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Commissioners issue statement on Scenic Railroad Audit

August 13th, 2019 by WCBC Radio

Today, Allegany County Government issued the following statement regarding the operational audit conducted by Stone Consulting, Inc.

 

The Stone Report is a sobering look at the complex issues involved in the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad's recovery from a difficult period in their history. The Board of County Commissioners appreciates the detailed and professional analysis the report provides. It brings the guidance needed to move forward and we are going to require detailed responses from WMSR on all of the serious issues outlined by Stone Consulting.

 

The WMSR has operated many successful seasons over the past two decades in which they were sustainable and made significant contributions to our county's hospitality and retail economy. It is our goal to return the train to that status as a major national and regional attraction. The long-awaited addition of the steam engine to the WMSR fleet can provide a renewed sense of optimism in WMSR’s future.

As we did recently regarding the upgrades to the rail condition, we will, once again, reach out to the WMSR board and staff to discuss these findings and how we can work together on a path forward. That discussion, similar to county government’s previous meeting, will be open to members of the press and the public.    

3 Responses to “Commissioners issue statement on Scenic Railroad Audit”

  1. August 13, 2019 at 10:31 am, Steve said:

    What are the issues and the findings? A very evasive statement made.

    Reply

    • August 13, 2019 at 11:28 am, mac said:

      > Typical political doublespeak.

      Reply

  2. August 13, 2019 at 2:08 pm, WCBC Radio said:

    August 10th, 2019 by WCBC Radio

    The conclusion of a performance audit of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad is that there are any number of serious issues that need to be addressed in short order- some serious enough that if not resolved the tourist train could be forced to shut down operations. Pennsylvania based Stone Consulting was retained by Allegany County in the summer of 2018 to conduct a performance audit of the railroad operation. The request came after repeated failed attempts to bring a restored steam engine online; equipment and track issues; a major theft by a former employee; and a continued reliance on county funds to maintain operations. The report, obtained by WCBC News Friday, concluded that despite some initial perceptions, the reputed issues of the 1309 program appear to now be under the best recovery plan rather than the worst, and has managed to turn into some positive news at the time the report was completed. However, the focus on the steam program has effectively masked more serious issues that impact the entire excursion program more than getting a steam locomotive operating again for the 2019 season. The report suggests that it appears the current management plan is completely centered around an expected ridership boost from the restored steam engine- but that is far from guaranteed. In addition, there are issues of steadily deteriorating track and right-of-way conditions, standard coach experience factors and resulting declining coach ridership. Developing landslide areas alongside the trail, need to be addressed before the crisis stage fully emerges, which is described as inevitable given the developing evidence the firm experienced firsthand. There were also concerns expressed about the financial accounting- noting that written statements of the railroad’s accounting firm appear to be more concealing than revealing- with a lack of clear language. The audit concludes with the opinion that there is a leaner and smaller management operation now in place- and the absence of a volunteer base can be addressed if the steam engine debuts next year- leading to the expected increase in public and rider interest. If all parties are prepared for that scenario- the entire equation of donations, volunteers, and bottom-line performance should provide a roughly a two year window of re-newed interest in the Scenic Railroad- with a chance to build momentum and establish a solid tourist attraction for the region.

    Reply

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