The biggest thing that had happened here in recent years occured Nov. 8, 1980 when the railroad YMCA burned down. Since 1907, the Flimsy but beloved wooden structure was the overnight home-away-from-home for Baltimore & Ohio train crews. Many also considered it the best place in town to eat.

Yesterday either the second-biggest or, by some accounts, an even bigger event occurred: Brunswick, population 5,000 plus, and located 49.1 track miles northwest of Washington's Union Station, dedicated its new Transportation YMCA.

About 200 townspeople, national Y officials and railroad executives turned out to applaud when Jean Baker, longtime secretary to the YMCA board and to local railroad officials, was given the task -- to her surprised delight -- of snipping the ceremonial red ribbon. The Y opens for business Tuesday.

The construction of Brunswick's sparkling new, clean, well-equipped Y has both national and local significance.

Nationally, the railroad Y movement began in Cleveland in 1872, and is affiliated with the community Y movement, but autonomous. There are now 20 units serving railroad towns across the nation (four others in Maryland and Virginia), and the one here is the sixth built since 1979 to standards that would have startled grimy turn- of-the-century railroaders.

Brunswick's low-slung brick building has 60 private rooms with pink pastel walls, individual showers, television lounges and fitness gyms equipped with the latest devices for exquisite self-torture.

Its construction was a true partnership of the railroad company, the national Y organization and the city of Brunswick. The city floated $3.7 million in industrial development bonds that were bought by the Maryland National Bank, and that will be redeemed chiefly from room rents paid for its crew members by CSX Transportation Co., the tongue-twisting corporate name for the Chessie System Railroads, of which the venerable Baltimore & Ohio is a component.

Membership fees, food receipts (no alcohol) and special events also will contribute, according to Glen Moler, the new Y's executive director, and surely the proudest man in town yesterday. He had run the old Y since 1965. Moler and others stressed that the building -- now Brunswick's largest structure -- has a welcome mat for community groups and events.

Moler explained this during a media briefing in the Y's chapel, which is dominated by a stained glass window rescued from the old building as it burned. The window, with a religious theme, had been installed in 1916.

The new Y is on Souder Road on Brunswick's outskirts, about 2 1/2 miles from the old building, and train crews must reach it by shuttle van. Most townspeople would have preferred to rebuild on the old site, but safety and noise considerations helped doom that idea.

Noise! Once, on assignment about 20 years ago, I stayed in a room on the old Y's second floor. Every time a train came by on the main-line track, I awoke bolt upright in bed, fully believing the diesel was roaring down the hallway.