The Scenic Western Maryland Railroad gives train lovers of all ages the opportunity to ride on an old train from Cumberland to Frostburg, Maryland, a bucolic, mountainous region of the state. The scenic tour is an excellent family excursion in the fall, when the leaves on the mountain ridges are changing colors, and the railroad also offers evening Murder Mystery Trains and a Santa Express Specialty Train that runs from roughly right after Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Cumberland, MD - The Beginning of the Tour
The rail tour begins and ends in Cumberland, Maryland, a town steeped in American history. It is here that George Washington established his first military headquarters. A small cabin on Greene Street in Cumberland's historic center (on a hill above the rail station) is all that is left from Washington's days in Cumberland.
During the late 19th century, Cumberland's role as a railroad center led it to become the second largest city in the state of Maryland (after Baltimore). The "Queen City" still appears stately, with a handful of church spires dotting the ridged landscape. The city's rail station, built in 1913, is a large one, and houses the town's visitors center and the railway. Most trains that depart from this station are scenic tourist trains.
Scenes Along the Western Maryland Railroad Tour
During the tour, the train conductor discusses a few points of interest along the route. They include:
- The Narrows, a cut in the Allegheny Mountains that gave America its first "Gateway to the West"
- Helmstetter's Curve, an arc that gives the train enough curvature so that passengers in the back cars can view the engine as it chugs along through the Cash Valley
- Lovers' Leap, a 1,652-foot ridge that is steeped in a Native American Romeo and Juliet-type legend.
- Mount Savage, a picture-perfect town set on a mountain slopes. Mount Savage was once Maryland's fifth largest town.
Layover in Frostburg, MD On the other end of the train journey lies Frostburg, Maryland, a mountain town that earned its reputation in mining. The small town, which sits at an altitude of about 2,000 feet in the Allegheny Mountains, is today known more for its small college, Frostburg State University, which was established by local miners in 1898 who raised the funds to build a university for their children.
While on the hour and a half layover in Frostburg, Western Maryland train riders can witness the steam engine rotate on its turn table. There is a staircase that leads from Frostburg Depot to Main Street, where there are cafes, restaurants, and a nice bookstore.
Schedule and Tickets
The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad runs from May to December. Excursion trains typically leave Cumberland Station at 11:30 a.m., Thursday through Sunday. There are many other specialty trains and the WMSR may also add extra excursions during fall to account for the high volume of fall foliage-viewing passengers. Check the WMSR website for more information on schedules and ticketing.
How to Get to Cumberland, MD
The following directions are courtesy of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad website. Once you have arrived in Cumberland, WMSR instructs:
"Go straight ahead through traffic light into the Western Maryland Station/ Canal Place parking lot.The entrance to the lot is located at the intersection of Harrison Street and South Mechanic Street. Parking is free to train riders during the week with a token available from the WMSR ticket desk."
For directions to Cumberland from where you are, visit Google Maps.
From Washington, DC: "Take I-270 North to I-70 West to I-68 West to Cumberland. Take the Downtown Exit (43C) and turn left at the bottom of ramp (stop sign)."
From Baltimore, MD:"Take I-70 West to I-68 West to Cumberland. Take the Downtown Exit (43C) and turn left at the bottom of ramp (stop sign)."
From Pittsburgh, PA: "Take I-79 South to Morgantown then take I-68 East to Cumberland. Take the Downtown Exit (43C). Make a left at the bottom of the exit ramp. Go left at the next traffic light (across from the Holiday Inn.)"