by Gina Gallucci-White
After meandering through the ever-growing number of retail stores, restaurants and homes that line on Md. Route 26 in Frederick, folks may be surprised at the quiet farmland that awaits them just minutes away in the Town of Walkersville.
Follow Route 26 past the fork in the road and over the bridge at the Monocacy River, and you’ll find the small town that’s home to big agricultural history.
Walkersville has a rich farm history with many family farms having been handed down through multiple generations. It’s common to see corn growing on multiple acres or cattle or horses moseying around pastures.
Walkersville is comprised of just more than 4 miles, and its founding dates back to the late 1800s. Walkersville was initially made up of two separate villages known as Georgetown on Pennsylvania Avenue and Walkersville on Frederick Street. When the Frederick and Pennsylvania Railroad arrived in 1872, the area prospered. The Town of Walkersville was incorporated in 1892.
The town still celebrates its railroad history via the popular Walkersville Southern Railroad (WSRR). Between May and October, regular 70-minute train rides are held on Saturdays and Sundays. A number of popular special event train rides, such as Bunny Trains around Easter, Santa Trains near Christmas and four-course dinner trains are scheduled during the operating season as well.
The WSRR is run by a nearly all-volunteer staff who service the track, restore abandoned rail cars and help run regular and special excursions. Some staff members are not even local residents; they drive in from Virginia and Delaware in order to give their time.
One of the best reviews of the railroad Brooke Kovalcik, director of special events and general administrator at WSRR, recalls hearing from a rider is that “It’s like stepping away from the rush of life where you can have a seat and put your phone away.”
Kovalcik says the excursions provide a lasting memory where you can see the countryside and experience a good, old-fashioned time on the railroad.
Peaceful park is home to dozens of animal species
Along the route of the WSRR is Walkersville’s Fountain Rock Park and Nature Center, operated by Frederick County Parks and Recreation. Located on 22.5 acres, the park features the remains of an industrial limestone quarry and kiln, first developed in the 1850s to 1860s as well as an active nature center, with native and non-native reptiles and amphibians on view to the public.
The nature center hosts a number of programs for a wide range of residents from young children to adults, such as a nature academy, junior naturalist program, family campfire and bird walks.
The nature center is home to an impressive array of reptiles and amphibians to see up close including two bearded dragons, six turtle species, tarantulas, toads, frogs, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, geckos and Vietnamese walking sticks. Staff members keep track via flip tags on cages each time they bring out a creature, so they do not stress them out with too much activity.
A favorite pastime among visitors is to visit the 2-acre quarry pond just beside the nature center. During warm months, visitors may feed the turtles (there are about 50 total living in the pond) with park-approved food from dispensers for a small fee.