steam locomotive WMSR expected on the tracks by mid-December | Local News

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Popular Polar Express excursions and an increase in family-themed rides are among the activities Wes Heinz, the new executive director of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, has planned for the tourist attraction.

Heinz was officially named manager on August 23 after completing a 60-day probationary period.

Of the. Railroad board chairman Mike McKay said in a press release that Heinz had “refocused the vision” for the railroad and was on track to “make WMSR the pride of the region.”

“Our responsibility is to provide assistance to the whole community, to develop restaurants, retail and hospitality,” Heinz said Wednesday. “We are a tourist attraction and that is why we are here. We want to make sure the railroad maintains the strategy on how the railroad gives back to the community versus how the community gives back to the railroad.

With tickets on sale now, Heinz will maintain successful excursions like the Polar Express, which begins November 26. “We haven’t marketed (Polar Express rides) on a large scale yet and have already sold 30% of our tickets,” he said.

Heinz also expects the massive Baldwin steam locomotive No. 1309 to be in service for Polar Express runs in mid-December, if not sooner. The steam engine, purchased in 2014, has undergone a long restoration process.

“Between today and Polar Express (trips begin Dec. 17), No. 1309 will arrive on the line. We push it as hard as we can,” he said.

WMSR began offering daily rides on Thursday. Hands of the Throttle, Murder Mystery train, Mountain City Express and Frostburg Flyer excursions return to rotation.

However, Heinz is adding new family-oriented excursions. It added the popular Ice Cream Train and will launch the Pumpkin Patch Limited excursion in the fall.

“We have big elements in our strategy that are aimed at adults, we have the Murder Mystery dinner train…we’ve done Whiskey Trains in the past. We have focused a lot on adults, but I want to make sure that we also focus on a new direction, mainly families and children,” he said.

“The Pumpkin Patch will include a stop at Helmstetter’s Curve. We will have tables set and pumpkins for the children to decorate and each child will go home with a pumpkin. These types of rides will sell out very quickly. It’s a way for mom, dad and grandparents to get the kids out.

Heinz said he was optimistic about the future of the scenic railroad.

“I think the growth model will continue as long as we maintain an aggressive operating cadence,” Heinz said. “But it’s not all about me. The staff here are wonderful. The men and women who work here to get things done deserve immense credit. People have come here from all over to make Cumberland their home. They work to make the railroad a great experience and we couldn’t do it without them.

For more information on the scenic railway, including ticket availability, visit wmsr.com.

Jose P. Rogers