B & O Roundhouse

Update: One half of the roof collapsed shortly after these photos were taken. The roundhouse was demolished at some point after these photos were taken but before January of 2020.

Ever since I was five or six years old, living far from here, I have been fascinated by trains; I think every man in America at some point in his life is inspired by locomotives and their power. I had always read about roundhouses, which are sort of like apartment buildings for train engines. I had the opportunity recently to view one sandwiched between active train tracks and the interstate in East St. Louis. The roundhouse actually is just one building in a whole complex of buildings that made up a railroad maintenance yard in the Twentieth Century. The building is in relatively good shape, albeit starting to break and fall apart on the edges. You can actually see depressed pits where maintenance men would work on the undercarriage of locomotives.

Also what is interesting is how certain objects have come to rest in seemingly arbitrary locations: a hunk of steel twisted like paper here, an intact light fixture over there.

Perhaps it is fitting that the roundhouse has been cut off from its original use by the interstate; after all, it was automobiles that helped to almost ruin the railroad industry in America.

I hunted for the turntable that would have rotated to allow each locomotive to drive into its respective berth, but I was unable to find anything other than the faint outline in concrete of what must have been a massive steel apparatus.

It is well worth a visit, if you can find it buried in the underbrush.

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