BERLIN – Local officials are expected to find out more about the potential for an excursion railroad in Worcester County with the results of a feasibility study later this month.
On June 16, representatives from Stone Consulting are expected to meet with the Worcester County Commissioners to share information on the costs and infrastructure changes that would be associated with setting up a tourist train on the local rail line.
“They’re going to quantify that,” said Bill Badger, economic development director for Worcester County.
Local officials have been investigating the possibility of bringing an excursion train to the area since early 2014. The Worcester County Commissioners hired Stone Consulting to explore the concept and in November, the company issued a report detailing the interest in and marketability of the concept. While there was interest in a special event excursion train, the consultant said the condition of the track being used by the Maryland and Delaware Railroad Co. freight trains would need to be addressed.
Badger says this latest study from Stone Consulting will identify the costs associated with infrastructure repairs and explore any other issues that would need to be addressed before a private company could set up an excursion train in the area.
“The easy part’s done,” he said. “Now we have to determine what costs are associated with getting the freight line transitioned into a passenger line.”
Last fall, Stone Consulting’s Randy Gustafson said primary issues were poor track condition and the lack of sufficient passing sidings.
“It needs help,” he said of the railroad at the time. “It needs additional ties. It’s not necessarily a lost cause.”
Gustafson told the commissioners at that time that an excursion railroad in Worcester County could attract close to 77,000 riders a year. He said that because the beach attracted most tourists’ interest during the summer, an excursion railroad operating in the fall and winter would be the most viable option. Special event trains, such as those offering rides with Santa, had proven popular in other areas, he told them.
Badger says that following this month’s report from Stone Consulting, the interested parties will meet with the railroad to identify potential funding sources for the needed repairs and discuss the feasibility of moving forward with the idea of an excursion train.
The studies that have taken place thus far have been funded through contributions from Worcester County, the Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company and the towns of Snow Hill and Berlin.