I was looking for a interesting place to visit with my wife to celebrate her birthday when I ran across the website for Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. I liked what I saw, but it took me a few days to decide which tickets to purchase. The cheapest option was the standard coach class tickets, but there were several upgrades available. Premium coach presumably gives you more spacious seating, but perhaps there are other differences that I’m not aware of. The parlor car gives you access to alcoholic beverages, and first class includes a meal aboard the train. There are a handful of menu choices available for first class passengers, but the selection is made at the time of reservation. I finally decide to go the frugal route and get standard coach tickets.
Our visit was on Sept 27, 2014. By coincidence, this was during the during the annual Steel Wheels festival in Cumberland, which added a few more sights to our experience. As part of this event, there was a steam engine that puffed back and forth across the bridge near the station in Cumberland, giving good opportunities for picture-taking. Also, Amtrak had an exhibit train on-site that visitors could walk through. The exhibits inside showed the history of Amtrak and also gave glimpses of the inside of a modern Amtrak train. Lastly, there was an old caboose that you could explore as well.
The WMSR train leaves for Frostburg at 11:30, but when I called to purchase the tickets I was told to be there at 10:45. My advice: follow our example and get there at 10 AM. By 10:45, the lines are getting long and the place is very crowded. If you get there early, you can walk right up the counter and get your ticket, and the spend the extra time walking around or visiting shops at Canal Place.
Those of us with coach class tickets were free to sit in any available seat on any of the coach cars, with the exception of one car which was reserved by a church group. There were double bench seats on either side of the aisle. Being accustomed to coach seats on a plane, I was afraid the seating would be cramped, but it was not. There was plenty of leg room. We also found the cars to be clean and in good repair. The seats are reversible so you can face toward the front or rear of the train just by moving the backrest. This is especially handy if you have a group of four and prefer to face each other. If you want the best view, sit on the right side of the train as you’re facing the front ready to depart the Cumberland station.
During the trip, we were allowed roam freely among the coach class cars. In one of the cars there was a snack bar with a variety of items to eat and drink. This included hot dogs, cold sandwiches, chips, and candy bars. A small selection of gifts were also available, all of which are also available at the gift shop at the Cumberland station.
The windows were clear enough to take decent photographs, but for better shots you could venture to a small picture-taking car at the front of the coach class section. This car had no seats, but had grab bars and open windows to allow for clear photographs. You could also get good photographs by standing in the area between the cars.
Upon arrive at Frostburg, we exited the train and has some time to explore a few shops or grab a bite to eat. To get to main street, you had to climb up the ridge using a long series of steps. Partway up was a good place to stop and watch the steam engine being turned on the turntable to prepare for the return trip to Cumberland.
All in all, we were very pleased with the trip.