by Larry Marcinko
THANK YOU KEITH BAGGUS!! Some fine moments were experienced and shared
between members, guests, towns and trains. Keith has a knack for finding
interesting places and selflessly shares them with those of us willing
to take on new adventures. What would our club be without members like
this offering us all some experience that is worth writing home about?!
The series of moments that make up a life are mostly routine and
mundane; but the little gems that come with finding yourself in a place
that you might not otherwise be, make up the memory track that years
from now, many will look back on and smile. That the experience was
among friends with common interests only broadens that smile!
Sharing laughs and small talk at breakfast, sighting bald eagles perched
and in flight, observing the scenic beauty of the riffling Potomac river
through a rock and tree lined gorge from the perfect vantage point of
the Potomac Eagle as it clickety-clacks its way across the water at
Maybe it was the ice cream at the Queen City Creamery, the pleasant walk
through quiet Cumberland early in the morning; how about the festival
and bands at Canal Place or checking out the replica canal boat at the
western terminus of the C & O Canal. Maybe some enjoyed learning the
early history of settlers among the Indians by walking the trail across
from historic Western Maryland Depot.
The highlight for many, I'm sure, was boarding the Western Maryland and
dining in the luxurious Howard O. Hovatter 1st class dining car;
watching the shiny #734, a vintage Baldwin 2-8-0 steam up to the water
spout after stopping for photo ops approaching the station; the
comfortable scenic and winding passage that only a train can give...Helmstetter
Horseshoe Curve, Brush Tunnel, Bowe Cave, The Narrows Gorge, friendly
bicyclists keeping pace with the train along the trail that parallels
and criss-crosses the track returning to Cumberland from Frostburg.
What self respecting rail fan would possibly have missed uncoupling the
huffing steamer and its massive tender from the train, looking as good
as they did rolling out of the factory back in 1916, brilliantly painted
in the stunning stripes and historic Western Maryland red fireball
insignia? We watched as the engineer eased the huge, yet intricate
mechanical creation onto the waiting turntable. From a distance of 3
arms length, we looked on as the fireman signaled all clear and the
conductor pulled a lever removing track alignment pins and started the
motor that swung the big engine 180 degrees in less than a minute!
Immediately following the train ride, we toured Emmanuel Episcopal
Church, unearthing more of the 'Gem Moments' in the tunnels below which
were once part of the foundation of Fort Cumberland. In the days of
western advancement into Native American territory, our group got a
glimpse of how early settlers of the era protected themselves, their
arms and supplies against hostile attack and in later years how these
same tunnels were again used as part of the underground railroad.
We took home and interesting lesson from the narrated tour of the church
and it's magnificent tiffany stained glass windows crafted by the master
Louis B. Tiffany scores and scores of years ago. The windows take the
quality of the finest painting to a new level in the way that daylight
is used to give different colors and effects depending on the time of
day. They were truly remarkable! A question was raised if anyone
noticed anything unusual about the great tiffany miraculously diffusing
light high above and behind the main altar of the cavernous gothic
church. Bob Wilson noted that the great arch framing the window was
slightly off center; a constant reminder to all who view this beautiful
sight that none of us who walk this earth are perfect.
And so we left Cumberland with a lesson in humility; humility amid
perfection, and an urge to come back and visit again when we can spend
more time experiencing gems still awaiting discovery and extend those
pleasant memory tracks!