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Scenic Railroad suspends Frostburg trips til next year

July 27th, 2016 by WCBC Radio

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad has been notified that it must suspend regular train operations west of Woodcock Hollow Road through the end of 2016 and early Spring 2017. Geotechnical consultants hired by Allegany County to assess a landslide in the vicinity of WMSR tracks at the hollow recommends that the bedrock underneath the WMSR tracks and Great Allegheny Passage Trail be stabilized before regular trains resume operations past that point. The County has made this project a priority and expects to have the design of a retaining wall completed and out for bid as soon as possible. Western Maryland Scenic Railroad officials met last week with County Administrator David Eberly, Director of Public Works Paul Kahl, and County Engineer Adam Patterson, and with a representative from the engineering firm Hillis-Carnes to review the status of the landslide. The slide became apparent earlier in the year and affected both the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and the Great Allegheny Passage Trail.


Not long after the railroad noted the movement of rocks on the hillside below the tracks, the County engaged Hillis-Carnes to examine the site and install inclinometers to measure any movement of the ground and bedrock in the vicinity. Initially, the engineers authorized WMSR to continue running its trains past the site at reduced speed.


However, in the past few weeks the bedrock has shifted, and Hillis-Carnes recommended that WMSR temporarily suspend regular train operations past the site until the slope is stabilized. WMSR will continue to operate its regularly scheduled trains, stopping at Woodcock Hollow Road rather than Frostburg until the track bed is secured and the County's engineers are confident that all trains can operate safely.


The Western Maryland Railway built the original railroad line at this location in 1911 as part of its "Connellsville Extension." It became part of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad nearly thirty years ago, when the State of Maryland, Allegany County, and the Cities of Cumberland and Frostburg created the not-for-profit Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Development Corporation to preserve and operate the railroad from Cumberland to Frostburg and spur regional economic development.


Engineers anticipate the stabilization work to take approximately four months. The project will strengthen the hillside and ensure that WMSR train operations continue and the Great Allegheny Passage Trail remains open. The County and the Railroad have dealt with similar issues here in the past, and the engineering firm is working out the details of the stabilization.


The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad carries nearly 40,000 passengers each year on its regularly scheduled and special trains, most of which are powered by historic steam and diesel locomotives. WMSR is the most important tourist attraction in the region and leverages millions of dollars of direct and indirect economic activity supporting Allegany County businesses and residents.


"This railroad is important to us. We have worked for thirty years to build it up and make it part of our community. We need to make sure it operates safely and continues to contribute to our economy and future”, Mike Brandt, Chairman of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Board.  

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