Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Visiting Old Town Bowie, Maryland

As a quick summer outing, we went to the old town area of Bowie which features a visitor's center and the Bowie Railroad Museum. Since we had an early start (i.e. before the museum opened at 10) we found a geocache near Ascension Church, which we also visited.

The geocache, Centennial 12, is part of a series of caches in Bowie to celebrate its centennial (2016 was the hundred-year anniversary of the city charter). This cache was our first find in the series. We may go back for more. This particular park is dedicated to veterans and features an artillery piece.

Veterans Memorial Park

Posing by the gun

To the memory of those defending America

Across the street is Ascension Catholic Church. The church is in the typical cruciform style with a spire in the front. We tried to go in the front doors (which were obviously replaced recently).

Ascension Church

The church doors were locked

We saw a priest on the porch of the rectory next to the church and asked if we could make a visit. He came and unlocked a side door (the 9 a.m. daily Mass had just ended). People were still inside straightening up. We had a brief tour and were impressed with the interior.


We lit a candle for a recently deceased relative and then headed off to the railroad museum. We arrived just after ten and discovered the museum was still locked. We went next door to the welcome center which was open. The lady there had a key and she unlocked the railroad museum after we enjoyed the exhibits at the visitor center.

Bowie Welcome Center

A play market at the center

Train stuff on display

A cool stained-glass window

My youngest enjoyed the old-time communication devices on display. I don't know if the corded phone with a dial was more interesting or the even older wall phone with a headset and mouthpiece.

Trying out an old phone

An even older phone

The railroad museum includes a station and tower. After the American Civil War, plans went forward to build a rail line into southern Maryland with a stop here. A town with shops and Victorian homes called Huntington City sprang up in 1872 thanks to developer Ben Plumb. The town was renamed "Bowie" in 1880 to honor Governor Oden Bowie who helped develop the railroad. The station was in service till 1989 when a new stop was opened nearby at Bowie State University.

Train station and tower

Luggage cart outside the station

The kids enjoyed some more old-time technology, including a typewriter, another old phone, and a telegraph device.

Cranking the phone and typing a message

Morse code, anyone?

The museum has a train set and many displays on the history of the railway in Bowie.

Checking out the trains

The railroad used a level system to ensure train traffic would run smoothly, switching trains to different tracks to avoid collisions. One of the level systems is on display.

Levers to maintain traffic flow

Out back of the station is an old caboose, where the train's engineer and staff lived during the rail trips. We had fun exploring it.

A caboose

Living quarters inside

Enjoying the bed

The kitchen

The rails still run right by the museum and we did see several trains go by on their regular schedule. The camera wasn't fast enough to catch any.

Tracks and a bridge

They also preserved the waiting area from the train station though it now faces away from the tracks. It does provide nice shade on a hot day or cover from a downpour.

Waiting area

The tower is now home to the National Railroad Historical Society’s Martin O’Rourke Railroad Research Library. We did not ask to go in there. As much as we love libraries, this one would probably not be interesting to the kids.

Bowie tower

We found another geocache, Huntington Depot, that was located in between the railroad museum and the visitors' center, which isn't a lot of space so it was easy to find.

After all that adventure, we headed home for lunch. It was a fun day out.

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