MEYERSDALE -- More than a century ago, the Western Maryland Railway made a promise to the residents of this southern Somerset County town:
If Meyersdale would give the Western Maryland the right of way through town, the railway would build the biggest station between Connellsville and Cumberland, Md.
Local officials granted the railway's request in 1911 and the Western Maryland completed the station on March 12, 1912. It is 36 feet wide, 99 feet long (3,564 square feet) and cost $10,000. The railway picked up its first Meyersdale passengers on Sept. 30, 1912.
But the Western Maryland was locked in a no-win competition with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad from day one.
In his book, "The Great Allegheny Passage Companion -- A Guide to History and Heritage Along the Trail," author and photographer Bill Metzger of Confluence, who works for Trains magazine, wrote:
"[T]he Western Maryland always had less traffic than the B&O and it only ran from Baltimore to Connellsville. It was competing with a railroad that had tracks to not only Baltimore, but Philadelphia, Washington, Buffalo, Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati. And that, in the end, was what killed it."
The Meyersdale station closed in the 1970s. The railway was then sold to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, now CSX Transportation. The station was a disaster headed for demolition in 1990 when several community members, including Mary Neimiller and the late Alice Saylor, urged Somerset County Commissioners Dave Mankamyer, Bob Will and Brad Cober to buy it.
After the commissioners did so, the Meyersdale Area Historical Society stepped in to restore it.
A new slate roof was the first order of business. That was followed by replacing, repairing and renovating "just about everything inside and out that you could possibly imagine," said Neimiller, a former society president.
From 11 a.m.-2 p.m. next Saturday, the society will celebrate the station's 100th anniversary and its current status as one of the best-equipped visitors centers along the Great Allegheny Passage. There will be free food and entertainment.
Neimiller, a member of the Somerset County Rails-to-Trails Association and a retired nurse, said visitors enjoy a former waiting room that contains the wooden framework of a barn with Metzger's photographs of cyclists on the passage and agricultural life in the Upper Casselman Valley.
"The photographs are designed to give visitors a real feel for the area and an uncontrollable urge to return," Metzger said with a smile.
The station also includes a gift shop, railroad artifacts and memorabilia, interpretive displays, restrooms and small, medium and large model railroad layouts.
The station is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on weekends and holidays from May through the last weekend in October. Admission is free, but donations for utilities and maintenance are welcome.
The blue caboose next to the station, which is open during regular visiting hours, was built in 1969 for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. The station has two adjacent parking lots.
Information: http://www.meyersdalehistoricalsociety.com; 1-814-634-8654
Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.