Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rail-Trail Deals That Are Hard to Beat

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rail-Trail Deals That Are Hard to Beat

Article excerpt

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad offers bicyclists an opportunity to ride the rails and a trail.

The railroad, based in Cumberland, Md., departs from the former Western Maryland Railway station for a16-mile, hour-long ride to Frostburg. The tracks parallel the Great Allegheny Passage, the 150- mile multipurpose trail that begins in Cumberland and ends at the fountain in Point State Park.

There's room for only 10 bikes in the baggage car, so reservations are a must. The fee is $5 per bike.

The train gives bicyclists several options:

* They can ride the train to Frostburg and cycle back to Cumberland.

* They can park in Frostburg, pedal down to Cumberland and ride the train back up.

* They also can bike down 24 miles from Deal, the highest point on the passage at 2,390 feet, or 32 miles from Meyersdale, and take the train back up to Frostburg.

Taking the train saves a climb up the passage's steepest segment. Although the grade is less than 2 percent, it requires near- constant pedaling. Coming down, of course, is a breeze. Locals call it the "Cumberland Coast."

Bicyclists who start in Deal or Meyersdale should arrive in Cumberland by 11 a.m. That provides enough time to buy train tickets and load the bikes. The conductor secures each bike in the baggage car and covers it with a moving pad.

The classic steam locomotive, known as "Mountain Thunder," puffs its way up the 1,227-foot vertical climb to Frostburg. Along the way it passes the Bone Cave that was discovered in 1912 and excavated by the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Museum.

It then cuts through the Narrows, a mile-long, 900-foot high gorge between Haystack and Wills Mountains.

It sweeps around Helmstetters Curve, a one-half mile curve which provides excellent views of the train as well as the Cumberland Valley before it heads into the 914-foot long Brush Tunnel under Piney Mountain. …

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