Steam engine No. 1309 makes successful test run to Frostburg | Local News

CUMBERLAND — The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s steam locomotive No. 1309 made a successful test run Thursday to Frostburg. The trial run was another step forward for the massive Baldwin steam engine which will be in use later this month for select WMSR Polar Express excursions. Wes Heinz, WMSR general […]

CUMBERLAND — The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s steam locomotive No. 1309 made a successful test run Thursday to Frostburg.

The trial run was another step forward for the massive Baldwin steam engine which will be in use later this month for select WMSR Polar Express excursions.

Wes Heinz, WMSR general manager, told the Times-News the engine, known as Maryland Thunder, performed well during the 16-mile run to the Frostburg Depot.

“The engine did everything we asked it to do,” said Heinz. “It ran trouble-free. There will be some adjustments we will make before she is a daily runner. But, yes, she cranked out everything we needed her to do. We’re very pleased with the performance.”

The scenic railroad purchased the No. 1309 locomotive in 2014 from the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. The train’s lengthy restoration exceeded $2.5 million. Built in 1949, Heinz said No. 1309 is the largest compound-mallet steam locomotive operating in the world.

For the Polar Express season, No. 1309 will be in service on Dec. 17, 18 and 19 only, with tickets sold out.

“We’ve been sold out for weeks. .. sold out before we really got into Thanksgiving,” said Heinz. “Ticket sales in 2019 was 9,000 (for Polar Express) and the total ticket sales for this iteration of Polar Express is almost 22,000. So we have more than doubled since 2019.”

The Polar Express excursion for families is about an hour with the train taking riders to a Christmas village setup at Helmstetter’s Curve near Cash Valley Road and returning. Excursions run three times a day on Friday and Sunday and four times on Saturdays.

“We are all tired, but we couldn’t be more pleased,” said Heinz. “We’ve been going nonstop for awhile. We will have her out intermittently next week and do some further test runs. We’ll keep tweaking things. We plan to have the steam engine No. 1309 in daily use beginning May 8.”

The WMSR offers weekend excursions year- round.

“It’s exciting,” said Del. Mike McKay, WMSR board president. “It’s been overwhelming. Our backdrop now is (having) the largest steam engine in North America. It’s here in Allegany County. We are dedicated to tourism. This is something that benefits the entire community and that is what we’ve hoped for.”

Heinz said hotels, restaurants and shops benefit from a thriving scenic railroad and a unique attraction like Maryland Thunder.

“We are easily in the $15 million to $20 million a year in economic impact,” said Heinz. “This weekend the Fairfield Inn is sold out because Polar Express in running. Restaurant owners have a wait. It gives people another reason to come to town and shop and go to restaurants and stay overnight and that is what we want to see.”

For information on the scenic railroad including ticket availability visit wmsr.com.


https://www.times-news.com/news/local_news/steam-engine-no-1309-makes-successful-test-run-to-frostburg/article_8108d104-5945-11ec-b0aa-3fc2a7765306.html

Shaqil Heaton

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