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Western Maryland Scenic Railroad 8/9/2018

by Chris Guenzler

The NRHS business meetings were being held this day and since the convention visit to this tourist train was scheduled for Saturday, and the four of us would be on our way home then, we decided to ride this line today.

I got up at 5:30 AM as usual and worked on stories then I went down at 6:00 AM to Harrigan's Restaurant where I had breakfast. Robin got up, had his breakfast and then did his laundry; I had done mine the night before. Elizabeth came to the room and we put up stories then started writing the next one. I let her do that while I returned the rental car to Enterprise. The driver gave me a good tour of the other side of the tracks of the hotel to get around a freight train then got me back to the hotel. We then all met at 10:15 AM and walked the five short blocks to the Western Maryland station.

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad History

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (WMRSR) is a heritage railroad based in Cumberland, Maryland. It operates over former Western Maryland Railway trackage to Frostburg and back using both steam and diesel locomotives.

The WMSR operates passenger excursion trains and occasional freights when needed out of the former Western Maryland station in Cumberland, which also houses one of the six visitor centers of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park as well as other attractions and offices. This station was built in 1913.

The railroad offers coach and first class service, as well as reserved caboose rides. The railroad also runs murder mystery excursions and special seasonal trips.

Rail line description

The track, which for the most part follows a former Western Maryland Railway line, proceeds northwest from Cumberland through "the Narrows", a deep water gap formed by the passage of Wills Creek between Haystack Mountain and Wills Mountain, parts of the Wills Mountain Anticline geological structure. The train then proceeds up the Allegheny Front through a water gap formed by Jennings Run, passes Mt. Savage and terminates at the former Cumberland and Pennsylvania Railroad depot in Frostburg. The train lays over there for about ninety minutes to allow passengers to visit the town, and the locomotive is turned back there on a turntable that originally served the Western Maryland in Elkins, West Virginia. The train then returns to Cumberland by the same route.

Intermediate sights on the line include Helmstetter's Curve in Cash Valley, Brush Tunnel and Woodcock Hollow, site of a hairpin curve.

The Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland, part of the Great Allegheny Passage bicycle trail from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, runs along the route of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Cyclists can make reservations with the railroad to put their bikes on board for the climb up the mountain to Frostburg, then cycle back down to Cumberland.


Regular power on the railroad is 734. Normal power for the train is former Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad 34, now known as Western Maryland 734, a 1916 Baldwin-built 2-8-0 steam locomotive painted in WM "fireball" livery with a different tender from its original. The locomotive came to the line from the Illinois Railway Museum in 1991. After an extensive rebuild, it entered service in 1992; it has received several modifications over the years to give it more of a WM appearance. The 734 was retired indefinitely after the 2015 season as well as some special excursions in February and April 2016 to undergo the 1,472 service-day Federal Railroad Administration inspection.

In order to maintain its steam locomotive operations, the railroad obtained ex-Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 1309 from the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, while 734 is in pieces. In addition, the WMSR has two former Conrail GP30 locomotives (501 being former PRR, 502 being former Reading). WMSR 501 has been painted in the Western Maryland Circus red and white paint scheme. These engines are used as helper engines for the steam locomotive and as power for short excursions that are run for special events. The WMSR also has a 60-ton Plymouth switcher, number 7, which is used to switch cars around. It was also used to transport 1309 to Ridgeley Yards. Two Canadian Pacific 4-6-2's, 1286 and 1238, operated during the early years, along with Alco-built diesels such as an RS3 from the Boston & Maine, an RSD5 from the Chicago and North Western, and two FPA4s from Canadian National and VIA Rail.

On November 17, 2017, after failing to meet their projected summertime completion date for C&O 1309, the railroad announced that the project had been put on hiatus.


The WMSR operates out of the former WM's Ridgeley, West Virginia car shops located just across the Potomac River from Cumberland. The shops include offices, a Federal Railroad Administration building, and the former paint shop which is now used to house the steam engine and perform repairs on the railroad's equipment. The WMSR shops also serve as a business offering restoration services for locomotives and coaches from both commercial and private owners. South, past the Ridgely shops and yard, the WMSR also maintains a wye that is used to turn the railroad's locomotives and coaches.

Passenger and Freight Equipment

Since its creation, the WMSR has gained an extensive collection of lightweight style passenger coaches, many of which it either has restored to service in its tuscan and gold livery, or has used for parts to restore other coaches. Many of the restored coaches are painted with the names of local area towns, as well as benefactors of the scenic railroad. The WMSR also has a collection of freight equipment it has collected from CSX and other sources that it uses for storage at the shops, rail line maintenance, and photo freight excursions. The WMSR currently also has three cabooses; two former Chesapeake and Ohio and one former Western Maryland. Other un-restored equipment includes an former Chessie System crane, a former Amtrak material handling car, heavyweight coaches and pieces for a turntable.

Our Trip

When we arrived, the impressive station was immediately photographed.

The Cumberland Western Maryland station. We then all went inside the waiting room to the ticket counter where I picked up Robin's and my complimentary tickets then Bob and Elizabeth bought theirs. With a very limited supply of extra large T-shirts, I had to buy a T-shirt I really did not like, but I do support the tourist railroads I ride.

People buying tickets for the day's trip. I then walked out to the east end of the platform to get ready for the train to pull in from their yard.

The station platform looking west. I heard a horn and knew the train was on its way.

The train pulled into the station and we all waited to board. I remembered that they used the ramp for boarding so made my way there and was the first person aboard the train and saved seats for everyone in my party.

Our tickets showing with the inside of the car in the background.

Robin Bowers making his first trip aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

Elizabeth Alkire, the British Spy, making her first trip aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. We went to the vestibule where we would ride the whole way to Frostburg to provide you pictures for this story.

The north end of the Cumberland station platform.

Former Clinchfield caboose 1072 built in 1948 and later Seaboard 11072, is on display here.

The south side of the platform at Cumberland.

The old steam watering spout not needed with our Western Maryland GP30 501. The train then started to move and we were on our way to Frostburg.

Downtown Cumberland.

Willis Creek.

Cumberland's main water project.

We started toward the narrows through the trees.

The old bridge which was once a connection to the Western Maryland to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

New ties and new rail as we enter the narrows.

Willis Creek in the narrows.

There is a bicycle trail that runs the entire length of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad except at the Frostburg end, where it heads off to Connellsville, Pennsylvania.

The highway bridge across Willis Creek.

Willis Creek looking back toward Cumberland.

Looking across the front of the train.

Interesting rock strata along our route.

A family riding bicycles along the path along our route.

One of the bike path railroad crossings in the narrows.

A former Western Maryland double track bridge.

Willis Creek goes off toward Sandpatch.

More interesting rock strata.

We passed MP 168.

A rural grade crossing.

Beautiful scenery abounds aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

The train takes another curve.

More of that beautiful scenery.

Western Maryland mile post 170.

Looking the way we will go to Sandpatch grade on Saturday aboard Amtrak.

On the approach to Helmstetter's Curve.

Our train on the Helmstetter's Curve.

The new and improved Helmstetter's Barn.

Finishing the Helmstetter's Curve.

Approaching Brush Tunnel.

The train entering Brush Tunnel.

The train exiting Brush Tunnel.

Taking a slight curve.

More of that beautiful Appalachian mountain countryside.

The rear of the train takes a curve.

Passing Western Maryland mile post 173.

The train takes a slight curve.

Looking north into Pennsylvania.

Taking yet another slight curve.

It is a good cloud day today.

A nice green open area along the tracks.

More exciting cloud pictures.

The train ran through Mountain View which lives up to its name.

Passing Western Maryland mile post 175.

The train takes several more curves along our route.

The ever-present bike trail has switched sides.

More of that gorgeous scenery.

One of the bike trail mile posts.

Two hikers on the path.

The train takes more of the curves along the route.

More bicyclists riding this unique bike trail.

Looking across the valley.

The train passed the Savage Mountain sign.

A family of five stops to watch the train pass by.

The train finally crosses another paved road.

And then another road.

A Western Maryland signal bridge still exists on this railroad.

Crossing Trimble Road.

The train takes another of the many curves on this line.

The train went under another Western Maryland signal bridge.

The false siding came into view.

The original Western Maryland follows the bike path.

We are crossing a fill.

The sign for Garner's Meadow.

The train runs through Garner's Meadow.

The Western Maryland bike trail now passes under our route as it heads to Connellsville.

Rolling through the forest.

Coming into Frostburg.

The Western Maryland (originally Cumberland and Pennsylvania) station built in 1891.

Arriving into Frostburg.

Western Maryland GP30 501.

The Frostburg turntable.

The engine comes on to the turntable.

Turning the engine on the turntable.

The engine heads back to the train. We all went to the cafe at the north end of the complex in Frostburg where I had a hot dog and an ice cream bar and later a Coca-Cola. After that we walked back across the street to photograph the Frostburg station.

The Western Maryland Frostburg station. We then reboarded the train and a nice quiet trip back to Cumberland. I would like to thank the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad for having us ride their train today and to my excellent train crew who took such good care of us. From the station, we walked over to next attraction in town.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. We walked back to the hotel via Baltimore Street and first went to a hobby shop that had very few train-related items and then to CVS Drugs where I picked up a twelve-pack of Coca-Cola. We returned to the hotel.

Views from my room of the CSX action in Cumberland.

Another train from Room 211 passing through Cumberland. We worked on stories until about 6:15 PM and went to Roy Rogers where I had a two-piece chicken dinner which did not impress. We returned to the room and finished two stories before we called it a night.