Cumberland Times-News


January 20, 2014

Train car’s return brings back memories

Dear “Buck”:

You cannot imagine the excitement I had reading the Jan. 18 Times-News and the article by Greg Larry, about the “Historic rail car returns to area, will be restored.” (Page 1A).

My father, Clifford P. Flanagan, worked at the Western Maryland Railway as a machinist helper and back in the 40’s, he was picked up daily in Knob Mount (WM shops,) now Carpenter’s Addition), by the passenger train from Elkins, W.Va., to Cumberland.

His job was to inspect the locomotive, lubricating it and other areas. It was Dec. 8, 1941, never to be forgotten. I ran up to the WM crossing in Ridgeley, where they exchanged the mail bags and told my father the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor on Sunday, Dec. 7, a date that will live in infamy, said President Roosevelt.

We lived right beside the tracks on Main Street, where Victor Tambello and his father Nick would visit frequently, as Nick and my dad worked together at the WM.

Victor’s body is entombed in the hull of the USS Arizona, a national memorial at Pearl Harbor.

I still get excited when I see or hear No. 734 giving its notice of a rumbling giant as they seemed to me, growing up in Ridgeley, beside the tracks.

I am sensitive to the present folks in Ridgeley, near the “tracks”, with still enduring the cinders and black smoke from the giant 734.

But my family and I, especially my mother, endured the same experience, hanging clothes in the back yard, for the white clothes and sheets, to catch the cinders and soot that bellowed from all the freight activity in the yards (Ridgeley) at that time.

I was just going to write you a personal letter, thanking you for the extensive cost and effort you have rendered, bringing the 1918 Pullman railway car back to Ridgeley.

But then, I thought it should be brought to the attention of those who might have missed this historic story and the ancient history that goes with it.

I think I remember seeing it in 1943 and the gold letters “Western Maryland” painted across each side.

My excitement was always seeing the rear platform on those cars, as I remember seeing it and the WM officials riding through between here and Elkins.

It is ironic and exciting that after Carl Belt Inc., delivered this car to Swanton, after 50 years, you have returned it to its home in Ridgeley.

As the article stated, “Dan Pluto, the chief mechanical officer, and the folks at our shop do great work,” and they do, by the evidence of the continuing success of the WMSR, that bears that memorable name and logo, Western Maryland Railway”.

This project will be one I will checking on from time to time. Those visits will remind me of the many days I carried the Times-News papers from Cumberland to Ridgeley in the early morning and half of my trip was warming up in the “shack” at the site of the present WMSR repair facility.

Our community, which includes the tri-state area, is very blessed to have the benefit of your family and the Carl Belt family, of which your father founded and your mother was as popular as your dad in Cumberland.

Your many services and contributions to this area, namely to the local Boy Scouts of America, have helped it maintain the proper and historic title of “The Queen City of the Alleghenies.”

Thank you for your special contribution to the WMSR and many other projects and employment for the benefit of this area.

Jimmie D. Flanagan


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