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Train study gives railroad nod to choo-choo ahead

WORCESTER COUNTY – The Worcester County Commissioners approved a feasibility study Tuesday for an excursion train from Berlin to Newark and Snow Hill.
It had been announced last week that the contract with a consultant would be signed July 16, but that turned out to be premature because an affirmative vote was needed from the commissioners, who were enthusiastic about the possibility of the new attraction.
“I’ve had more calls about this than anything we’ve done for a long time,” Commissioner Judy Boggs said during Tuesday’s meeting.
“If we can make this thing fly, I think it’ll be a huge success,” said Bud Church, president of the county commissioners.
Strasburg Railroad is known for its family-oriented attraction and it has replica of Thomas the Tank train and The Polar Express. Passengers may be served food and alcohol aboard several train cars.
Eric Callaway, president of the Maryland Delaware Railroad, who broached the subject several months ago, was at the meeting to lend his support for having the Strasburg Railroad come to Worcester County.
“This is a path we have to go down,” Economic Development Director Bill Badger told the commissioners about the need for a feasibility study and the request for proposals that he had sent out “far and wide.”
The chosen consultant, Stone Consulting of Warren, Pa., gave a price of $18,040, which Badger said was “excellent.”
The towns of Berlin and Snow Hill will each contribute $5,000 and the Maryland Delaware Railroad will also contribute $5,000. The Worcester County Economic Development Department will contribute $5,939. The funds include $2,899 for additional on-site visits that might be needed for this first phase of the feasibility study.
If the first phase of the feasibility study is promising, Strasburg Railroad would be a financial partner in the second phase.
The feasibility study will determine if a market exists for the excursion railroad, how many people might use it, would it be worth deploying capital and what kind of business revenue might be available, Badger told the council.
During the 1990s, Worcester County had a train car attraction, which was very popular. Vintage train cars traveled between Berlin and Snow Hill occasionally for several years until they stopped because of liability concerns.