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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

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Hobbit river
Yesterday, Bobby and I drove the slightly over two hours out west to Cumberland to take a trip on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. We've been wanting to do this for a few years now, but it's just far enough away that it requires setting aside a full day more or less, which we very often don't have for setting aside. Cumberland is a small city nestled in the mountains of Allegany County, our next-to-westernmost county in Maryland. We pass by Cumberland all the time on our way out to Deep Creek Lake. From the highway, it looks like a scene from a model railroad with all the old-timey buildings, high church spires, and crisscrossed of course by railroad tracks.

The WMSR takes a 14 mile/22.5 km journey west from Cumberland to Frostburg, making a 1300 ft/400 m climb into the mountains to do so. The train is pulled by an old steam locomotive ("assisted," as they kindly put it, by a less-old diesel engine).

The trip out west was blissfully uneventful, with no traffic. It was a clear, cold day, 38F/3C with a thin, nearly cloudless blue sky. I am definitely hardened after last year's winter. As we drove out, I watched the thermometer in the car and caught myself thinking, "What a nice day we have! It is sunny and not that cold." Not that cold!! It is 38F in mid-November! Whatever. At least it meant that I wasn't miserable.

We arrived at the train depot at around 11 and picked up our tickets with plenty of time for milling around on the platform and taking photos before we departed at 11:30.

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The steam locomotive was built in 1916, so it is almost 100 years old. It used to haul freight in Michigan before it was retired to sit in a train museum. The WMSR purchased it and brought it out of retirement, and it now hauls sightseers up and down the mountainside.

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I am always amazed by the copious amounts of steam produced by the engine as it waits at the station. The photos don't do it justice!

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The ride out was lovely, although we'd chosen seats on the wrong side of the train because our side was against the mountain while the other side looked down the slope. Ah well. We made up for it on the way back, as you will see! The train went over an old rusty bridge, through a tunnel, around a horseshoe curve, and past many gorgeous mountain vistas. Our car attendant called our attention to an open area at the back of our car that used to be used to hold mail. Since we were on the inferior side of the train, I suggested to Bobby that, on the way back, we stand in the open area and take photographs then; the assent up the mountain could be used for scoping out what we wanted to photograph. He of course agreed.

The car attendant kept making a big deal out of the 88-step climb from the depot into Frostburg, but even on an injured ham, it was easy-peasey. This was my first day of significant walking since I hurt myself. I was fine. It felt good to be moving; I am at the point where most of my pain is now from being too sedentary! I have been given permission from The Husband Figure to go back to walking at Charlotte's Quest and gently riding the stationary bike at the gym and/or walking on the treadmill.

Frostburg is a cute little mountain town. It is also the home of the Maryland university that--at least when I was of an age where such things were of great importance--is known for being Maryland's biggest party school. Well, what else does one do when snowed into the mountains all winter? Allegany and Garrett Counties are mostly forest. We had lunch at a coffee shop cum cafe that Bobby had found online: a cup of homemade potato leek soup for both of us, a black bean burger for Bobby, and a Mediterranean flatbread for me. We polished it off with a scoop each of ice cream from our favorite ice cream shop out in Deep Creek Lake: chocolate butter fudge for me and Andes mint chocolate chip for Bobby.

We had kind of hurried to get up the hill to the restaurant, and I'm glad we did, as while we were eating, the cafe really started to fill up with other people from the train. That let us have a more leisurely walk back down, and we arrived in time to see the steam engine being turned around on the turnstile.

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It would push us back down the hill while the "assistant" diesel locomotive pulled from the front.

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On the ride back, as soon as we were allowed to get up and move around, Bobby and I headed back to the open area. It had big open windows on both sides, so it was cold, loud, and smelly, and you could reach out the window and touch the side of the mountain. We loved it! We stayed out for the full ride back. We both had slightly numb fingers, and I had a touch of windburn in my cheeks, but Bobby got some great photos. People kept coming out, staying for a few minutes, and going back in because of the cold, but we stuck it out for the full hour.

Here is the diesel "assistant" pulling us back down the mountain to Cumberland.

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The town of Mount Savage. I love the church in the middle of the town that looks like a castle.

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More scenery.

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If you looked closely in the "more scenery" picture above, you might have noticed something near the top of the mountain that looked suspiciously like ... the White House?

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Yes, a local doctor built a scale replica of the White House on the mountain.

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At the horseshoe curve, the steam locomotive pushing the train from behind.

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The old rusty bridge. I told Bobby that this was my favorite photo in the series and would have been perfect if not for the guy's elbow in it. Bah.

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Almost back in Cumberland, these cliffs are named Lover's Leap. There is, of course, a tragic legend associated with it.

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Most of the trees have lost their leaves by now, but this patch on the mountainside just outside Cumberland was still colorful.

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And back in Cumberland.

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We had a really great day followed by an uneventful drive back east. It was rather funny because we assumed, since we still had snow on the ground when we left that morning, that we'd see snow out in Western Maryland. In Frostburg--it's called Frostburg, for pity's sake!--there was a light dusting clinging here and there to some low-lying plants but that was it. So we came home to more snow in our yard than we'd seen combined on the whole trip out west.

Even though we'd only had lunch a few hours earlier, we were both starving by the time we were home, so we stopped long enough to let the Goldens out and then went back out for sushi. (Seafood sushi being a first for me! A first I am eager to repeat!) We came home and rented Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which we have wanted to see since seeing A Most Wanted Man (Phillip Seymour Hoffman's last movie), both of which were based on books by the same author. I didn't like TTSS as much, since it wasn't as character-focused, but I also kept falling asleep halfway through and couldn't keep up with the complicated plot. However, note that I managed to wake up to drink Scotch and watch the Bill Maher HBO special with Bobby after TTSS. After such a day, we were in bed before 11:30, but what an awesome day it was!

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • I love those pics! I spent a week with an aunt of mine when I was a teenager in Cumberland! It's beautiful countryside.

    You look terrific in your red jacket, long skirt, and little hat!

    I adored the book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy--it was my favorite ever spy book (a genre I had a passion for in the 1980s and John Le Carre in particular)--and I could not wait to see the movie. But it took me three attempts to get through it. I fell asleep also and I liked it. But it was just slow and complicated and with actors I love as well and I always decided I was too tired when I tried to watch it. I never thought I would ever find a movie too slow for me (or a book for that matter!). I like slow and detailed as a general rule.

    Edited at 2014-11-17 02:24 am (UTC)
    • Thank you! The little hat was obtained in one of the Atlantic City Boardwalk junk shops for about three bucks. We were putting funky-looking hats on my dad, and my parents decided it looked good on me. It's finally cold enough to wear it!

      I'll have to check out the book. I loved A Most Wanted Man (the movie; haven't read the book), and the whole spy-suspense-action genre is so not my usual cup of tea. But I wanted to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman's last movie, and it was being reviewed well, and I'm glad I saw it because I loved it. TTSS seemed to suffer from too many characters--almost all middle-aged to older British white guys--that were hard to keep straight. And I was tired, so it probably wasn't the best movie to watch when tired and unable to make the copious mental notes I need to follow anything with a complex plot. I probably need to rewatch it. It has good reviews on every site I've looked at.
      • It really helped to have read the book and the guy Smiley is a big character in a trilogy which starts with TTSS and includes The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People. All three of them wonderful books in their own right. I think I want to re-read them! I think John Le Carre is by far the best of the spy novelists and one of those who transcends genre absolutely. One does not have to like spy novels to love John Le Carre.

        They also had a lot of context for me at the time, because I was doing some research which involved a few trips to the Latin American section of the famous Cold War era collection at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives at Stanford University. The old ladies working as librarians of the collection there reminded me very much of some of Smiley's semi-retired British spies working in the archives. It was like they had come in from the cold and went to work at the Hoover Institution.
  • Ooh that looks like fun, nice pics! (And is it just me, or are those wind turbines frickin' huge?)
    • Not just you. I've seen the blades go by on the highway; each one requires its own flat-bed semitruck.
    • They're frickin' huge. When we go to Deep Creek Lake, a row of them runs along Backbone Mountain, and we drive under them going into West Virginia.

      The perspective is a little weird, but the blades clear the power tower and trees by a good bit!
      • Eee! I have this thing about wind turbines, but I've rarely gotten to see them in person, and then usually from the airplane where they look like clever little model wind turbines. That's awesome.
  • Gorgeous photos! What a fun day :)

    Now would normally be the time I start saying things like, "Mountains? What mountains?" Because those of us in the Pacific NW are somewhat arrogant about our mountains. ;)

    But I won't do that because I loves you.
    • Now now. Our mountains are the oldest in the world, were once more akin to the Rockies, and have more than earned their repose. When your mountains reach 480 million years, we'll see how they look. ;)
    • The power of erosion over time = awesome.
      (Your mountains are also the Pelori in my version of the Tolkienverse, because I disregard the awesome power of Eru and the Valar and presuppose that natural geological processes were always functioning as they currently do per geological principle of uniformitarianism >=D )
    • Good point.

      Ours are dormant volcanoes. *Grins*
  • Great photos! Looks like you had a fantastic day out.

    I'm quite a train fan myself. I live next to rural railway line that's very quiet, but most weekends a steam train choofs by on its way out to an even small country town than the one I live in. It always makes me smile when I hear it go past. :)
    • Thank you! And yes we did. :)

      We have a lot of rail lines in our area (none as close as yours!) but we can hear them, especially in the winter, when we hear not only the whistles but the clatter of the wheels on the track. What is it about that sound that is at once lonesome and comforting? :)
  • That looks like a great trip! I'll have to make note of it. You were lucky with the weather - it was grey and dreary down here in the lowlands of Frederick all day. Hard to believe you took those pictures not all that far away!
    • That's incredible! It was sunny with nary a cloud in the sky for the whole of the trip out 70 West.

      I definitely recommend the railroad, though! I think it will be even lovelier in the spring/summer (or the autumn if you catch the leaves at the right time).
  • That sounds like a wonderful trip! The views.

    I love your outfit.
    • Thank you! :D

      Bobby and I both agree that living in sight of the mountains ain't a bad sight to see every day!
  • Such views, it must have looked gorgeous at the start of fall season.

    I am so glad to read that you're doing much much better :D
    • I agree that catching it at the peak of the fall leaf-change would be ideal! We only missed that by a few weeks. Better luck next year!

      I am much better. Most of issues now come from what I suspect is a mild case of sciatica caused by having to sit on my butt so much because of my injury. But I'm keeping it iced and lightly exercised and see improvement every day.
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