Project: WM Railway Pullman Business Car No. 204


WMRy Business Car No. 204 update

Western Maryland Business Car No. 204 update!  We are Moving Full Steam Ahead.  This has been taken from our midterm grant report for the Maryland Historical Trust.    

Western Maryland Railway Business Car No. 204 - Project Progress
WMSR has conducted several detailed and comprehensive assessments of the car and has revised its conservation and restoration planning based on the results of those investigations. We have found the carbody to be in considerably worse condition than initially believed. This was a relatively early all-steel car, and the Pullman Company clearly had not yet perfected reliable construction techniques.

Almost all of the newly-discovered corrosion and deterioration was hidden, and involves structural elements of the carbody. For example, removal of the sheet steel covering the mechanical connections between the car's end posts, so-called "collision posts," and floor frame/center sill revealed extensive corrosion and loss of structural integrity.
While most of the steel sheet and plate car sides seem to be in relatively sound condition, removal of interior wood panels revealed that the internal steel framing had deteriorated to the point that the car side structure was seriously compromised.  

Initial removal of existing roof sheets revealed greater-than-anticipated deterioration of the car's carlines, purlines, and other internal elements. Even though most of the roof remained tight and waterproof, there seems to be accelerated corrosion at specific locations.

Taken together, we believe that at least some of the unanticipated corrosion was the result of stray electric currents and electrochemical reactions. Early steel railroad passenger cars essentially used the entire carbody as the ground for the car's 32 VDC electrical system (which was presumed to find ground through the wheels, rails, and ultimately, earth contact). The localized and distributed corrosion is consistent with general galvanic corrosion accelerated by the presence of persistent leaked DC current. Later, the Pullman Company took various steps to more thoroughly ground its cars and manage stray currents. Car 204 does not display the patterns of corrosion typical of later Pullman carbon steel "standard" cars, suggesting that it was still on the learning curve between the "wood car era" (until about 1909) and the standard steel car era (beginning about 1920).

In any case, WMSR has a more informed sense of the scope of carbody repairs required. All of the work is basic carbon steel forming and fabrication, using Huck bolts and structural steel bolts instead of rivets (the equivalent of rivets) and weld splices where needed.
The nature of this work is highly specialized and in many ways railroad specific. WMSR considered several contractors and several approaches, and concluded that it would be most efficient to engage a contractor with experience with cars of this general type and the appropriate lead/asbestos mitigation experience.

Crossroads Railcar Services is presently the most responsive bidder on the contract to abate undercar ACM, mitigate exterior lead paint, and perform the majority of structural carbody and platform repairs. WMSR expects to complete the selection process and have the work in progress by October. This firm has extensive experience with railroad passenger cars of this type, and will secure the required West Virginia certifications to perform the work.

At present, WMSR has installed a temporary coupler to replace the missing coupler at the "A" end of the car, which allows the car to be moved safely about the shop complex. WMSR is actively searching for a suitable coupler for permanent installation.

The air brake system has been partially disassembled, and components are poised to be sent to Multi-Service, which services all of the car and locomotive air brake equipment used on WMSR. The existing brake equipment is Westinghouse Type LN, original to the car in 1918 and modified by the Western Maryland Railway ca. 1944.  Multi-Service is one of perhaps three commercial firms capable of rebuilding a type LN brake valve and supplying the required gaskets and other service parts.
Car 204 is spotted inside the "New Car Shop" at the WMSR maintenance facility in Ridgeley, WV, just across the river from Cumberland. This is a secure, indoor car restoration shop building, which will allow work to proceed without regard for weather.

WMSR staff has completed initial cleaning of the car's interior. The car had essentially been "abandoned in place" for several years prior to its conveyance to WMSR, and in that interval had suffered some vandalism and interior water damage.

At this point, substantially all of the car's interior light fixtures, hardware, furniture, and removable interior elements have been removed, tagged, given initial conservation treatment, and securely stored. WMSR staff has dried out the interior, stabilized the car, and prepared it for the next phases of work.


Western Maryland Railway Business Car 204 to return home to the rails

 The WMSR Foundation, formed in September 2013, is in the infancy of what it hopes will become a long legacy of preserving railroad history through the partnership of the WMSR and the WMSRF.  This partnership leverages the best benefits of both organizations to preserve, restore and operate more equipment than the WMSR can do alone.
After 50 years nestled by a lake and far from the bustle of a main line railroad, Western Maryland Railway Office car No. 204 is coming home--literally, to the tracks it once regularly travelled. It is a remarkable story of chance preservation. 
Car 204 was originally built by Pullman in 1918 for Peter Winchester Rouss. It was named "Winchester" when delivered; Rouss later renamed it "West Point".  Car 204 was known to travel to the Rouss private camp in Adirondacks, NY from Winchester, VA.  The car was typical for its day. It had an observation room, four bedrooms (including a larger master bedroom), a dining room, and at the front of the car, a kitchen, pantry, and crew quarters. On the back was a classic open platform--a back porch for watching the world fly by at 60 mph. 
In those days, private cars were a combination of private jet and yacht, used by wealthy business people for both business and pleasure travel.  Mr. Rouss later sold the car to Harry Payne Whitney, who was married to Gertrude Vanderbilt, of the famous wealthy Vanderbilt family.   Mr. Whitney was well known as an American businessman, a thoroughbred horse breeder whose horses raced the Kentucky Derby.  He would arrive at the Derby in his private car, now named "Adios".
The American Railways Equipment Company owned the car from 1942-1943 and on February 12, 1943 the Western Maryland Railway purchased the car for use as their executive business car. The car was assigned to and used by George Leilich, Vice President of the WM Railway.  Railroads used office cars a little differently from the previous owners.  Company officials used railroad cars to travel to meetings, entertain shippers, make inspection trips, and conduct railroad business anywhere out on the railroad. The cars were like mobile offices or command posts and could travel almost anywhere there were tracks.  For a little over 20 years, the WM Railway used the 204 and a similar car, the 203, on its lines between Baltimore, Connellsville, PA, and central West Virginia. By the mid-1960s, the railroad business was rapidly changing and WM simply did not need two office cars.
Deep Creek Lake was part of a 1920s hydroelectric project, and by the 1960s had become a popular summer getaway. In 1964 the Western Maryland Railway sold the car to the R.R. Johnson family, who transported it to Deep Creek Lake, near Swanton, MD. The Johnson family had property at the lake, and purchasing the 204 seemed a wonderful way to both have a sturdy summer place and preserve a bit of Western Maryland Railway heritage. They used it as a camp and then later a home.  They have many memories of dinners cooked by Mrs. Johnson on the dining room table, which, stories tell us, was built by John Knibbs, who also built the furniture for the House of Congress. 
The Johnson family, hearts heavy and filled with decades of cherished memories, finally made the decision to transfer ownership of the 204 to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to be restored and operated publically.  In January 2014, 50 years after it was first delivered in Swanton, MD, Carl Belt Inc and Bill Miller Equipment, with the help and donations of many others, returned the car to the WMSR and the WMSR Foundation for restoration and operation.  Bob Leilich, the son of George Leilich (the Vice President of the Western Maryland Railway mentioned earlier), also gave a generous cash donation.
The car is significant for several reasons.  It is complete and represents a typical Office Car from the classic period of American railroad car building (roughly 1910-1930).  The car has significant association with the Western Maryland Railway, its employees, Cumberland, MD, and Allegany County. For over 35 years it regularly operated over the tracks that now host the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.  Often it could have been seen parked at the Cumberland Western Maryland Railway Station.  It is unusual to have a car acquired by an operating railroad so closely associated with its original railroad line and location. 
Through the operation of the newly formed WMSR Foundation, The Pullman will be programmed in a variety of ways: as a living history museum object to be actively used; as a historic space for educational and interpretive activities; and in additional ways to enhance the community and railroad preservation efforts.  The WMSR pursues this project to preserve and interpret Maryland and local railroad heritage.
Car 204 will undergo a two-step conservation, which will include fixing rusted side sheets, refurbishing interior woodwork, installing all new windows and more.  Once fully conserved, the 204 will be a pristine physical artifact of the state's 20th century railway heritage. 
Fifty years ago it appeared that the 204 had left its life on the tracks for what everyone thought would be permanent retirement in the woods of western Maryland. Instead, it is again back on rails--the very same rails it traversed when it was WM Railway Office Car No. 204.
We all look forward to celebrating the car's 100th Anniversary in 2018, when the car will once again be showered with cinders from a powerful locomotive as it ascends the grade on Big Savage Mountain.
The WMSR Foundation is currently offering donors the opportunity to sponsor a window or otherwise donate. Come be an essential part of this conservation and operation of the Western Maryland Railway Business Car 204!  Each donor name will be listed on the donor wall in the car.  You may also make a donation in memory or honor of someone special. 
Moving Full Steam Ahead-Western Maryland Scenic Railroad- Come ride with us!
Tickets available now for our season of May - December.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad announces the acquisition of the Western Maryland Railway Pullman Business Car #204

Western Maryland Car #204, a former executive class car utilized on the Western Maryland Railway, was recently donated to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad by the family of the late R.R. Johnson. 
During the past few weeks, the car has been prepared for transportation and moved from its current site in Swanton, MD to the maintenance shops of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad at Ridgeley, WV.  The ultimate goal of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Foundation is to restore the #204 to operating condition for use on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. 
The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s acquisition of the Western Maryland Railway Business Car #204 is part of a continuing effort to preserve, restore and operate historic railroad equipment.  Built by the Pullman Company in 1918 and later sold to the Western Maryland Railway, #204 was used extensively as a business car by company executives to travel the Western Maryland Railway.
The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Foundation would like to challenge YOU to contribute to the restoration of the #204.  Each donor will be acknowledged on-board the #204 as our thanks for your assistance with preserving this gem of Maryland and railroad history.  Once restored, #204 will be self-sustaining, providing an exciting charter opportunity for small groups, WMSR passengers, and as a special event display.

To make a monetary donation, please go to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Foundation website at and select the #204 project under “Which project would you like to donate to”.  The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Foundation is looking for supporting members and volunteers to help preserve, restore and maintain our railroad assets for future generations.  To join, please go to our web-page and fill out your information on the membership form and select your membership level -
You can also keep up to date on the newest and most exciting events of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad by following our Facebook pages and
The move of the #204 from Garrett County was made possible through the efforts of many people and companies and it is important that the following be recognized for their contribution to this effort:
  • Carl Belt, Incorporated
  • Bill Miller Equipment
  • Garrett County Roads Department
  • Garrett County Sheriff’s Department
  • Maryland State Highway Administration
  • Maryland State Police
  • Allegany County Sheriff’s Department
  • Cumberland City Police Department
  • Keystone Lime Company
  • Maryland Minerals
  • Atkinson Welding


A Division of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad 13 Canal Street, Cumberland, MD 21502 301-759-4400