Railroad workers confront commissioner for social media post | Local News

CUMBERLAND — A social media post penned by Allegany County Commissioner Dave Caporale prompted Western Maryland Scenic Railroad workers to attend Thursday’s meeting to address Caporale’s comments.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Caporale shared a screenshot of a WMSR post about T-shirts for sale. The shirts feature a picture of the Baldwin No. 1309 steam locomotive the railroad operates, and reads “Ridgeley, WV: Home of the Thunder No. 1309.”

“But thanks for all the money over the years Maryland,” Caporale’s post reads.

Railroad workers Nathaniel Watts, Nikki Shields, Cameron Stephen and Calvin Kuttner appeared before the commission during the public comment portion of the meeting to address Caporale’s post.

“Do you feel what you did to the railroad yesterday was worthwhile for your largest tourist driver?” Watts asked.

“I think I said what I said because I feel as strongly about the railroad as you all do,” Caporale responded. “As you all know, we’ve been committed to it. Never over the years have we not been there for the railroad, and worked collectively and partnered with the railroad.”

Watts noted the railroad’s presence in West Virginia as well as Maryland and said the post was offensive to its employees.

“We felt strongly that that post was not warranted,” Watts said.

Watts noted that many staff members have moved to Allegany County for their job with WMSR, and said residents and business owners in the county both stop him to compliment the railroad’s presence.

“These people here, they’re buying gas, they’re buying food, tax money is flowing into the county,” Watts said. “Those T-shirts? Where do you think the sales tax from that is going to go? The state of Maryland, not West Virginia.”

Caporale said his intent wasn’t to “diminish the amazing work these folks have done.”

“But, both cities, Cumberland and Frostburg, have had significant impact and contributions,” Caporale said. “The county and state have had significant funds assistance geared to the railroad. That’s all I was questioning.”

“It gave us bad publicity coming from an elected official,” Shields said. “From an elected official in a state where we are a licensed business, and that we are bringing economic development, economic growth and trying our best to work with the community, we just felt slighted by the comments.”

Stephen said he “uprooted (his) entire life in Pittsburgh” to come work for the WMSR.

“It’s in the name — Western Maryland Scenic Railroad,” Stephen said. “Not a random citizen, but a public official made a comment that made us look bad. How do you think that makes me feel?”

Kuttner said the T-shirts were intended as a way to acknowledge the residents of Ridgeley for kindly tolerating the noise from the engine.

“Ridgeley is where we put the locomotive to bed every night. It’s where we wake it up every morning,” Kuttner said. “For us to simply stay silent and not acknowledge them is rude.”

“They do tolerate all this, and I think it’s entirely fair that they get a little piece of the pie, too,” Watts said.

“We’re not here to cause a fuss, but we feel like it was something that needs to be addressed,” Watts said.

“I apologize if that caused you any despair or diminished your work,” Caporale said. “I was on the board, and I know the work you’ve put in to get to where you are now.”

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