One active railroad fan and the public relations director of the Chessie System Railroads think Metro Scene gave a bad rap to Chessie's subsidiary, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, because it overlooked the sesquicentennial of B&O railroad service that began in 1835 into Washington. A bad rap? Well, yes and no.

Michael H. Bader of Bethesda, of the National Railway Historical Society, points to aid from Chessie's parent CSX Corp. and B&O to his group, and to B&O's maintenance at Baltimore of "the most significant railroad museum in the nation."

Milton B. Dolinger, Chessie's Cleveland-based public relations director, protests that a railroad that has adopted the kitten Chessie as its calendar mascot can't be accused of being unsentimental. He says further that nobody in Washington took note of the anniversary or asked for help in celebrating it.

That may be true, but if B&O were still an autonomous Baltimore-based corporation -- for charter reasons, it maintains only the shell of a headquarters there -- the tradition-steeped company itself probably would have initiated an observance.

But Dolinger's comment indirectly makes a telling point: Nobody in or for the D.C. government, to Metro Scene's knowledge, systematically keeps track of historic events and anniversaries.

Maybe here is a case for voluntarism, either through the Columbia Historical Society or a city-sponsored historical commission. After all, we're coming up fast on the bicentennial of Washington's establishment in 1800 as the nation's capital.