Southern Agenda

The Ultimate Rail Trail

Autumn excursions on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad not only showcase Appalachian fall color, but they also set up adventure seekers for a breezy downhill ride. The Cumberland-to-Frostburg rail line can haul a dozen bicycles on its roughly fifteen-mile run up and along Piney Mountain. At the top of the route in Frostburg, cyclists join a section of the Great Allegheny Passage, a rail trail paralleling the railroad back to Cumberland. The path is almost entirely coastable, with shaded downhill slopes, easy pedaling through tunnels, and striking Allegheny mountain views from across a century-old truss bridge. (Heading in the other direction, the trail leads all the way to Pittsburgh.) A newly restored steam locomotive, No. 1309, might just be chugging down the mountain, too. Mothballed in 1956, the train reentered service last year, and like all engines, the massive marvel has its own personality. “Engines are constantly telling you what they like or don’t like,” says Wesley Heinz, the railroad’s executive director. “They have a heartbeat. They speak to you. They sigh.”