For sake of a change in scenery our magazine decided to go to nearby Maryland and notably the mountains surrounding beautiful Cumberland City. Our choice was to take an excursion trip on the scenic Western Maryland Railroad.
The trip would take us from the Western Maryland Train Station, located at 13 Canal Street in downtown Cumberland to the mountaintop town of Frostburg. Both of these cities border southern Pennsylvania to the north, and Cumberland also is host to part of the canal system that used to link Ohio with the Chesapeake Bay. This was one of the ‘water highways’ of early America, known as The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. It’s purpose was to create a route to transfer goods and supplies between the East Coast ports and the American frontier. A museum for the Canal system is on the lower level of the Cumberland Train Station.
The trip to Frostburg, a distance of approximately 16 miles, took approximately one hour. The engine hauling our passenger cars was a GP-30 built by EMD in 1962. The train would take us to our destination through a natural cut in the mountains know as ‘The Narrows’. Once reaching Frostburg the engine was reversed on a turntable in order that the cab of the engine could once again face forward for the return trip.
Frostburg itself is a small community which boasts of the campus of Frostburg State University, as well as a number of small restaurants and coffee shops within the town limits to dine at. There is also a walking and bike trail for the more adventurist in spirit who would care to take the train there, then walk or bike back to Cumberland. A horse drawn carriage museum is also located near the Frostburg Station.
Cumberland, itself, boasts of a number of small museums and historic locations to explore and nearby there is a section of the town who’s streets are set aside as a pedestrian thoroughfare complete with restaurants and shops. Many of the surrounding buildings have been beautifully restored and there are several with beautiful murals painted on their exteriors. The town aims to be a first-class tourist destination.
Our train ride was overseen by two experienced conductors, who saw to our comfort with their expertise . They were Gene Cave, the Chief Operating Officer, and Jim May, the Senior Conductor. Their knowledge of operations and handling of the passengers was well appreciated by all.
I’ve also included pics for this article, taken by our photographer, Joseph O’Donnell, for our readers to enjoy. For more information, and travel directions, you can see the railroad’s web site at www.WMSR.com or call directly to 1-800-TRAIN50.