Firebreather #13668

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The Story

Here is Western Maryland # 734 in side view. It’s an old steam engine sitting at the downtown train station in Cumberland Maryland, waiting to go as the passengers board for another tourist run up the mountain. This firebreather is pushing thick black smoke into a blue summer sky filled with white clouds similar to its own dark one.

She’s not really a polished prize sitting here in her slightly gritty glory. But, she is special in her own right being over a century old and still at work earning revenue in the tourist trade. As railroading changed, nearly all of her steam engine sisters were melted down years ago.

This steam locomotive at rest is making a slow occasional chuff as the thick smoke pours out steadily. There is a constant fizzy hiss from some of the steam fittings. It’s all about the heat with a coal-burning firebreather and that brings the smoke and the sound of sizzle with it. Every so often, the air compressors on the other side start up with their slow-banging knock, keeping the train’s braking air topped off.

Western Maryland #734 was built in 1916 for a different railroad and a different purpose; it originally hauled iron ore in the midwest. It was brought to Cumberland Maryland in 1991 and extensively rebuilt before going into service in a new career. Today, Western Maryland #734 is on temporary hiatus until passing the mandated FRA boiler inspection and testing.

Other Views And A Dash Of History

The Crossing #12980 is a dramatic winter view of this steam engine and a train coming across the Potomac River into the station. Dawn Departure #13369 shows the locomotive at the station’s passenger platform in the pre-dawn light. It’s in the same position as the daylight picture in this article.

In the background are some painted wall murals, part of the revitalization of downtown Cumberland. Once a major railroad center, the murals show both the canal and railroad eras that strongly affected this town through its history. In fact, CSX still maintains a large railroad yard here not far away from this scene.

Further, the restored former Western Maryland train station is part of that historical effort. Clearly worth saving, it was built in 1913 in the Queen Anne Victorian style.

Location: downtown Cumberland, Allegany County, Maryland.

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