited’s daily runs between Baltimore, Washington and Chicago.
This glowing Capitol Limited “drumhead” was originally mounted on steam-powered trains and manufactured at the Mt. Clare shops in Baltimore during the first half of the 20th century. Electrically wired to illuminate the emblem at night, because of their shape they came to be known as drumheads. These moveable medallions were located on the last passenger car, often a lounge or observation car. This drumhead made many stops at Silver Spring during Capitol Limited daily runs between Baltimore, Washington, and Chicago.
Photo by Jerry A. McCoy, SSHS. Description by John Sery, MPI.
In November 2018, MPI and Montgomery County entered into an agreement that established a perpetual easement over MPI’s land for construction and operation of the Metropolitan Branch Trail across the frontage of MPI’s property at 8100 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. The trail will run largely parallel to Georgia Avenue, then cross over Georgia Avenue via a new bridge span.
The County also will have a temporary easement over most of MPI’s surface parking lot for construction. This includes construction of the trail on the MPI property, and tying the trail in with a new bridge structure that will allow trail users to cross over Georgia Avenue. According to the latest construction schedule estimates from the County, we expect that there will be work on the MPI property between the fall of 2020 through the spring of 2021.
The County and MPI will work with the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) to coordinate modification of an existing historic easement that MHT holds on the property to allow for the trail use within this historic easement.
Although the upcoming construction will be disruptive while underway, MPI welcomes the trail use and looks forward to introducing a new audience to its historic site. In partnership with Silver Spring Historical Society, since rescuing and restoring the station to its 1945 appearance, MPI has opened the historic station to visitors and the greater Montgomery County community. In addition to popular public Open Houses on the first Saturday of every month and Montgomery County Heritage Weekend in June, the station is available for meetings, gatherings, and special events such as birthday parties, weddings, and other celebrations.
The Silver Spring B&O Station has been owned by Montgomery Preservation since 1998. With the help of private donors and public partners, MPI was able to repair considerable damage, remove post-1945 changes and graffiti, catch up with deferred maintenance, update utility systems, restore original interior features in place, and replace original artifacts as they returned from other places. The station re-opened in November 2002, looking as sharp as it did in 1945.
Since then, rentals and donations have enabled MPI and its partner Silver Spring Historical Society to keep up with building maintenance and to set funds aside for larger restoration projects in future years. Recent maintenance work on the station included repairs to fascia boards and gutters.
In late 2016, MPI received approval from the Maryland Historical Trust (which holds an easement on the building’s exterior, interior, and grounds) to restore 10 windows and to reconstruct one exterior door. The work accomplished by Oak Grove Restoration Company over a six-month period can be described as both spectacular and understated. Each window was carefully removed, then taken to Oak Grove’s Laytonsville shop to be individually evaluated and recommended for treatment. Specifics were approved by MPI and MHT, and the incredibly detailed restoration process began. Perhaps the best testimony to this tedious process of identifying best practices, following long-established rules, and contracting with an experienced contractor is that the station’s windows and doors fit, work, and look as they did when the station opened in December 1945.
Enjoy these photographs of Oak Grove craftsmen painstakingly replacing rotted components and preparing these handsome wooden architectural features for another 70 years of service.
B&O Station window restoration
Pictures show repairs to one of the window rails on the train station window. We distinguish between the inside & outside of the sash when designing the particular repairs. The outside work is more precise and everything has to be able to survive outdoors. You see in the pics how we sawed the exterior face of the rotted rail completely off and epoxyed a new mahogany board in its place. Window is returned to mortise and tenon. The part that was cut away is on the workbench and you can see how rotted it is. This method conserves the sound historic fabric while restoring the sash. Epoxy was used as an adhesive, not for repairs.
The lock rail weatherstripping interlocks with other pieces mounted on the other sash lock rail, making a metal tongue & groove connection. Metal weatherstripping (as used for 100+ years) will go onto the sash sides and the bottom rails.
Bottom sash will be operable and lockable. TRANSLATION: rails go horizontally, sash is vertical.
The new station master’s door is also spectacular. It is identical to the original one that has wood too rotted to rescue. And what a difference polishing the original brass hardware has made!
If you haven’t yet seen our 10 restored windows, stop by to admire them!
All photos are by Hank Handler, Oak Grove Restoration Co.