Great Allegheny Passage – Day 4 – Meyersdale, PA to Cumberland, MD

While walking around Meyersdale Tuesday evening, we noticed the lack of breakfast spots, so Bill and I decided to buy a couple of Jimmy Dean breakfast bowls. In the morning, after packing up, we heated the bowls in the microwave, had a quick breakfast and headed out. Luckily our guest house was just across the street from the old train station, so we didn’t have far to go to get to the trail.

Our room was on the second floor of the guesthouse and the train station was just across the street. Of course, with no trains passing through, it is a trail visitor center these days.

Not long after leaving Meyersdale, we reached the Bollman Truss Bridge. Built in 1871 by Wendal Bollman, a B&O Railroad carpenter, who was a self taught engineer. He patented the process for building iron bridges. He built several iron bridges including this one.

This Bollman bridge has an interesting history. Built in 1871, a few miles east of Meyersdale to carry the B&O Railroad over Wills Creek. Then in 1910, it was moved, all 30 tons of it, a few miles West of Meyersdale to carry a country road over the B&O. Scheduled for demolition in 2006, it was saved and moved to its present location to carry the GAP trail over yet another county road. Wendal Bollman, designer of this bridge was an interesting character. He was a carpenter for the B&O and a self taught engineer. He designed wooden bridges for the railroad and in 1858 patented the design for iron truss railroad bridges. He formed his own company and built bridges for the B&O and other railroads. Today, most of his bridges have been replaced with steel bridges given steel’s ability to carry more weight.

Shortly after departing the bridge, we arrived at the Keystone Viaduct, a 910 feet span across Flaugherty Creek and another road.

This viaduct, along with the Bollman bridge and the Salisbury Viaduct that we crossed the day before as we entered Meyersdale are destinations themselves. One can drive to Meyersdale, park your car and head out either way, ride to the Viaduct, then reverse direction, pass through town and ride to the other viaduct. In less than 10 miles riding you can see all three. But we had far more to see, so we kept heading east.

Only a short 8 1/2 miles after leaving Meyersdale, we arrived at one of the highlights of the entire trip, the Eastern Continental Divide. At 2,392 foot, it is the highest point on the GAP Trail. Right at the summit there is a small tunnel with signs indicating the significance of the spot. I particularly liked the mural depicting the logos of both GAP railroads and images of a train engine, coal miners and coal production facilities. All were integral to the development of the area.

Shortly after leaving the summit, we passed a panoramic valley photo op.

Once on the bikes, we didn’t have far to go before we stopped again. This time for another highlight of the trip, The Big Savage Tunnel. The Big Savage tunnel is 3,294 feet long and was just wide enough for a single train to pass through. Originally opened in 1912 and was in service until the rail line was abandoned in 1975. Today the tunnel is once again in service as a part of the Great Allegheny Passage.

Just a couple of miles farther, we reached the Mason Dixon Line, border between the North and South and stateline between Pennsylvania and Maryland. Named after surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who, from 1763 to 1767, surveyed the area to settle a border dispute between Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. The term Dixie comes from Dixon, and means south of the Mason- Dixon line

And finally, just before reaching Cumberland, we rode through the Cumberland Narrows. Much like the more famous Cumberland Gap, south of here, the Narrows, created by the North Branch of the Potomac River, allows rail and road traffic to cross the mountains

And finally, we arrived at the end, Mile 0 of the Great Allegheny Passage. We have logged 159.38 miles on the bikes along the Monongahela, Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers amd traveled over former rail beds of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie and Western Maryland Railroads. Although, we are not halfway on our planned journey, we have finished the first part of our trip. Next up, the C&O Towpath and on to Washington, DC.

This posting was delayed a bit by spotty internet service at our Cumberland hotel.

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