Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'm Quoted!

Someone actually reads my blog and used something I said in an article. Back on July 13 I wrote a post titled 'Old Faithful' about the lost of the Helmstetter barn along the tracks of the scenic railroad. Two days ago, the Cumberland Times News published an article on the loss of the barn and a number of efforts underway to help the owner. The article is posted below and the opening lines (in yellow)are from my original post. I happily, but humbly say thank you to Mr. Spradlin and the Times-News for using my words.

Train ride to aid Helmstetter, a farmer and railroad friend

Kevin Spradlin
Cumberland Times-News

LAVALE — “It’s very sad, as a landmark I’ve known since I was a boy is now gone,” wrote a man lamenting on the devastating July 9 barn fire on the property of a well-known farmer.

But as the writer later pointed out, “life goes on,” and now members of the community are gathering to aid John Helmstetter, of Helmstetter’s Curve along what is now Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s path from Cumberland to Frostburg. Helmstetter, 67, lost a dozen cattle, some equipment and his best friend and employee, a border collie named Teddy.

“He was an extremely good working dog,” said friend turned fundraiser Carl Franz, who formed the John Helmstetter Farm Fund Committee with Bill Larduskey and Steve Barry, of Railfan and Railroad Magazine.

“He helped John take cows out to pasture in the morning and helped bring them in at night.”

Helmstetter was injured in the blaze while trying to save some of his animals. The barn, of classic Mid-Atlantic design, featured a bank in front and a cantilever overhang in the back with a silo.

Farming, Franz said, “is John’s life. Frankly, I don’t know how he supports himself. Today, you need a big farm and be highly automated. Still, 10 good years can be wiped out in a single (bad) year. He doesn’t know anything else. He doesn’t want to know anything else.”

And at his age, Helmstetter’s friends don’t think he should have to. So railroad fans who stop along Helmstetter’s Curve along the Great Allegheny Passage trail — railroad fans from across the country — are organizing a Western Maryland Scenic Railroad train ride Nov. 9. The benefit ride will feature a stop at Helmstetter’s Curve, where camera-toting passengers can get off and photograph a freight train blowing smoke followed by vintage freight cars rounding the famously scenic point. With multiple passes, photographers will have several opportunities to capture on camera what the scene looked like more than 60 years ago.

The area was made famous by former Times-News photographer William P. Price, who began taking train photographs in the 1930s. Price died in 2002 but his photos of the area continue to be widely circulated.

Efforts to aid Helmstetter also include selling limited-edition prints of a 10-inch by 14-inch photo of Helmstetter waving to a passing train. The prints will be signed by Helmstetter. A local running group also is coordinating a benefit run and walk for Nov. 8. Proceeds from the event, to be run partially along the trail and on the Helmstetter farm, will benefit Helmstetter directly.

Supporters also can make a separate donation or purchase a copy of the video “Photo Freight,” featuring Western Maryland 734.

The curve is one of the most famous pieces of railroad in the eastern United States, according to a Web site established for the John Helmstetter Farm Fund at And Helmstetter has been a friend to rail fans, friends and strangers alike, for decades. He’s allowed access to his land and buildings for photography and allowed the removal of large trees and brush from his hillside near the tracks for better viewing opportunities and to return the scene to how it looked in the 1940s. Helmstetter also has used his time to mow and brush-hog the railroad’s right of way and adjacent fields.

“There are so many people who have rallied around John,” Franz said. “People from all over the U.S. are contributing to this fund. John is a true gentleman farmer.”

A John Helmstetter Farm Fund has been established at M&T Bank in Cumberland. Donations can be dropped off there or donors can go online to Funds raised will not be used to rebuild the big red barn, nearly 110 years old at the time of the fire. Instead, it’s to help Helmstetter maintain what many feel is his rightful and deserved place along the scenic route.

“He wants to wake up every morning and see that sun rise on Cash Valley Road,” Franz said.

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