Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

Amazing news in Georges Creek!

Through a lease, the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad has acquired the dormant railroad line in southwestern Allegany County, the Georges Creek Railway. It will re-brand the line as the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, Georges Creek Division.

Western Maryland Scenic has signed a long-term lease with Georges Creek owner Eighteen Thirty Group, LLC. The lease will allow WMSR to diversify and expand its future. Operating as the Georges Creek Division, the WMSR intends to pursue various revenue streams, including passenger and potential freight opportunities. Over the last three years, the Scenic has doubled the number of visitors served on their current excursion line between Cumberland and Frostburg. The Georges Creek Division will structure itself as a separate business managed by WMSR. The WMSR seeks to emulate the short-line railroad success stories of the Tennessee Valley, Everett, and Naugatuck Railroads, to name a few.

Executive Director Wesley Heinz says this is the realization of over two years of discussions with Eighteen Thirty Group to secure the potential of the railroad line along Georges Creek. Heinz shared that CSX and various vendors have occasionally approached the Scenic to provide limited freight services better suited to a detail-oriented short-line railroad than a large Class 1 such as CSX. “CSX has been courteous enough to identify opportunities for WMSR, and the Georges Creek Division could help us fulfill these requests. Our staff has spent countless hours imagining a revitalization of the railroad line and how WMSR can use their vision to bring economic development to the Georges Creek valley through tourism and rail services. WMSR envisions developing repour with community leadership that can spur small-business growth, while bringing family-friendly, tourist experiences through our operation.”

The Scenic has become known as a railroad of the community and enjoys the support of businesses throughout Cumberland and Frostburg. On Allegany County-owned track, WMSR operates 4-season excursions, dinner trains, family-holiday-themed events, and the twice-award-winning The Polar Express Train Ride between the county’s two largest cities. WMSR carried over 47,000 passengers in 2021, and recently ended 2023 with almost 75,000 visitors.

The nonprofit began identifying bold solutions to increase ridership and bring new energy to its rail experiences. “The WMSR doesn’t own the railroad between Cumberland and Frostburg. The ability to expand our schedule is limited in its current configuration. The Georges Creek Division initiative allows the Scenic to craft our future as we see fit. The small towns along the “CRIK,” with their charm and Americana, provide a broad canvas for our staff to create new experiences for all visitors to enjoy.” says Heinz. Eighteen Thirty Group’s owner Duncan Smith and Heinz share a passion for history and seeing the communities they love in Western Maryland continue to develop their potential along the rails of the Georges Creek.

The Eighteen Thirty Group, LLC and Georges Creek, LLC purchased the railroad line in 2006 out of bankruptcy, intending to maintain the accessibility and potential viability of the historic rail line. Providing freight traffic and switching services for the former Verso paper mill in Luke, MD, the railroad ceased operation in 2019 when the mill closed. Since 2021, the WMSR presented multiple concepts to sustain the potential held in the rail line. “WMSR envisions utilizing any number of revenue-generating experiences to resuscitate the line one railroad tie at a time. Our first order of business will be to attend to the overgrowth of vegetation along the right-of-way, identify safety needs, and communicate with the community leaders along the “CRIK” on how the WMSR can encourage and diversify tourism throughout the valley. There is a strong desire for bike trails to accompany the railroad alongside the Georges Creek. WMSR feels we are in an excellent position to create the partnerships

needed to replicate the success of the much larger Great Allegheny Passage. The small-town communities along Georges Creek can benefit from WMSR’s desire to be a key economic driver in the region.”

Inquiries may be directed to georgescreek@wmsr.com (mailto:georgescreek@wmsr.com)