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Autumn excursion train may leave for last time

October 15, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

Some 800 riders will spend Saturday traveling by train to Oakland, Md., for the Autumn Glory Festival, on a trip sponsored by the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum and the Hagerstown chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

This may be the last year for the Autumn Leaves Excursion to Oakland, according to museum President Bob Tracey.

The trip is offered as an annual fund-raiser for the museum and draws passengers from as far as Boston, Chicago and the province of Saskatchewan in Canada, Tracey said. This year, the trip is sold out.

The train follows routes usually reserved for freight use.

"The rail fans love it because they can ride the Western Maryland Railway," Tracey said.

Passenger service on the railway was eliminated in 1957. The line's owner, CSX Transportation, makes exceptions for the event, Tracey said.

But one of the routes, which runs from Cumberland, Md., through Oakland to Grafton, W.Va., is for sale and the group may not be able to use it again, he said.

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The trip begins at 7:15 a.m. in Hagerstown, where passengers will board a MARC train at the museum on South Burhans Boulevard. The train will arrive in Oakland at lunchtime.

Passengers will spend four hours in Oakland before boarding the train for the return trip to Hagerstown.

The museum likely will make $15,000 to $20,000 on the event, Tracey said. Passengers pay $90 per ticket, and the sponsors spend about $40,000 on insurance and other fees to run the trip, he said.

If a trip to Oakland can't be arranged next year, there may be a trip to another destination, Tracey said. He added that organizers are considering a trip to Romney, W.Va.

The group's next event will be the annual "Trains of Christmas" exhibit, which opens at the museum Nov. 26 and runs through February.

The Christmas exhibit has become one of the museum's most lucrative ventures, Tracey said.

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