- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) - Repair of a landslide that has kept Western Maryland Scenic Railroad excursions from reaching their Frostburg destination is expected to be completed by Aug. 1.

The landslide discovered during routine track inspection in late February was the result of a mine-related issue near a switch about two miles from Frostburg, said John Garner, the railroad’s superintendent. Land below the railroad tracks slipped away at an estimated 2 to 4 feet.

Garner said the Maryland Bureau of Mines is in the process of removing debris and coal from the former mine site and improving the drainage system in the area to prevent future incidents. The repairs are being funded with federal money administered by the state bureau.

In the meantime, the railroad’s 2016 season is offering tourist train rides between Cumberland and Switch No. 9.

“In a situation like that (landslide repair), you would have to ensure that the remediation work you’re doing isn’t going to affect pollution, sedimentation that would be going into the river under the U.S. Clean Water Act,” said Mark Shaffer, communications director for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Remediation deals with the removal of pollution or contaminants from the environment such as soil, ground water, sediment or surface water.

With environmental permits and engineering design completed, project construction bids are due May 31.

“We are expecting this (project) to be in the neighborhood of about $250,000,” Shaffer said.

Repair is expected to begin by mid-June. For at least one local business that depends on the scenic railroad for revenue, it can’t come fast enough.

“It’s terrible,” said John Saylor, co-owner and operator of the Trail Inn Lodging Campground and Cafe at the Frostburg Depot. “If we don’t get some business going on we just can’t survive.”

Saylor’s property is adjacent to the train’s turntable.

“When you lose as much business as we did with the train not running, it takes you down in a hurry,” Saylor said.

Saylor’s inn is doing well, he said, thanks to Great Allegany Passage cyclists, but his cafe is taking the hit.

“We’re not even doing 5 percent of what we had been doing last year at this time,” Saylor said. “The rooms are doing all right. Frostburg remodeled the trailhead and it made some difference.

“We’re doing the best we can and we’re still serving good food,” he said. “We probably won’t shut it down (business) because we feel an obligation to the bicycle trail. I don’t see us shutting down unless we just have to.”

When construction is complete, railroad inspectors will conduct a security check on the area.

“I don’t think that would take too terribly long,” Shaffer said. “But I’m sure the pressure is on given it’s the middle of the summer and it’s the scenic railroad.”

Garner said track inspectors will be on site within 24 hours after construction crews remove their equipment.

“WMSR track foreman Josh Nixon would come in and do the inspection,” Garner said. “We would ask the state inspector to join us, once they give us the thumb’s up (state inspector), we would commence operations to Frostburg.”

Excursions to Frostburg are normally scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Garner said the first available train will run immediately after inspection.

“If we released (track) on a Tuesday, the next train would go up Friday,” said Garner.

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Information from: Cumberland (Md.) Times-News, https://www.times-news.com/timesnew.html

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