The Road Warrior Takes to the Rails
June 8, 2012 | Permalink
The giant network of trains that the U.S. had in the nineteenth century made us who we are today—the world’s preeminent economy spread out over a vast mass of land. American trains running on American coal shipped raw goods like cotton, gold and cattle to locales were they were turned into finished goods, which generated American wealth. And passenger trains brought whole towns of people west. A nostalgia for this rough-hewn yet proto-modern period in American history (which really came into its own following the Civil War), a period that overlaps with that mythologized in cowboy films and literature and that has plenty of its own mythology, has resulted in the rehabilitation of many period steam locomotives and passenger and freight cars. These trains offer nostalgic trips through the country that they shaped.
A Train Trip through Amish Country
The Strasburg Rail Road, in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, operates the country’s oldest short-run rail line. They offer forty-five minute trips on genuine steam trains through Lancaster County, home to more than 15,000 Amish people. It’s the Amish who provide the charm that this trip has through agrarian Pennsylvania. You will see Amish farmers working in their fields, riding in horses and buggies and studying in one-room schoolhouses. This feature of the trip adds another anachronistic element to the Strasburg Rail Road’s trip back in time.
Get in the Driver’s Seat in Nevada
The Nevada Northern Railway Museum, in Ely, Nevada, offers the visitor the experience of working on the railroad all the live-long day. They will train you to be the engineer on an actual nineteenth-century steam train and let you drive it on a fourteen-mile route. For a fee, you will get to be a real nineteenth-century rail worker—doing machine shop work, fixing track and working on the train crew.
In the winter, the museum hosts photographers. You get the opportunity to photograph nineteenth-century steam trains pulling period passenger and freight cars in an environment that does not betray the fact that we’re living in the 21st century. If you make your photos sepia, you will appear to have taken pictures during the early days of railroading.
A Trip through Gold and Silver Country and Back in Time
Explore gold and silver country on the Georgetown Loop Railroad. The line runs atop the Rocky Mountains and through majestic Clear Creek Valley for two miles between the towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume, Colorado. You can disembark from the train halfway through the route in order to take a guided tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine. You get to walk a whole five hundred feet into a mine passageway that dates from the 1870s. A guide will inform you about the interesting and somewhat romantic early days of mining, and you will be shown places where riches were extracted. In addition, you will be shown the changing room that the miners used and the office of the boss. The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a thorough trip back in time. You learn about both the machines and the people of the past.
A Modern Hotel Room after a Day on Antique Trains
Even the most nostalgic rail fan does not want a hotel room out of the 19th century. After a day spent knocking around on nineteenth-century stream-engine trains, you will want to take it easy at a hotel with all of the available modern amenities. An Extended Stay Hotel, where you can cook your own dinner and surf the web with free in-room Wi-Fi, fits the bill at the right price.
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