Saturday evening, workers will sweep up the crumpled tickets, strewn programs and broken dreams at Bowie Race Course for the last time, as the track ceases racing operations to become a training facility.

But they will not remove the mark Bowie has made on Maryland's thoroughbred racing industry, nor will they wash away the memories the track has provided its fans since Oct. 1, 1914.

When one such horseplayer, Joseph Tamer, thinks of Bowie, he remembers The Great Snowstorm.

It began early one Saturday afternoon in 1958, after he had driven from his home in McLean to Bowie. When all nine races were finished, snow still was falling and a bitter wind had whipped drifts higher than the outside rail.

Many in the crowd of 13,000 who tried to leave early by automobile were stranded within miles of the track. Tamer remained, determined to regain early losses.

But he didn't win. And he didn't leave, spending the night at Bowie with about 3,000 others.

"That night, some of us went into the dining room," recalled Tamer, who now lives in Calverton. "I plodded out to my car, got a couple decks of cards and plodded back.

"We had a poker game going all night long. I won all the money back playing cards that I'd lost during the day on the races."

Some people conversed over coffee and doughnuts provided by the track. Some slept in the grandstand. Some rolled dice.

Stanley Rubinowitz of Springfield made a successful getaway. He had taken a bus to Bowie from the District, and he gambled on a safe return.

"I didn't play the last race," Rubinowitz said. "I went right to the bus after the eighth (race). I was one of the first people on board."

The bus departed Bowie at about 5 p.m. and arrived downtown without incident. At midnight.

"I just booked a room at the Harrington Hotel," Rubinowitz said.

The Great Snowstorm is part of the lore of Bowie, where threats of closure have persisted since 1970, although the General Assembly did not vote to enact such legislation until January. The track continued despite its imperfections -- deteriorating facilities, inefficient access roads and dreary interior -- but it could not survive the economics of a sport that was fast outgrowing it.

Race tracks in nearby states, particularly New Jersey, offered more lucrative purses and more attractive facilities. So the owners of Laurel and Pimlico, who purchased Bowie in 1983 for $12 million, decided that closing Bowie would help resuscitate Maryland's struggling industry. Legislators agreed.

Now, in the final days, stories about the "Track in the Pines" -- so named because of its relative isolation in the early days -- abound.

Frank Forte of Baltimore remembers standing in line to bet at Bowie and spotting a man who looked as if he had been in a train wreck.

He had.

Bowie had pioneered winter racing in 1957, and horseplayers from as far as New York would take the train to Philadelphia, where they would transfer to the "Bowie Special."

Bowie even delayed races to accommodate the out-of-towners. But on Feb. 2, 1961, the Bowie Special derailed into a ravine, killing six persons and injuring about 100.

Explains Forte: "I'm looking over the races, getting ready to bet, and this guy moves up next to me. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I see blood dripping down his hand.

"I went to say something to him, but when I looked at him, he had cuts and bruises all over his face. I was speechless. He told me about the train. He said a lot of people got hurt, but that he and some others still made it to the track on time.

"I said, 'Why don't you go wash yourself up?' He said, 'Yeah, I will after I bet.' "

After Keystone near Philadelphia opened for thoroughbred racing in 1969, the Bowie Special languished. It ceased operating in 1971.

"We had to stop the train because no one was riding it," said Al Karwacki, Bowie's general manager for the last 12 years. "We were subsidizing Pennsylvania Railroad and losing something like $35,000 a day."

The loss of patrons jolted Bowie, where profits were peaking. On Feb. 1, 1969, a record $2,247,245 was wagered at Bowie. The daily average of $1,237,738 for that winter meeting also was a track best.

The average daily handle for last year's winter meeting was $974,191.

Average daily attendance also has dropped: 9,223 in 1974, 7,997 in 1979, 7,410 in 1983.

"I had mixed feelings about all those people coming in on the train," said Marybeth Welson of Ellicott City. "On the one hand, I felt like they were invading us, like they had no respect for our track.

"But they also helped make racing here seem more important. On Saturdays during the winter, the place was packed and there was a certain electricity in the air. It made racing special. People who have only been coming to the track for a few years can't imagine what it was like."

In the following years, Bowie strived to offset its shortcomings with innovation. In September 1974, it became Maryland's first thoroughbred track to offer triple wagering; on Oct. 4, 1974, a track-record payoff of $68,881.50 resulted. In 1984, Bowie introduced the Pic Six with a carryover provision to Maryland horseplayers.

But ultimately, no gimmick could save the track.

Kathy Heisler, Bowie's elevator operator the past 18 years, shook her head upon considering Bowie's fate.

"It's so sad," she said. "I feel like I'm at home here. It's a very warm place."