Rails & Trails Pages

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad 2017

On July 14, 2017, friend Gary Muehlius of Seattle and I rode the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad out of Cumberland, Maryland.

Here is their beautiful depot, restored with the ticket office and gift shops at track level and a canal museum at street level.

The depot was built in 1913.  This is the trackside view.
This is the view from the street below.
We had time before our train left and quickly discovered that the Chesapeake and Ohio canal ran right by the depot.  There is a great museum about the canal in the lower level of the depot.
After our last train ride the next day, on the way north from Romney, West Virginia, we found more remains of the canal.
Back to our train ride--our power for today is a GP30.  It originally was built for the Reading Railroad but now is lettered for the Western Maryland, the tracks we will be running on today.
Here is our train.
We will be going 16 miles UP HILL, rising in elevation from 600 feet to 2200 feet.  The grade is basically 1.75% but has spots up to 3%.  We will be heading north through "The Narrows."

Here we go!  The brakeman protects the crossing, even though there are flashing signals (Maryland drivers aren't any better than Duluth drivers).
We cross Willis Creek (originally Will's Creek), now lined with concrete.
The hanging cables are telltale poles.  These were used to warn brakemen riding on the tops of the cars that an obstruction was coming up, in this case a bridge.
Bicycle trails and railroad tracks can coexist (despite what Wisconsin says).  There is no barrier between the tracks and trail except in the tunnel.

We soon come to a large bridge over a highway.  This bridge was originally double tracked.  There were dozens of bikers on the trail, all except 3 riding DOWN hill!
This great vintage 1975 picture is of a Western Maryland freight train dragging its train uphill at Helmstetter's Curve.  The hairpin curve is one of the classic photo locations in our country.

Today, foliage has taken over the location but here is what it looks from the cab.
Continuing . . .
We come to Brush Tunnel, a 914-foot tunnel under Piney Mountain.
Then I had camera problems.  More tunnel pix on the trip back down the hill.
There are 2 old signal bridges still in place, not used.  However, the first one has a light that can be lit for photos.
This bridge goes over the original Western Maryland track running from Connellsville, PA to Cumberland, Maryland.  We traveled on a branch off the main line into Frostburg.
This is now part of the bike trail.
We come to Frostburg, the end of the tourist line.
After the passengers disembark, we will turn the engine on the turntable.  This turntable was moved here from Elkins, where we rode their tourist train yesterday.  Formerly, just to the right of the turntable, there was a tunnel leading to Westernport.
Then we run around the train so the engine will be on the head end on the way back.  The caboose is used for charters and the gondola is used for hauling bicycles up to Frostburg so the bikers can ride back downhill to Cumberland.
 And who should I run into at Frostburg but friend Alex Cook-Shannon from the North Shore Scenic Railroad in Duluth!!  He is employed for the summer by the Thomas The Tank group and is at the Western Maryland Railroad helping with their 'Christmas In July' trains.
We have a little time so Gary and I enjoy our lunch in the cupola of the caboose!
The view from my dining chair.
And we head back down the hill.
This is the location of a former switchback.  Note the flat groundwork.
There was a coal mine here that caved in!
At this point, about a year and a half ago, there was a landslide which closed the track.
The train had to stop short of this location at this little depot, called Mountain View, before returning to Cumberland.
We approach Brush Tunnel again.
Soon we are back to the big steel bridge.
And all too soon, our great ride is over.  Thanks to the Western Maryland staff and crew for a great day riding the train!!


  1. Arlyn: As always a great job done. Next time you plan a railfan trip from Louisville, let me know so I might be able to plan to join you. Present plans are to be in Lacrosse all of July and Aug 2018. Hope to see you then if not before. Jim Malecki