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Sunday, January 29, 2023
HomeFunTravelAll aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

All aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

Western Maryland RRBy Hannah Anderson

As the steam engine approaches the turntable at the train station in Frostburg, a small blonde head peeks out from the cab window. Five-year-old Ryan Jackson is riding right behind the engineer, and he is grinning from ear to ear.

This is Ryan’s first time on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, and he loves it. His mother, Amanda Jackson, discovered the excursion through an Internet search, and the family drove from their home in Baltimore to take a ride.

“Everyone has been very friendly,” says Ryan’s father, Bert Jackson. “The atmosphere and the scenery were all very family-friendly.”

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad is a 32-mile round-trip scenic train ride that runs through the Allegheny Mountains from downtown Cumberland to downtown Frostburg.

Frank Fowler is the general superintendent at Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and was the train’s conductor for the day. He says the train’s route through the mountains sets it apart from other scenic train rides.

“The trip from Cumberland to Frostburg is what we call ‘heavy-grade elevation.’ It’s a steep, 1,200-foot elevation gain, whereas most tourist train routes are relatively flat,” Fowler says.

The ride lasts about an hour each way, with an hour-and-a-half layover in Frostburg, during which time passengers can shop, eat, and explore the historic downtown area.

Every aspect of the ride feels like a trip back in time, from the old-fashioned ticket office at the restored Western Maryland Station where the train departs, to the outfits worn by the train’s conductor and engineer. After passengers board the train, the conductor walks through and punches everyone’s tickets. Then, as the train makes its ascent to Frostburg, an on-board narrator provides information about the train’s history and the scenery.

Fowler says the nostalgia is part of what makes the ride so enjoyable for families.

“I think it’s the excitement of being on a vintage steam train,” Fowler says. “It’s what it would have ben like riding a train 60 years ago.”

Erica McIvor, from Waldorf, is also on her first WMCR trip with her husband and three daughters. She says her husband, Andy McIvor, heard Cumberland was a nice place to visit, so he researched things to do in the area and discovered the railroad.

Erica says they would definitely come back to take another ride.

“The towns are beautiful, and it is a unique thing to do away from the hustle and bustle of southern Maryland,” she says.

The Allegheny Highland Bike trail runs parallel to the train’s route, and for an additional $5, adventurous passengers can bring their bike aboard, ride the train up to Frostburg, and then bike the 16-mile trail back down to Cumberland.

Western Maryland Station in Cumberland is about a three-hour drive from Annapolis, so the excursion can be a long day trip. However, if you want to explore more of Cumberland, you may want to book a hotel for the night. Western Maryland Scenic Railroad has standard excursions and special themed excursions scheduled this month and next.

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