Posts Tagged ‘John Garner’

C&O Restoration Could Run WMSR Out of Business

August 11, 2017

The head of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad is warning that the cost of restoring Chesapeake & Ohio No. 1309 might drive the railroad out of business.

“I’m a realist,” said General Manager John Garner. “At some point in time, we are going to run out of money. We’re looking to be able to finish the locomotive, but there’s that chance we’re going to be hung up on something else.”

That could be an unexpected and expensive repair such as the one that workers discovered last month. Corrosion on the axle boxes of the 2-6-6-2 Baldwin will mean that the axles will have to be sent to a contractor to be machined at a cost of $200,000.

That work is also expected to delay by two or three months the date when the locomotive can be steamed up and sent on a test run.

To bolster its cash flow, the WMSR has revived the WMSR Foundation to collect donations.

The foundation had been dormant for two years and links on its website for donations did not work.

“At some point in time we’re going to have to get the word out that our systems are up and functioning, and our foundation is respectable now,” Garner said. “I’ve been telling my friends, if you really love and want to support the Western Maryland, the best thing you can do is to buy a ticket.”

He was referring in part to a planned shop tour on Aug. 12. Tickets are available for $40.49 and can be purchased from the railroad’s website.

WMSR Head Expresses Regret about Taking on 1309 Restoration

August 3, 2017

The head of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad said steam may return to that line by the end of September, provided that a number of things fall into place.

Speaking during a radio program, John Garner said the cost of restoring ex-Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 has skyrocketed to $1.8 million and if he had been head of the WMSR in 2014 when the the locomotive was acquired he would never have agreed to acquire the engine from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum.

Instead, Garner said he would have favored putting money and effort into rebuilding former Lake Superior & Ishpeming 2-8-0 No. 734, which ran on the WMSR until April 2016 when it was removed from service for its federally required 1,472-day inspection. Restoration of the 734 will cost $1.2 million.

“1309 is a magnificent locomotive; however, I think it is way too much of a locomotive for us. I think I would have restored 734. It’s much more appropriate for us,” Garner said.

“The 1309 project has been a huge project that’s eating us out of house and home,” Garner told Trains magazine. “However unfortunate it may be, that’s the gospel truth.”

Nonetheless, Garner said the WMSR is going to see the 1309 project through.

During his radio interview, Garner said that boiler work has been completed and a hydrostatic test will be performed in the next two or three weeks.

Garner said restoration work was delayed after contractors found corrosion pits on the locomotive’s axles, meaning they will need to be turned on a lathe. Wheel boxes and crank pins will have to be rebuilt as well.

The WMSR is also rebuilding its passenger car fleet to make it compliant with Federal Railroad Administration regulations.

A $250,000 grant from the State of Maryland is helping pay for that work. Thus far six cars have been rebuilt.

“WMSR does not have the funds to do heavy rebuilds on passenger cars,” Garner said during the radio interview. “The days of 14-car trains, 1,000 passengers a train, those days are over for now. We know we can do better, and as time and money permit, we’ll acquire additional equipment and bring more riders to Allegany County.”

Ridership on the WMSR this year has been up by 42 percent from 2016, but is below the 2015 ridership numbers.

“We’re hanging in there, but with the additional costs of restoring the locomotive, insurance costs, and maintenance on equipment we have done a boatload of right-of-way maintenance,” he said.

Restoration Resumes on C&O 1309

May 11, 2017

Restoration work has resumed on returning former Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 to operating condition, Trains magazine reported this week.

The work was paused for two months while the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad worked with state officials to obtain funding.

The WMSR was authorized to receive a $400,000 matching grant from the state, but WMSR General Manager John Garner told Trains that raising $400,000 for a single project, while also trying to run the railroad has made it difficult for officials to maintain a steady cash flow.

Garner said contractors will need eight weeks to complete their work before the 1309 is ready to take the rails.

The remaining work includes preparations for a hydrostatic test for the boiler followed by reassembly work if the test shows the locomotive will safely hold steam and water under pressure.

Railroad officials have not yet said when they expect the 1309, which was built in 1949, to be ready for its maiden trip.

WMSR Returns to Frostburg on May 6

March 10, 2017

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad said its first trip to Fostburg, Maryland, in nine months will run on May 6.

The railroad’s general manager, John Garner, said a retaining wall has been built at the sites where landslides last year severed the route.

Garner said railroad personnel will spend the next nine weeks inspecting the track that has been out of service. They will clear brush and make any needed repairs to the track.

With trains unable to operate to Frostburg in 2016, ridership fell by about 10,000.

Another factor in the decline of patronage was that Western Maryland Scenic 2-8-0 No. 734 was removed from service last April for a 1,472-day inspection.

C&O 1309 Restoration Reported as Going Well

June 14, 2016

Although they haven’t said when it will operate, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad officials said that restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 is progressing well.

Western Maryland ScenicWestern Maryland Scenic Railroad Superintendent John Garner told Trains magazine that significant progress occurred with the purchase of stay bolts – which hold a boiler in place – and other needed supplies.

The WMS has received a $400,000 grant from the state of Maryland to be used in the restoration work and has launched a GoFundMe page seeking approximately $260,000 in additional money to restore the 1309 to operating condition.

This includes paying employees and experts to finish the restoration work.

WMSR Names Garner New Superintendent

February 20, 2016

John C. Garner has been named the new superintendent of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and immediately stated a commitment to seeing through the restoration of Chesapeake & Ohio H-6 2-6-6-2 steam locomotive No. 1309.

Western Maryland ScenicGarner replaced Michael Gresham, who resigned on Feb. 17.

In a news release, Garner said that the WMSR hopes to offer new special venues this year and expand planning opportunities for its 2016 season.

The latter will involve trying to increase the number of passengers. “There are about 10 million people living within 2.5 hours driving of Cumberland,” Garner said. “WMSR attracts only a small fraction of that number a year in riders.”

Garner has 28 years of railroad experience. He worked as a Norfolk Southern conductor and at multiple short line railroads.