WMSR cancels rides due to track damage

·2 min read

Sep. 8—CUMBERLAND — Excursions on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad have been canceled through the weekend due to track damage from recent heavy rains.

According to railroad officials, rain that fell this week caused softening of wooden railroad ties near WMSR's shop and rail yard in Ridgeley, West Virginia. Rides scheduled between Sept. 8 and 11 were canceled so crews could repair the damage.

Wes Heinz, the railroad's CEO and general manager, said damage was confined to about 250 feet of ties.

The scenic railroad's train yard is on the West Virginia side of the North Branch Potomac River. The damage prevents the train from crossing the river to the Western Maryland Railway Station in Cumberland where riders board for excursions.

"None of the locomotives were hurt," said Heinz. "The steam engine (No. 1309 Maryland Thunder) wasn't hurt and no passengers were involved and the crew is safe. They're quite enthusiastically working on the repairs. They'll be working on it all weekend to get it situated and the track repaired underneath it. It's nothing that's not in a day of the life of a railroader."

"We've already dispatched some crews that have come in that will utilize some of our existing employees and then some people that specialize in track maintenance," said Mike McKay, WMSR board chair. "We will get things in order and be back running."

The damage happened at a bad time for the scenic railroad, with many activities planned for the Heritage Days Festival taking place in Cumberland this weekend.

"The biggest disappointment of the weekend is the bike races with the train was this weekend," said Heinz. "But it's nothing we won't get past in a couple days. Everyone likes to ride the train."

The scenic railroad has seen an increase in ridership and interest since the massive Baldwin steam locomotive No. 1309 went into service last fall. Named Maryland Thunder, the locomotive is the largest H-6 class steam engine operating publicly in the world.

Heinz said he expects excursions to return for the railroad's next scheduled rides Sept. 15.

Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email glarry@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter.