Mo & Terry Smedley


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Appalachian Autumn (2008) Tour

Part 5:  Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, Frostburg

Today we visited the C&O (Chesapeake & Ohio) Canal Museum, and rode the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad from Cumberland to Frostburg.  After returning from Frostburg, we walked around Cumberland, exploring some of the architecture in the area.   All of our activities today were within a few easy blocks walking from our hotel.  We had a dinner of real "Coney Island" hot dogs in a diner dating back to the 1920s.

It's off to Cass, West Virginia tomorrow to see and ride a logging railroad (behind a Shay locomotive!).

And the answer is ..... (click here) This is an actual size replica of a barge used on the C&O Canal, which runs 185 miles from Washington, D.C. (Georgetown) to Cumberland, Maryland.  The canal was built over a twenty-two year period from 1828 to 1850.  Canal operation faced stiff competition from nearby rail routes (remember the Horseshoe Curve was completed in 1851).  The canal was completely abandoned for commercial purposes after a flood in 1924.   Today, it has been preserved as a superb bicycle and hiking trail leading all the way from Washington to Cumberland! The canal barges were hauled by mules that walked along an adjacent tow path.  It was common for an entire family unit to operate one barge, with the children enlisted to guide the mules along the towpath.  This bronze outside the museum depicts a young boy with a barge mule.  Leading the mules required walking the entire 185 mile length of the canal in 7 days.    The barges provided living quarters for their family operators as well (look carefully at the previous picture and you can see the living space at the far end of the barge). As with other massive construction projects of the period, the canal was constructed almost entirely using manual labor.  Irish workers were imported for this task, just as they had been for the building of the Horseshoe Curve.  This Celtic cross monument pays tribute to those Irish workers.  Click here if you have trouble reading the inscription at the base of the monument.
The C&O Canal museum is in the lower  story of the Western Maryland Railroad Depot.  This interesting brickwork decorates the stairway leading up to the Depot.... Here you can see how the bricks were arranged to form the image in the previous picture. Here's something you have to be prepared to do if you want to take pictures of trains.....wait, while looking expectantly up the tracks.  We were awaiting arrival of the (steam) train that would take us to Frostburg. Here she comes....Baldwin 2-8-0 #734, built in 1916, pulling a consist of about 12 coaches.
  A nice view of #734 lined up in front of the Cumberland Depot. We were seated in the first class diner/kitchen.  Our group of 20 had this car to ourselves.  #734 is being uncoupled from the train after arriving in Frostburg.
The route climbs steadily to Frostburg, where the track dead-ends at a turntable at the base of a large cliff.   Here, #734 is entering the turntable to be turned for the return trip.   The norm for churches in Frostburg, like those in Cumberland, is an impressive spire like this one. These two churches were on the same block along the main street of Frostburg.  The proximity of churches and the similarity of the spire construction suggests (to me, anyway) that there was a bit of "spire envy" going around when they were built.
We found a nice coffee shop for Mo to get a latte before walking back to the train. The weather was a little gray and damp, but you can still see the beautiful fall colors in the valley below the Frostburg station. This is a cooling vent intake on one of the passenger cars.  I just thought it was interesting to see how the falling leaves had been sucked against the screen. As we walked around Cumberland in the afternoon, we saw even more spires.  The white spire on the left is on a Lutheran church.  The large red brick building is the Allegany County Courthouse.  Note that Allegany County in Maryland is spelled differently than the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania.
Another view (apologies for the cluttered foreground) showing quite a collection of spires in Cumberland. This is the Episcopal church. Another view of the Episcopal church.  As I admired the striking spires, I couldn't help but wonder - how the heck were these things constructed before the age of power cranes?  Most of them look to me like they're shingled, some with tile.   When the comparatively modest steeple on Our Lady of Good Help in Hoquiam was re-shingled, it took a contractor with a crane to get the job done.  I can only imagine what it would take to construct or repair one of these. Nice fall colors surround the Allegany Courthouse.
  Click here to watch a short video of #734 steaming into the Cumberland Depot.
Fall displays are everywhere.  This one was outside an attorney's office near the Courthouse. It's our bank!   (Video files are very large, and will take several minutes to download even with a fast internet connection.)