FROSTBURG -- A development group has announced plans to spend $1 million to renovate Frostburg's dilapidated train depot into a restaurant and retail destination point for a scenic railroad that will begin running between Cumberland and Frostburg next summer.
The Depot Street Development Corp., led by James J. Oberhaus, 35, of Frostburg, will begin renovating the 99-year-old Cumberland & Pennsylvania Railroad Station in three to four weeks.
It will include a 190-seat restaurant, lounge, an 1890s ice cream parlor and bakery.
"I bought this train station about 5 1/2 years ago because my wife wouldn't let me set up my electric trains in the house," Oberhaus said. "I always wanted to be in the restaurant business, but I did not know at that time that the scenic railroad was going to run.
"I guess the scenic railroad has been about four years coming. It's been a struggle, but it's going to happen and we are going to renovate this piece by piece."
State, county and city officials attending the news conference this month talked excitedly about the Depot Street renovation, the latest in a series of projects aimed at helping the economic climate in Western Maryland.
Other plans for the site include a coal mining museum, shops, a bed and breakfast establishment, a turntable for the steam-powered locomotive, a trolley to Frostburg's Main Street and possibly a bar and grill for Frostburg State University students in a 550-foot tunnel that runs under the city.
Besides The Old Depot of Frostburg restaurant, Oberhaus said the depot and the Allegany Central Railroad also would offer special dinner charter trips, parties, murder-mystery train excursions and a Santa Claus express this winter.
"When you consider the value of the train, the track right-of-way and what I'm doing, we're talking about $3.5 to $4 million," he said, adding that about 60 service-type jobs would be created by the project.
"Within a 100-miles radius of here, there are 7 million people," Oberhaus said.
"If you include the Baltimore and Washington areas, it's 10 million people. And with that 10 million people is $114 billion in personal income. All we're after is a little slice."
The development corporation, formed in August, comprises five decendants of the Jenkins family, which has been involved in the area's coal mining industry since the early 1900s.
The family has business interests in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, California and Nevada, said Oberhaus, who is chairman of the Maryland Coal Association.
"We really believe we are on the verge of something big," Oberhaus said, referring to efforts to increase tourism in Allegany and Garrett counties. "From Rocky Gap State Park all the way to Deep Creek Lake -- we want to be in on the beginning of that."
The Allegany County Board of Commissioners reconvened its Friday meeting at the news conference to approve a $400,000 purchase of the Thrasher Museum, a collection of 57 antique carriages and sleighs, accessories and 13 antique cars, which might be relocated near the depot.
In addition, the commissioners approved a $235,000 contribution to the scenic railroad project.
Commission President Arthur T. Bond also announced that the county would lend $70,000 to the cities of Cumberland and Frostburg for the Depot Street project, which will be paid back to the county through hotel and motel taxes.