Western Maryland Scenic's host county stands by their railroad

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Steam locomotive restoration specialist Gary Bensman cuts out staybolts for replacement on Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 on May 9, 2017.
TRAINS: Jim Wrinn
CUMBERLAND, Md. — Despite funding problems for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad's marquee project, its leaders have the support and confidence of Allegany County, the county's top executive says.

The affirmation comes as a railroad official tells Trains News Wire that the effort to restore Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 has ground to a halt for lack of funds.

“We have a superintendent who has the confidence of the county board of commissioners and the confidence of his board members,” County Administrator David A. Eberly says of John Garner, the railroad's executive director. “He is doing a fantastic job with limited resources.”

Western Maryland Scenic is in Allegany County, Md. The county owns the former Western Maryland Railroad right-of-way from Cumberland to Frostburg, Md., that the scenic railroad operates on.

Western Maryland Scenic operates “on a shoe string,” but Eberly says he is confident “that we have a core group of committed professionals that are serving the needs of the tourists in our area, and those folks who have an interest and passion in riding the rails.”

Eberly says the future for the railroad is promising.

“We're very impressed with their numbers,” he says. “We're impressed with their ability to be flexible and creative, given the challenges they've had with 1309 and other equipment.”

A representative for the Comptroller of Maryland tells News Wire that the last of a $400,000 grant will be disbursed in a week. The fiscal 2017 state budget included the grant, and earmarked it for No. 1309's renovation.

The balance of the nearly $2 million the railroad raised for restoration has come from operating revenue and private donations. Trains Magazine donated $10,000 to the No. 1309 project in 2015 for the magazine's annual Preservation Award.

Eberly says that no more funds for the restoration will come from the public sector. And Garner has issued several appeals for an additional $530,000 to complete the project.
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