By GREG LARRY
The Times-News of Cumberland
CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which will begin its 25th season on May 3, is under the leadership of Michael Gresham, the new general manager and chief operating officer.READ MORE: Now That Students Have Returned To The Classroom, One Question Remains: Are Children Safe?
Gresham, a retired Air Force major and veteran of the scenic railroad industry, comes from Colorado Springs, Colo.
“When a customer comes here and they ride our train I want them to say that it is one of the best, if not the best, passenger excursion trains I have ever been on,” said Gresham.
Gresham is replacing Frank Fowler, who is retiring.
Mark Farris, chair of the WMSR board of directors, was part of the group who selected Gresham out of 30 applicants.
“You always need to have different things for people to keep them coming back. With his experience and the way he handles himself and his expertise, I think that is what we are going to have here,” said Farris.
The WMSR held its board of directors regular meeting on Thursday, the first for Gresham. His first day on the job was Monday.
Gresham, born and reared in the Columbus, Ohio, area, fell in love with trains when he received his first train set as a young boy, he said.
“I’d like to get 45,000 people onto the train this year,” said Gresham.READ MORE: 'I'm All About Ellicott City' Ellicott City Residents & Business Owners React To Number 10 Ranking On Money Magazine's 'Best Places To Live List'
The WMSR had a strong year in 2013, earning $174,913. A 40 percent increase in ridership is predicted this year due to an improved economy nationally, Gresham said.
The scenic railroad ranks as the number one tourist attraction in Allegany County, according to tourism officials.
Gresham wants to find ways to improve the quality of the train excursion for visitors.
“I want to make the passengers’ experience the best that it possibly can be,” he said.
Gresham said he wants customers to have a first class experience in a nice, clean car.
“I want them to have a great day out,” said Gresham.
His last employer in the train industry was Iowa Pacific Holdings, where he was a regional manager.
“You have a beautiful area here. The people have been great to me. I feel very fortunate to be here,” he said.MORE NEWS: Audit Finds Electronic Tolls Overbilled Maryland Drivers
The WMSR is pulled by a 1916 steam engine and has multiple coaches with a capacity of 700 passengers.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)