SNOW HILL — The County Commission agreed this week to finance a feasibility study that could lead to a Strasburg Railroad franchise coming to the shore. The railroad would feature excursion train trips between Berlin, Newark and Snow Hill.
A train tying together three parts of the county appealed to the commissioners who saw the potential for long-term tourism revenue far exceeding any start-up costs that would fall to Worcester.
“It would definitely be a feather in our cap to pull these guys in here,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley. “This, to me, is one of those studies where we have to put in a little bit of money and hopefully get a lot and a lot of people. I’m all for this.”
The first phase of the study would cost between $12,000 and $20,000. County Economic Development Director Bill Badger believes Strasburg would become a funding partner for the second phase after seeing that Worcester was committed. The Maryland Delaware Railroad (MDR) is also onboard with the idea and actually was the one that approached Badger about the excursion train back in March.
It seems to be a win-win for everyone if Worcester can secure a partnership with Strasburg, Badger continued.
“It is my opinion that this would be a great opportunity for the county to explore,” he said. “Strasburg Railroad is known for its family oriented attractions, including train replicas of Thomas the Tank train and The Polar Express. Several train cars serve food and alcohol for passengers.”
This wouldn’t be the first time a steam whistle has blown between Berlin and Snow Hill. Badger noted that there was a “train car attraction” in Worcester during the 1990s.
“Vintage train cars traveled between Berlin and Snow Hill for several years before liability concerns overshadowed the operation,” he said.
The partnership with Strasburg looks to stand more solid owing to the agency’s strong reputation. But the county isn’t ready to jump into anything, and Badger believes the feasibility study he proposed should be able to determine if there are any issues that could derail the project.
The commission unanimously approved the study and waived the formal bidding process, allowing the county to issue a request for proposal (RFP) to qualified consultants.
Commissioner Judy Boggs is excited for the potential of a Strasburg Railroad in Worcester. She has fond memories of the old system and hopes that by connecting the county with a train excursion Snow Hill will start to receive some of the attention that other parts of the county enjoy.
“I’ve never felt that Snow Hill, as our county seat, has gotten just recognition for what it is and I think this will help to do that,” she said.