CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — Question: On Monday, May 23, 2011, this famous television game show host drove a steam locomotive from Cumberland to Frostburg.
Answer: Who is Alex Trebek?
That’s right. Trebek, the host of the enduring “Jeopardy!” traveled to Cumberland on Monday to fulfill a longtime wish to drive a steam engine.
Trebek made his wish known during a recent episode of the show and was soon inundated with calls and emails from Cumberland residents and officials inviting him to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and its station in the Queen City.
After months of careful planning and scheduling, Trebek and his crew spent the day aboard a 1916 Baldwin stream engine.
Kim Shirer and Barbara Buehl of the Allegany County Tourism Board said they were pleased to introduce Trebek to the many treasures to be found in Western Maryland while helping him achieve his own personal dream.
In addition to representatives of the Allegany Tourism Board, Trebek was joined by several local officials and dignitaries, including City Council members, the Allegany County commissioners, Mayor Brian Grim and Maryland Sen. George Edwards.
For more than 27 years, Trebek has been a regular in homes across the world as the host of “Jeopardy!” He has traveled the globe filming clues for the popular game show. During his visit to the area, Trebek’s crew shot footage at several locations that will be used in future episodes of the game show.
Trebek and his production crew began their day in Cumberland by filming various scenes at the Western Maryland Railway Station in preparation for his “drive” up the mountain to Frostburg. Trebek was seen climbing over the top of the engine and filmed clips explaining the mechanics of the train’s braking system and furnace.
“Railroading is not easy, folks. No wonder they invented the car and diesel,” said Trebek as he departed the station.
Upon his arrival at the Frostburg Depot, Trebek was greeted by the Mountain Ridge Jazz Band. Under the direction of David F. Kauffman, the band performed several songs, including a jazz rendition of the “Jeopardy!” theme song. Kauffman also serves as a Cumberland city councilman.
Before returning to Cumberland, Trebek assisted the crew as they turned the engine around on the turntable at the Frostburg Depot. Trebek also filmed several more segments at the depot and along the Great Allegheny Passage for future episodes.
Trebek said he enjoyed driving the train but admitted the ride back was a bit more comfortable.
“It’s hot up there and it really takes a certain knack to fire one of these engines and it was a tough, hard work,” Trebek said. “There are so many valves, levers and gauges but it is really a simple piece of equipment.”
He said it was difficult to man the button on the floor to open the furnace while getting shovels of coal ready.
“It’s hard getting everything going at the right time and I did have a few accidents when the coal ended up on the floor,” he said with a laugh.
Trebek said the ride back was also made more enjoyable with a dish of ice cream prepared by the Queen City Creamery. During the trip back to Cumberland, Trebek mingled with his fellow passengers and graciously provided autographs and posed for photographs.
“I am happy to be here. I have always wanted to drive a steam engine. I had been on an engine before but it was static and to be able to drive the engine has been an exciting experience,” he said.
“This is my first trip to this area and has been a great experience thanks to your tourism board. We are going to have some great clues on future shows in a pretty setting and an exciting environment.”
According to Trebek, the footage shot during his time in Western Maryland will appear in “Jeopardy!” episodes slated to air in the fall of this year.
Information from: Cumberland (Md.) Times-News, http://www.times-news.com/timesnew.html
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)