BALTIMORE -- CSX Transportation Corp. has decided to declare the B&O Railroad Museum an independent, nonprofit foundation. The facility houses one of the most comprehensive collection of historic railroad equipment in the United States.

CSX, the parent company of the B&O Railroad, also has made an endowment to the museum and will establish a board of directors for the facility.

The museum houses an unusual 22-side polygonal passenger car shop and an extensive collection of 19th and 20th century locomotives, passenger and freight cars.

Joe Beckman, a CSX spokesman in Richmond, said the board will be composed of CSX and CSX Transportation officers, and directors from the Baltimore community.

The B&O Railroad was purchased by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad more than 20 years ago. The line, which was established in Baltimore in 1827, was part of the Chessie System. In 1980, Chessie was merged with the Seaboard system into the massive CSX conglomerate.

The museum buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Herbert H. Harwood, a retired CSX official and railroad and streetcar historian, has been named interim operating director of the museum.

The B&O museum was founded in 1953 by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as a permanent home for its collection of historic American railway equipment, including the line's cornerstone.

Since then, the museum's collection has grown outside the museum's walls onto the tracks, where vintage steam, diesel and electric locomotives are stored. Besides the B&O, equipment from the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, Reading Co., Chesapeake & Ohio, South Shore, Central of New Jersey and Pere Marquette lines is represented. The museum does not plan to sell any of the collection, which could be enlarged under the new arrangement.

The B&O's collection began in the 1890s when the railroad recognized the historic value of its early locomotives and rolling stock. The collection has been exhibited at the 1939 World's Fair and other expositions.

The neighboring passenger car shop was erected in 1883-84 to build and repair passenger cars. It has been called the largest circular industrial building in the world.