America’s Rails-with-Trails
Allegheny Highlands Trail —Western
Maryland Scenic Railroad
Allegany County, Maryland
The 22-mile trail opened in 2006, and runs from
Cumberland, Md., to the Mason-Dixon Line at the Pennsyl-
vania border.
The Allegheny Highlands Trail is a segment of
the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). It shares the
right-of-way with Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (WMSRR)
from Cumberland to Frostburg over the southernmost 16 miles
of the GAP corridor. The railroad operates both a steam and
a diesel locomotive. The restored coaches have large windows
and provide scenic views of the mountains of western Maryland.
Trains complete the 32-mile round trip excursion on select days
between May and December. While the railroad grade from
Cumberland to Frostburg averages just 1.5 percent, there are
some short sections of 2.7 percent grade over the 1,400-foot
elevation change. For that reason, WMSRR offers a bike
shuttle service to carry trail users uphill from Cumberland to
Frostburg. During 2012, the railroad transported 1,691 bikes,
bike carts and trailers to Frostburg. Trail users with bicycles
enjoy the leisurely train ride up to Frostburg and then have a
downhill ride back to Cumberland. RTC’s Greenway Sojourn
has utilized the bike shuttle service on two trips along the GAP,
adding hundreds of riders to the railroad’s annual traffic.
The rail-with-trail segment shared with the WMSRR
has an average trail width of 10 feet. The trail maintains a
minimum distance of 8.5 feet from the railroad, and shares a
bridge and a tunnel. The trail was built in segments with the
first, from Frostburg north to the Pennsylvania border, com-
pleted in 2004. The second segment, from Frostburg south to
Woodcock Hollow Road, opened in late summer 2005. The fi-
nal segment, connecting to Cumberland, opened in December
of 2006. The trail surface is primarily stone dust but there are
some paved areas near Cumberland. The only physical barrier
separating the railroad and the trail is a chain link fence inside
Brush Tunnel. The train travels at an average speed of 15 mph.
The right-of-way is the old Western Maryland rail
line, which operated on two tracks between Cumberland and the
Pennsylvania border and is now owned by Allegany County.
The WMSRR operates the train and maintains the tracks.
The county maintains the trail with assistance from the local
Mountain Maryland Trail (MMT) group. The Frostburg to
Woodcock Hollow Road segment was the first rail-with-trail
segment of the GAP. Discussions over a number of years revolved
around how the GAP would be developed along the right-of-
way where the WMSRR operated. Supporters of bikes and
trains got together and, working with the Maryland Depart­ment
of Planning, the two groups found creative ways to overcome
old obstacles and close the gap between Frostburg and Cumber-
land. Trail riders pay the full fare to ride the train ($35), plus
$5 to haul their bikes. More information:
Josh Hooper)
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy)