Western Maryland diesel stands in for big steam this fall

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Western Maryland Scenic Railroad workers pose on the nose of recently re-painted GP30 No. 501. Excursions pulled by the locomotive in the "circus" paint scheme will benefit continued restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309.
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
CUMBERLAND, Md. — Western Maryland red, white, and black could mean green for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Cumberland. The nonprofit tourist railroad has painted its EMD GP30 No. 501 in Western Maryland’s red, white, and black “circus scheme.” No. 501 is believed to be the only Western Maryland-painted locomotive to wear the scheme on any tourist railroad and the railroad hopes that will bring more people to Cumberland.

The locomotive, originally built as Pennsylvania Railroad EMD GP30 No. 2249, is the railroad’s primary motive power for pulling tourist trains between Cumberland and Frostburg, Md.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad CEO John Garner tells Trains News Wire the No. 501 was repainted in an effort to bring people to the western Maryland-based tourist railroad while Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 is being restored.

“We knew that we didn’t have No. 1309 this fall and we wanted a fall draw,” Garner says.

The locomotive’s repaint was done in-house using shop crews and money generated from regular ticket sales. And it’s not the only shiny piece of equipment plying the rails.

Garner says the railroad has painted one ballast hopper into Western Maryland colors and its caboose has also seen a new coat of Western Maryland paint. The railroad is planning to paint two more ballast hoppers and a boxcar. The railroad has about 13 freight cars in its collection.

While restored freight cars have limited use on a tourist railroad focused on filling seats on passenger trains, Garner envisions an opportunity to make money with its repainted diesel and restored freight cars through photo events.

Freshly painted No. 501, several restored freight cars, and a caboose will headline a special photo event at the end of the railroad’s fall color season in early November. On Nov. 3 to 5, the railroad will host a three-day event featuring a Friday night photo session with No. 1309, a Saturday day trip with No. 501’s freight consist, and a Sunday morning breakfast and networking opportunity with railroad staff and steam experts. The railroad is coordinating the event in-house.

And all of the proceeds benefit No. 1309 directly. The November event is limited to the first 20 participants and those who are interested are encouraged to call the railroad's offices, Garner says.

The proceeds will help chisel into a near $400,000 funding deficit with No. 1309. The railroad is largely responsible for generating the remaining funds needed to restore the Mallet-type articulated locomotive to operation.
When asked about how much money WMSR regularly budgets for No. 1309’s ongoing rehabilitation, Garner says a “select amount of money goes to No. 1309 each month,” adding that the funds are typically “spent on consumables such as welding rods, safety gear, tools, and shipping expenses.”

A Maryland grant in the amount of $400,000 continues to fund the locomotive’s contract labor through Diversified Rail Services, however, Garner says that grant money has specific guidelines that requires WMSR to fund various parts of the project with its own dollars.

Garner did not disclose how much money from ticket sales goes to No. 1309 each month, but he did say that most of the railroad’s income goes to daily operations, payroll, and other costs.

To date, the railroad has spent about $2.3 million on No. 1309, including grant dollars from two Maryland heritage programs each in the amount of $400,000.

When asked about the status of No. 1309, Garner shared a late August project update.

The locomotive’s boiler vessel is 90-percent complete; tender 90 percent; brake and spring rigging 80 percent; grates and ash pan 30 percent; running gear 20 percent; cab floor and locomotive cab 20 percent; and super heaters and smoke box 10 percent complete.

Steam experts still need to re-wheel the engine, fabricate the locomotive’s air brake system, install the boiler and jacketing, test-fire the boiler, paint and assemble the locomotive.

A timeline was not provided on when the project would be completed, however, Garner is optimistic it will happen.

“It’s going to be a group effort to finish the project,” he says, adding that he is “convinced [the railroad] can do it."
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