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The city of Cumberland, Maryland is a city located in the panhandle region of the state. It is a city rich in history dating back to the French and Indian Wars and a major crossroads city being served by the National Road, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and the railroad. The National Road is no longer the main road to the west. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal which was originally supposed to go to the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was never completed and had terminated in Cumberland. Today, much of the canal is in ruins with certain parts restored to its original look, and it is its now owned and run by the National Park Service. As for the railroad, the city of Cumberland remains a major railroad hub with CSX having a yard and its shops in the city. In the early days, it was a hub for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Western Maryland Railway. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and parts of the Western Maryland Railway was absorbed by CSX, and much of the trackage remains in the city. The Western Maryland Railway is now just a memory in Cumberland… or is it?
Welcome to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Cumberland, Maryland. The train departs from the original three-story Western Maryland Railway depot in downtown Cumberland. You can buy your tickets at the original depot ticket office unless you purchase them online or by phone. You board the train at the original Western Maryland Railway platform except for a ramp to allow those with wheelchairs and persons with disabilities to board. You step into passenger cars used by the Western Maryland Railway. The train is pulled by a Western Maryland Railway locomotive along a route used by the Western Maryland Railway. As you ride along, you will see scenery that is like what was seen by the passengers of the Western Maryland Railroad. You enjoy the views of the Western Maryland countryside as the train makes the climb up a grade and rolls around Helmstetter’s Horseshoe Curve. What is a ride on a Western Maryland Railway train on a Western Maryland Railroad line without passing through a Western Maryland Railway tunnel? It is everything about the Western Maryland Railway until… you the train goes on the route of the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad. (The original Western Maryland line is now a rail trail.) You continue the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad route until you reach your destination of the town of Frostburg. Here, you will debark the train.
Now some of you are saying, “Yeah! I know. You get off the train. Your walk around Frostburg. You get back on the train and go back to Cumberland. It is the same old same old thing. This is nothing new.”
Yes, you do walk around Frostburg, and maybe you can visit a few places in Frostburg, but a stopover here has a few special things.
You will see the old Frostburg depot which now houses a gift shop and a waiting area that has an old luggage cart and a model train that runs around the top of the room plus a painting of Number 734. There are a few restaurants near the depot, and there is a small carriage museum that you can visit. You can also see an old railroad tunnel that was used by the Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad which went under the town. (Access into the tunnel in prohibited.) You can also do the Arts Walk and take a walk at the Alleghany Portage Trail that uses the old Western Maryland Railway roadbed.
Now some of you are saying, “But that is nothing really special. That is just the typical stuff.”
That is true, but the best part of the stopover is to see the turntable. In case you are wondering, this is not a turntable that is just there rusting and overgrown with weeds. It is a working turntable. The best part about this working turntable is to watch it work. Originally used to turn the old steam locomotives, it is used to turn the locomotive to face the proper direction for the trip back to Cumberland instead of having the locomotive run backwards for the long journey.
The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad uses some much authenticity on its excursions. They are currently using vintage Western Maryland diesel locomotives, but there are plans to enhance the authentic ride with the operation the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Number 1309. Number 1309 was on display was on display at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, but with was purchased by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to pull the excursion trains. That will be a great site to see.
The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad is in downtown Cumberland, Maryland at 13 Canal Street. It is just minutes from Interstate 68 and U.S. Routes 40 and 220. Parking is paid parking across the street from the depot. You can get information about the excursions and purchase tickets at https://wmsr.com/.
What is your favorite thing about Western Maryland? You might say the scenery. One you ride the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, that may be your favorite thing.
This article first appeared on johncowgillstoriesoftherailroad.com
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