Dawn Departure #13669

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The Story

In the very early dawn just as the new day is just about to break open, this old steam engine stands ready to go at the station platform raising a tall plume of curly smoke. Thick black smoke and white steam from the pressure release valve combine against a blue sky sunrise. The kettle is hot and ready with a day’s work ahead.

While the unblinking yellow headlight beam pours its wattage straight down the track, the face of the locomotive is lit by a streetlight directly behind me. While the magneto whirred, the engine let go a slow and deep chuff, not in any hurry at all. Soon this train will leave sunrise behind at Cumberland Maryland and begin its upward climb into a mountain morning.

#734 is part of the small steam engine roster on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. During the operating season, it hauls a tourist train sixteen miles up the mountain to Frostburg and back. It goes mighty slow but the scenery is mighty good up the curvy track through the woods. Through the years of common carrier heavy freight service gone by, the same line saw many long trains of coal and freight headed by much larger steam locomotives, sometimes two at a time to make the steep grade with heavy trains.

Location: at the old railroad station in Cumberland, Allegany County, Maryland.

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