Welcome to coal country. After a steep ascent up the Allegheny Front, the National Road reaches the small city of Frostburg. Frostburg was built for two primary interests: travel along the National Road, and coal. at various points in the late 1800s and early 1900s, several local railroads, including, but not limited to, the Georges Creek Railroad, the Cumberland and Pennsylvania and the Western Maryland all ran through or near Frostburg, ferrying coal from the mines around Frostburg and the Georges Creek communities to Cumberland and subsequent transportation methods to larger cities.
Today, evidence of Frostburg’s past is found throughout the small city of about 9,000 people per the 2010 Census. Main Street, which is also ALT U.S.-40 (the National Road) runs straight through town, and Frostburg’s older, multi-story buildings line this street.
Right off Main Street near the center city area is the appropriately-named Depot Street, which winds down a short hill to the former Western Maryland Railroad depot. This is the western terminus of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, which makes round trips from Cumberland to Frostburg, and lets travelers spend a few hours in Frostburg before returning to Cumberland. Also, the Great Allegheny Passage trail passes by the depot on its journey from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, Pa. The trail follows the WMSR to Frostburg, and then continues on the empty bed of the Western Maryland Railroad into Pennsylvania.
Although much of the accessible coal has already been taken from the hills and mountains around Frostburg, some mines still remain on the outskirts of town (one is visible from I-68 and another is visible from MD-638). For an additional history roadtrip featuring Western Maryland’s coal heritage, drive MD-36 from Cumberland, through Mount Savage and Frostburg, and then south through the Georges Creek Valley to Westernport, Md.
Nevertheless, Frostburg is one of the few areas in Allegany County that grew significantly from the 2000 to 2010 Census, arguably due to the presence of Frostburg State University – the only state university in Western Maryland, having a history dating back to 1898, although it wasn’t called a “college” in any form until 1935. FSU’s presence in town has a significant effect on Main Street, which boasts a host of bars and restaurants, most of which are open late. Other businesses, including a local bookstore and a few clothing boutiques also line Main Street – some geared toward college students, some open to everyone.
It is important to note that when traveling in the winter months, if snow or ice is in the forecast, use caution, especially when traveling east to west! Because Frostburg (and subsequently, Garrett County) is at an elevation of just over 2,000 feet, it has weather that is significantly different than Cumberland, which has an elevation of about 630 feet. This means that in the winter, Frostburg may be experiencing snow when it is only raining in Cumberland or LaVale, which tends to surprise non-local drivers.