If your kid can’t get enough of the D.C. Metro, try a real railroad—forested countryside, animated conductor and quaint depot shops included. Cumberland, Maryland, in the Alleghany Mountains, is just two-and-a-half hours from downtown and bustles with charming boutiques and restaurants. But its centerpiece is a kid-friendly, history-laden railroad that’s still chugging along. Here’s how to make a leisurely family day out of a single train ride.

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All Aboard
Apple picking has nothing on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which links Cumberland with the smaller town of Frostburg. The 1916 Baldwin 2-8-0 steam engine leaves Cumberland every day at 11:30 a.m. to wind its way through the Maryland countryside, returning at 3 p.m. Little passengers will thrill at the bellowing whistle and the chance to lean out into the wind from the passageways between cars. Admire the fall leaves as you whip around Helmstetter’s Curve and traverse Woodcock Hollow. Watching the engine rotate on the turntable at Frostburg as it prepares for the return trip is worth the admission alone.

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An hour-and-a-half layover in Frostburg gives everyone a chance to stretch their legs and explore this quaint mountain town before the return trip to Cumberland. Grab lunch at Mountain City Coffee House and Creamery, which often hosts community events and concerts on its patio. And don’t miss the chance to visit Main Street Books, one of the area’s most inviting independent bookstores, thanks to its cozy atmosphere—complete with a lazy cat—and thoughtfully curated books for kids and adults.

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Once the train gets you back to Cumberland, take the chance to explore the many layers of history in this totally walkable town. Start at the Cumberland Depot, which opened in 1913 and now houses the C&O Canal Museum. The C&O Canal National Historical Park—including the dark, wet and just plain spooky—Paw Paw Tunnel, is outside its gates. Next move downtown, where you’ll find the 1911 Cumberland City Hall, the 1885 Bell Tower Building and historic Rosenbaum’s Department Store.

Cumberland Depot
13 Canal St. (Cumberland, Md)
800-872-4650
Cost: $35/adults; $28/kids 2-12, $28; free/kids under two
Online: wmsr.com

Have you visited Cumberland’s Historic Railroad? Tell us about it in the Comments section below.

—Katherine Gustafson

Photos courtesy of sidewalk flying via Flickr, Lee Cannon via Flickr, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad via Flickr