Scenic railroad group to present plans to MDOT
The train cars are always packed each time the train offers rides from Hurlock to Federalsburg. The Banner/Susan Bautz

HURLOCK — At a Sept. 18 meeting at the Hurlock train station, the North Dorchester Scenic Railroad Group planned its upcoming presentation on Nov. 5 to Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) representatives, legislators, and the public.

Planners included group President David Owens, Vice President Ellery Adams, Dorchester school board member Phil Bramble, Hurlock Mayor Joyce Spratt, Town Clerk/Treasurer John Avery, and County Councilman Rick Price.

The goal of the volunteer group of scenic train enthusiasts has not changed in the past eight years: Develop a scenic railroad on 6.1 miles of MDOT-owned track between Hurlock and Preston. That goal cannot be accomplished unless MDOT agrees to give ownership to Hurlock which will in turn work with the railroad group to refurbish the track and complete the project.

Stone Consulting, railroad feasibility studies specialists, offered an encouraging feasibility study two years ago. The study recognized the already developed tourism opportunities in the two counties, the heavy U.S. 50 traffic, and potential for increased economic development. The study was paid for via grants and donations from the MD Department of Business and Economic Development, Hurlock, Preston, and Dorchester County.

In March 2012, negotiations with the State Department Of Transportation over control of the track looked very promising, according to David Owens and Ellery Adams. Local interest has been high, including offers by local contractors, engineers, and expert scenic railroad operators to aid in the effort.

In December 2012, a deal appeared imminent when MDOT promised Hurlock an affirmative response the following month. But at the Aug. 6 County Council meeting Mayor Spratt noted, the project needs “some push.

“It seems like we’ve hit a wall. I can’t understand why they would not want to give it to us,” she said at the meeting. “It reverts back to the state if the project isn’t successful.”

The track has not been used for 10 years and nine months. Instead, it seems to wait for the chance to prove its worth as a vibrant, working railroad offering hundreds of train-loving visitors the only scenic trip on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.