Last revised: October 25, 2023
By: Adam Burns
Being home to the nation's first common-carrier railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio, Maryland's rail history is both rich and diverse. The B&O was chartered on February 28, 1827 and opened its initial segment in January, 1830.
The railroad was headquartered in Baltimore and is long recognized as one of the four major "trunk" lines to reach Chicago. The system also served northern West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and briefly Kansas City.
There was once nearly 1,500 miles of railroads in Maryland, about half of which is still in operation today. Currently, only a single heritage railroad, the Walkersville Southern, offers Christmas-themed train rides. More information about this event may be found below.
In addition, the Western Maryland Scenic also hosts Christmas themed rides albeit as official "The Polar Express" events. To learn more about these trips please visit this page.
An ambassador to the Western Maryland Railway's memory, WMSR operates 15.3 miles of the railroad's former Connellsville Extension main line from Cumberland to Frostburg, Maryland.
Trains depart from the beautiful two-story WM brick station in Cumberland and arrive at WM's attractive depot in Frostburg. Along the way passengers are treated to sights of the beautiful Cumberland Narrows, bucolic farmland, famous Helmstetter's Curve, and 914-foot Brush Tunnel.
The WMSR began in 1988 and the rail line itself is owned by Maryland. Trains are turned at Frostburg where the WM's old turntable from Elkins, West Virginia is utilized. The WMSR has traditionally been a steam-powered operation, led by 2-8-0 #734.
However, the Consolidation is currently down for overhaul and the railroad is working to return a massive 2-6-6-2 "Mallet" to service. The big steamer, which operated on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, should draw in significant crowds and will be well worth the admission!
Prior to only offering official "The Polar Express" trips the railroad also previously featured "Breakfast And Storytime With Mrs. Claus" for one day in November where kids could enjoy breakfast with Mrs. Claus and hear a Christmas tale. Please note! However, this event is no longer offered.
(Walkersville): This heritage railway uses a section of the old Pennsylvania Railroad's Frederick Branch, which originally extended from York, Pennsylvania (along its Baltimore-Harrisburg main line) to Frederick, Maryland via Hanover.
The line traverses beautiful farmland along the Monocacy River offering guests a peaceful train ride through open country. It remained in use through the ill-fated Penn Central era but when remnants of Hurricane Agnes hit in June, 1972 the bridge over the river was washed away.
The bankrupt PC could not afford repairs and embargoed the line south of Woodsboro. Maryland acquired the section within its borders in 1982 due to unpaid taxes and in a proactive move, part of the line north of Frederick was preserved.
As a result, train enthusiasts subsequently launched the Walkersville Southern in 1991 to host excursions south of Walkersville and the bridge was rebuilt by the state in 1996 for freight service.
Today, the public can enjoy trips over 6.2 miles from Woodsboro to Frederick. There are also a number of specials hosted throughout the year including dinner trains, steam-powered rides, and a "Railfan Special."
During the holiday season the railroad presents its Santa Trains, allowing kids to see the Big Guy and enjoy treats during the trip.