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I am one who loves to travel. I enjoy photography. I take many photos of my journeys. I also write short stories and poems.
The city of Roanoke, Virginia, located in the southwest region of the state, is referred to as the ‘Star City of the South’. How does that city get that name? Well, it is the home of the largest mad-made star in the world. It sits on top of Mill Mountain and overlooks downtown and the Roanoke Valley. The great thing about Roanoke is that it is a big railroad city with the main line going through the heart of downtown. It was the hub for the Norfolk and Western Railroad and for the Virginian Railroad, and it was a hub for the Norfolk Southern Railroad. It was here at the shops where the Class J locomotives were built, and it is where the Class J Norfolk and Western Number 611 makes its home at the Virginia Museum of Transportation. Being a mecca of railroading, Roanoke is the home of three surviving train depots. The original ‘Big Lick’ train depot is at the Virginia Museum of Transportation. Just a few blocks from downtown is the old Virginian Railroad depot that is now used for renting out for events. Then you have the old Norfolk and Western Railway Station. It may not be as grand as the original Penn Station in New York City, but it has a little grandeur for a city like Roanoke, Virginia.
Yes, the old Norfolk and Western Railway Station was a fine station for a city like Roanoke that could have challenged many of the big city train stations. Unlike the original Penn Station in New York City, this station was preserved. Only the train platforms have been removed. Although the trains do not stop here, you can still see the trains go by.
So, what is the old Norfolk and Western Railway Station used for today? Well, it has three purposes.
First, it is the home of the Roanoke Valley Visitor Center. Yes, this is another train depot that has ended up as a visitor center, but this visitor center has a little of a grand entrance with the high ceilings and the marble walls and floors. It will feel like you are in a grand train station except that the only trains that are here a large-scale-models encased in glass. If your feet get tired, feel free to sit on the original passenger benches. You can also check out the gift shop while you are here.
What is the second purpose?
It is the home of the History Museum of Western Virginia displaying the way of life in the region. The displays include the history of Roanoke and a land grant deed signed by Thomas Jefferson, the drafter, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States of America.
What is the third purpose?
It is the home of the O. Winston Link Museum. Who is O. Winston Link? Ogle Winston Link is known as the last photographer of the steam locomotive. Although he was from New York and passed away there, he had a big heart for the city of Roanoke. Why? As mentioned, Roanoke is a big railroad city, and the Norfolk and Western Railway had their shops in Roanoke. Yes, other cities and towns had railroads shops, but the Norfolk and Western Railway was special to O. Winston Link. What was special about the Norfolk and Western Railway? It was the last railroad in the United States of America to pull their trains with steam locomotives. For many decades, most railroads were using diesel locomotives, but the Norfolk and Western Railway continued to use steam locomotives into the 1950’s. Many of his photograph’s are on display at the museum all in black and white. What was his favorite photograph? His was very fond on the Norfolk and Western Number 1218. In his last will and testament, he stated that Number 1218 was to be on display for all to see next to the Norfolk and Western Railway Station. Sadly, due to concerns of protecting the locomotive from danger and vandalism, it was not put on display at the station. Instead, it was put on display at the Virginia Museum of Transportation where it stands today. Even though it was born from the shops of the Norfolk and Western Railway, it stands as a testament of O. Winston Link to this day.
The Norfolk and Western Railway Station is at 101 Shenandoah Avenue NE in Roanoke, Virginia. It is just minutes from Interstate 581 and U.S. Routes 11, 220 and 221. It is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday to Saturday. (Closed on Sunday and Monday.) Limited parking is available at the train station. Otherwise, there is street parking. Admission is required. You can get more information at https://roanokehistory.org/. The Visitor Center is operated by the Roanoke Valley Office of Tourism. The History Museum of Western Virginia and the O. Winston Link Museum are operated by the Historical Society of Western Virginia. To see the Norfolk and Western 1218, you can go to the Virginia Museum of Transportation at http://www.vmt.org/.
The next time you are in southwestern Virginia, head to Roanoke. Head to the old Norfolk and Western Railway Station. Come be where the railroad is the ‘star’ attraction.
Welcome aboard the ‘Train of Thankfulness’. This train is made up of cars that we can be thankful for on this Thanksgiving. So, let us go to the yard and start putting this train together.
Of course, we must begin with the locomotive.
Next car is the Northern Central Railway of New Freedom, Pennsylvania
Next car is Act 1 Productions
Next car is the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland
Next car is the Irish Railroad Workers Museum in Baltimore, Maryland
Next car is the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum in Fairfax Station, Virginia
Next car is the city of Manassas, Virginia
Next car is the National Park Service
Next car is the Smithsonian Institution
Next car is the Pioneer Tunnel and Steam Train in Ashland, Pennsylvania
Next car is the town of Strasburg, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Prince William County Model Railroad Club of Manassas, Virginia
Next car is the Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick, Maryland
Next car is the town of Luray, Virginia
Next car is Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia
Next car is the Shenandoah Caverns in Shenandoah Caverns, Virginia
Next car is the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia
Next car is Long Bridge Park in Crystal City, Virginia
Next car is the Black River and Western Railroad in Ringoes, New Jersey
Next car is Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia
Next car is the Smithfield Plantation in Blacksburg, Virginia
Next car is the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad in Romney, West Virginia
Next car is the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum in Galeton, Pennsylvania
Next car is the city of Lynchburg, Virginia
Next car is the Wilmington and Western Railroad in Greenbank, Delaware
Next car is the Lake Shore Railway Museum in North East, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad in Titusville, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern Railroad in Kempton, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Everett Railroad Company in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City, North Carolina
Next car is the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C.
Next car is Kinzua Bridge State Park in Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Biltmore in Ashville, North Carolina
Next car is The Train Room in Hagerstown, Maryland
Next car is the Suffolk Seaboard Railroad Museum in Suffolk, Virginia
Next car is the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum in Hagerstown, Maryland
Next car is the Western Maryland Railway Museum in Union Bridge, Maryland
Next car is the Colebrookdale Railroad in Boyertown, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Next car is the Sykesville and Patapsco Model Railroad Club in Sykesville, Maryland
Next car is the town of Bowie, Maryland
Next car is the Railroad Museum in Bowie, Maryland
Next car is the Perryville Railroad Museum in Perryville, Maryland
Next car is the Lincoln Train Museum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Baltimore Society of Model Railroad Engineers in Baltimore, Maryland
Next car is the Baltimore Streetcar Museum in Baltimore, Maryland
Next car is Fort Monroe in Fort Monroe, Virginia
Next car is the Model Train Exhibit at Merchants Square in Allentown, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Railroad Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth, Virginia
Next car is Ashcroft Hall and Gardens in Richmond, Virginia
Next car is the Jefferson Depot Village in Jefferson, Ohio
Next car is the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport, Maryland
Next car is Norlo Park in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Historic Roscoe Village in Coshocton, Ohio
Next car is Harris Tower in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Chesapeake and Allegheny Live Steamers at Leakin Park in Baltimore, Maryland
Next car is the Rappahannock Railroad Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia
Next car is ‘Montpelier’ in Orange, Virginia
Next car is the Warther Carving Museum in Dover, Ohio
Next car is Gathland State Park in Burkittsville, Maryland
Next car is the Lincoln Train Station in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Next car is the town of Brunswick, Maryland
Next car is the Brunswick Heritage Museum in Brunswick, Maryland
Next car is the Gettysburg National Battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Danbury Railroad Museum in Danbury, Connecticut
Next car is the Museum of American History in Washington D.C.
Next car is ‘Roadside America’ in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania
Next car is the ‘Greenbrier’ in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Next car is the Princeton Railroad Museum in Princeton, West Virginia
Next car is Ontelaunee Park in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Winchester Little Theater in Winchester, Virginia
Next car is the Chesapeake and Ohio Depot Museum in Covington, Virginia
Next car is the Youth Museum, Beckley in West Virginia
Next car is the John Henry Historical Park in Talcott, West Virginia
Next car is Glen Echo Park in Glen Echo, Maryland
Next car is the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Heritage Center in Clifton Forge, Virginia
Next car is Liberty State Park, Jersey City in New Jersey
Next car is the Old Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal in Jersey City, New Jersey
Next car is the ‘Statue of Liberty’ in Jersey City, New Jersey
Next car is the Baltimore and Ohio Roundhouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia
Next car is the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor, Connecticut
Next car is the Gaithersburg Community Museum in Gaithersburg, Maryland
Next car is the West Virginia Railroad Museum, Elkins in West Virginia
Next car is the Hagerstown Railroad Museum at City Park in Hagerstown, Maryland
Next car is the Old Stevensville Depot in Stevensville, Maryland
Next car is the Railroad Museum of New England in Thomaston, Connecticut
Next car is the Old Lorton Workhouse Center in Lorton, Virginia
Next car is the Adam Stephen House and Triple Brick Museum in Martinsburg, West Virginia
Next car is the Burke Lake Railroad at Burke Lake Park in Burke, Virginia
Next car is Kalmbach Publishing
Next car is Trains Magazine
Next car is the Roads and Rails Museum in Frederick, Maryland
Next car is the Town of Thurmond, West Virginia
Next car is the Richmond Railroad Museum in Richmond, Virginia
Next car is the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat in Essex, Connecticut
Next car is the New River Gorge National Park in Fayetteville West Virginia
Next car is the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia
Next car is the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland
Next car is the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Cumberland, Maryland
Next car is the Harpers Ferry Toy Train Museum and Joy Line Railroad in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Next car is the Whippany Railway Museum in Whippany, New Jersey
Next car is the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia
Next car is the town of Herndon, Virginia
Next car is the Star Barn Village at Stone Gables and Ironstone Ranch in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Dennison Depot Museum in Dennison, Ohio
Next car is the Isset Heritage Museum in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
Next car is the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio
Next car is the National New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart, Indiana
Next car is the Heritage Farm and Village in Huntington, West Virginia
Next car is EnterTrainment Junction in West Chester, Ohio
Next car is the town of Warrenton, Virginia
Next car is the town of Georgetown, Delaware
Next car is the town of Minersville, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Number 113 Restoration Project in Minersville, Pennsylvania
Next car is the town of Felton, Delaware
Next car is the Medina Railroad Museum in Medina, New York
Next car is the Marshall County Museum in Plymouth, Indiana
Next car is the Pullman National Historic Site in Chicago, Illinois
Next car is the town of Danville, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Corner Field Model Railroad Museum and Trading Post Train Shop in Middlefield, Ohio
Next car is the Erie Zoo in Erie, Pennsylvania
Next car is Pennypacker Mills in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania
Next car is Knoebel’s Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pennsylvania
Next car is Manassas National Battlefield in Manassas, Virginia
Next car is the Gallitzin Tunnels in Gallitzin, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Train Station Museum in Everett, Pennsylvania
Next car is the town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
Next car is the Tour Ed Mine in Tarentum, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Ohio History Connection in Columbus, Ohio
Next car is the Railroad Memorial Park in Ridgely, Maryland
Next car is the Stan Hywet Museum and Gardens in Akron, Ohio
Next car is the Stewartstown Railroad in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania
Next car is the West Chester Railroad in West Chester, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Salamanca Railroad Museum in Salamanca, New York
Next car is the Swigart Antique Auto Museum in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway in Nelsonville, Ohio
Next car is Northlandz in Flemington, New Jersey
Next car is Leesylvania State Park in Rippon Landing, Virginia
Next car is Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio
Next car is Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Linthicum, Maryland
Next car is Ohio Caverns in West Liberty, Ohio
Next car is the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, Virginia
Next car is the Iron and Steel Heritage Center in Coatesville, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois
Next car is the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio
Next car is the town of Eagle Rock, Virginia
Next car is the town of Shenandoah, Virginia
Next car is the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Heritage Village in Muddy Creek Forks, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Train Station Museum in Woodsboro, Maryland
Next car is Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Old Train Station in Amherst, Virginia
Next car is the Attica and Arcade Railroad in Arcade, New York
Next car is the Walkersville Southern Railroad in Walkersville, Maryland
Next car is the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana
Next car is the Benjamin Banneker Historic Site in Ellicott City, Maryland
Next car is the town of Centreville, Maryland
Next car is the town of Thomas, West Virginia
Next car is the Old Train Station, New Oxford, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Durbin Rocket in Durbin, West Virginia
Next car is the Cass Scenic Railroad in Cass, West Virginia
Next car is the Cassie Seaboard Railroad (CSX)
Next car is the Norfolk Central Railroad
Next car is the Union Pacific Railroad
Next car is the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa
Next car in the Martinsburg Roundhouse in Martinsburg, West Virginia
Next car in the Model Train Display at Merchants Square in Allentown, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio
Next car is the Star Barn at Stone Gables in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
Next is the Warther Carving Museum in Dover, Ohio
Next car the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia
Next car is the Stewartstown Railroad in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania
Next car is the Train Room in Hagerstown, Maryland
Next car is Norlo Park in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania
Next car is Maries Candies in West Liberty, Ohio
Next car is the Cumberland Valley Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania
Next car is Amtrak
Next car is the National Railroad Historical Society
Next car is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF)
Next car is the city of Roanoke, Virginia
Next car is the town of Ridgely, Maryland
Next car is the city of Richmond, Virginia
Next car is the city of Baltimore, Maryland
Next car is the Strasburg Railroad in Ronks, Pennsylvania
Next car is the town of Point of Rocks, Maryland
Next car is the city of Elkhart, Indiana
Next car is the town of Berkeley Springs, Virginia
Next Car is the Coolfont Resort in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
Next car is the city of Cumberland, Maryland
And we end the train with something that ended trains in the old days: the good old caboose.
I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving, and I thank everyone who is a part of this train. I hope that this train gets longer as we add more cars.
Special thanks to the Audobon Society in Bethesda, Maryland, the Colebrookdale Railroad in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, The Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia, the Heritage Farm Museum and Village in Huntington, West Virginia, and the Arcade and Attica Railroad in Arcade, New York.
There are those who have had the great privilege of visiting an attraction in the small town of Shartlesville, Pennsylvania known as Roadside America. It was a model train display that depicted landscapes across the entire United States of America, and it was the work of one man who built the display by hand not using one kit. Each bridge and structure was hand built, and the waterfalls and fountains used real water. The man who built this attraction passed away in the 1960’s, and the display was left alone. To the present day, the display that you saw was what you would have seen in the 1960’s. It is with great sadness that the owners of Roadside America have decided to closed the attraction. They tried to get someone to buy the attraction, but there was no one who made a commitment. For those who were able to see this attraction were fortunate to see a masterpiece. Sadly, those days are gone.
The Ohio State Reformatory was a prison, like many reformatories across the United States of America, where many of the toughest criminals were kept. Through the years, the facility was in decline as the conditions began to deteriorate. The inmates were eventually moved out, and the facility was closed in 1990. The facility was later reopened as a tourist attraction, and it was used as a movie set for ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Today, you can take a tour of the facility and see the old cells and the places where the movie was filmed. There are self-guided tours and guided tours. Come and visit a piece of Ohio’s history.
Some of you are saying, “This is nice. They were able to save this place and make it a tourist attraction. This place must have many stories to tell. There is one big problem. This is a jail. A jail is where people go to get punished when they break the law. The place was surrounded by a fence with armed guards on duty. There are no railroads here. Therefore, I will not be spending any time in this place.”
It was a jail. It was where criminals were kept. How did the criminals get here? Some were brought in on a prison bus, but some came by train. Yes, the railroad brought prisoners to this facility. The railroad line is on the west side of the reformatory behind a fence is still an active line. (This part of the reformatory is currently not accessible to the public.) When the facility was open, the train pulled up to a special entrance, accompanied by armed guards, and then checked in before being sent to their cells. For those who were going to be spending time here, it was not an enjoyable ride on the train.
The Ohio State Reformatory is owned and operated by the Ohio State Reformatory Preservation Society. It is at 100 Reformatory Road in Mansfield, Ohio. It is just off U.S. Route 30 and minutes from Interstate 71. It is open year-round, but hours and days open do vary in different times of the year. Many tours options are available, and parking is available on site. Please note that due to the historic nature, the much of the facility is not handicap accessible. However, there is a tour that is handicap accessible where you see the Museum Store, the Scofield Café, the Corrections Museum, the Mailroom, the East and West Cellblocks, the East and West Showers, the solitary confinement area, the bullpen and mini-bullpen and the Central Guard Room. By the way, the tour guides will give assistance if necessary. Yes, everyone will have a great time visiting the Ohio State Reformatory, and the great people at the reformatory will see to it that you enjoy every minute of it. You can get more information about the Ohio State Reformatory and read more into the reformatory at https://www.mrps.org/.
Come see a piece of Ohio history that has a little railroad history. Be warned. You will end up in jail… and enjoy every minute of it.
Jug Bay is a small bay off the Patuxent River in Southern Maryland. The bay is surrounded by wetlands that is gleaming with waterfowl and many other birds including ospreys. The Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary was established to protect these wetlands from the sprawling urbanization that is surrounding this region. The Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary provides an oasis in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. A visit to the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary is an oasis from the concrete jungle.
Some of you are saying, “This is lovely. You can walk through here having no idea that you are in a major metropolitan area. This is real nature. There is one big problem. There are no railroads here. Therefore, I do not see this place as any kind of oasis at all.”
You do have a great point. There are no railroads in this sanctuary. The nearest railroad is three miles away in the town of Upper Marlboro, and that is just a freight line. For passenger service, you must travel much further. When you visit the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, you will not see any railroads… but it was not always the case.
The Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary is a nature preserve that has miles of hiking trails. However, nature is not the only thing preserved here. What else is preserved here? As you hike around, you will come upon what may look like to you as an old railroad bed. Did a railroad come through here? As you walk along, you see what looks like old railroad ties. Where are you? You are walking on the right-of-way of the old Chesapeake Beach Railway. You walk on the section that was built into the Patuxent River. Wetlands are on both sides. You find yourself at the Patuxent River. You see Mount Calvert, a mansion house, on and embankment across the river. Then you see and old bridge support right in the middle of the river. It was here where the railroad crossed the river, and it continued west along the edge of the Mount Calvert property. With the rail bed being the only way to the river, you follow the railroad bed back to the shore, and then you see a cut. The trail goes next to the cut, but you can look down into the cut. You imagine what it was like to be working on the railway seeing this scenery every day. The trail takes you into the cut, but you come to a creek. The railroad bridge is long gone, but you follow the trail that takes you across wooden bridges that takes you to the other side where the railroad bed continues. You continue along the roadbed until you finally come to a road. The trail ends, but the road before you follow the route of the old Chesapeake Beach Railway.
From the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, the old roadbed passes through what is currently private property. To see to old roadbed again, you would have to depart the sanctuary and then drive east on Maryland Route 4, and then exit at Maryland Route 260. As you are on the exit ramp, you can glance out to your right and see the old bridge supports where it crosses Lyons Creek. Once on Maryland Route 260, you will find yourself on the original railroad bed. Most of the state highway apart from the last two miles was built on the old railroad bed. Sadly, most of the old roadbed passes through private property. As you arrive in the town of Chesapeake Beach, you can see some of the roadbed was converted into a rail trail. The entryway into the Rod-n-Reel Restaurant and Chesapeake Beach Spa and Resort was part of the original right-of-way with the old train station (now a museum) in its original location.
The Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary is in Lothian, Maryland off Maryland Route 4 in Southern Maryland at 1361 Wrighton Road. It is owned and operated by the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks. You can get more information at https://jugbay.org/.
Now you have a good reason to visit The Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. You can see the place where railroad travelers once saw for themselves.
Leesylvania State Park is a park in the U.S. state of Virginia located twenty-five miles south of Washington D.C. Before it was a state park, it was a hunting resort, but before it was a hunting resort, it was a plantation. (The name of the park is derived from the Lee family who had ownership of the property. It was called Leesylvania Plantation.) Before it was a plantation, it could possibly be a site of a village of the Algonquian tribe. A Civil War skirmish also happened here. Today, it is a park with a beach on the Potomac River, a fishing pier, picnic grounds, hiking trails and ruins of plantation houses and the remains of an old earthen fort. There is also a Visitor Center with a small museum explaining the history of the park. A day at Leesylvania State Park is truly a day well spent.
Some of you are saying, “This is great. This is a park that has much history. There is one problem. This park has no railroads. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, history will not see me at this park.”
Be advised. You are wrong. The park does not have a train that you can ride, but a railroad line does pass through this park, and it played a major part of the park’s history.
As you enter the park and pay the fee, you will continue along the park road for a mile, and you will see a railroad bridge. Originally, it was the Alexandria and Fredericksburg Railroad, but it is now owned by the Chessie and Seaboard Consolidated Railroad. (We simply know it as CSX.) The railroad goes through this park, but this is just the beginning. You continue to park your car. You then decide to go on a hike. Where? You hike the Lee Woods Historic Trail. Along this trail are the remains of chimneys of the houses of the Fairfax and the Lee families. You will also find the old Civil War fort, an amphitheater, and a cemetery.
Some of you are saying, “This is great, but what does all of this have to do with the railroad?”
As mentioned, the railroad bridge that you passed under was just the beginning. Another thing that you will see on this trail is an old railroad cut. This cut was dug out by the Alexandria and Fredericksburg Railroad in 1872. The railroad literally weaved its way through what is now the park. The result was many landslides and derailments. One of these accidents delayed a train owned by a man named Phineas Taylor Barnum. Yes, this is the same Phineas Taylor Barnum that began what would become the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, commonly known as the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, and it was the circus train that was delayed. The rail line was straightened years later, and it continues the current route to this day.
Some of you are saying, “That is interesting. It is great that they were able to straighten the railroad through the park.”
It is, but that is not the only thing that this park has with the railroad.
As you walk on the trail, you will see the amphitheater, and you will notice the old fireplace. This fireplace is what remains of the hunting lodge of the Wheelock Hunt Club. Started by a group of businessmen from New York and 1926 and later purchased by Gregory Wheelock and Percy Chubb in 1928, what is now the state park was abundant with waterfowl. Why was the hunt club built here? The abundance of waterfowl was one reason. The other reason is because of the railroad. Hunters were able to travel here by the railroad and go hunting for a day or a few days. Sadly, the waterfowl population went into decline in the 1940’s, and the hunting club closed in 1957. The hunting lodge went into disrepair and was eventually demolished leaving only the old chimney as a reminder of the old lodge.
There were plans to build a waterfront resort. Whether the railroad played a role in the plans of the resort is unknown, but the resort was never built. Daniel Keith Ludwig, a billionaire and businessman, was the last owner of the land. He donated the park to the U.S. state of Virginia, and, in 1989, it became Leesylvania State Park.
Leesylvania State Park is at 2001 Daniel K. Ludwig Drive in Woodbridge, Virginia. It is minutes from Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 1. There is an entrance fee to enter the park. Please note that access to the ruins and the old fort are not wheelchair accessible. You can get more information at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/leesylvania.
The next time you hear about Leesylvania State Park as a historic place, you can truly say that railroad history runs through it.
The town of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland is a town on the Chesapeake Bay. Today, it is a town with a waterpark, a resort, condos, and a restaurant overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. In the beginning, it was a completely different town. It began as a resort town to escape the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. It had a beach, a carousel, roller coaster, bandshell, a boardwalk and a hotel. How did they get here? The Chesapeake Beach Railway was established to bring vacationers from Union Station in Washington D.C. to the Chesapeake Beach Train Station. As the train arrived in Chesapeake Beach, the passengers were just a short walk to everything. The town was a booming resort town, and the Chesapeake Beach Railway was a major contributor to the town’s success. What began in the late 1890’s… when into decline in the 1930’s. Vacationers were going to other resorts. There was a hotel the burned down. The Chesapeake Beach Railway was no more. The only thing of the old town of Chesapeake Beach that remains today is the Chesapeake Beach Train Station that remains in its original location, and it is the home of the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum. The tracks are long gone, but there are some places where some of the old railroad bed remains.
What if the Chesapeake Beach Railway was still running today? Maybe we can trace the old route of the railroad. We can trace the way people went to get away from Washington D.C. to a place where they could enjoy a day or a few days having fun. Sadly, there are no time machines, but maybe there are… ghosts. Maybe the ghosts of the Chesapeake Beach Railway are among the old railway, but where can we find the ghosts? Where do we begin?
We arrive at Union Station in Washington D.C. Today, it is a busy train station. People travel for business and for pleasure, but then you see the ghosts of the people in beach attire. They are walking to the platform to board the train to the beach. They buy tickets. They board the train. The train leaves the station.
We arrive at the intersection of Fourth Street and Virginia Avenue SW. As the train departed south from Union Station, it went backwards to the area where it crossed Fourth Street SW. It is here where the line south from Union Station merges with the old Pennsylvania Railroad line that bypasses Union Station and merges again northeast of Union Station. You see the ghost of the train stopped awaiting the signal to go forward. When it is clear, the engineer blows the whistle. The train goes forward towards its destination.
We arrive at the intersection of Minnesota Avenue and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE. It was here where the Chesapeake Beach Railway departed from the Pennsylvania Railroad Line, and it is the last place on the Chesapeake Beach Railway where the tracks remain. For the rest of this journey, we follow the places where the train once ran. It was here where the train made its first stop at Chesapeake Junction. We see the ghost of the train stopped. It picks up its first passengers not boarding at Union Station. The engineer blows the whistle, and the train pulls away.
We weave our way through the neighborhood to Hayes Street. The barren grassy ground was the track bed of the railway. We continued to where Maryland Route 704 meets the D.C. Line. The D.C. Line Station was on the north side of this intersection between Route 704 and Eastern Avenue. It was here where passengers connected to the Chesapeake Beach Railway from the Annapolis Washington Railway. (Maryland Route 704 was built on the old track bed of the railroad.) The train crossed Eastern Avenue and stopped at the station. It then continued across Maryland Route 704. We take a drive along Route 704 and turn right on Addison Road. We pass the site where the train crossed the road which was also the site of the Seat Pleasant Station. We stop as we see the ghost of the train crossing Addison Road. When the train went by, we continued.
We took a left on Maryland Route 214 and then a right on Shady Glen Drive. We went about a mile and saw the ghost of the train as it was crossing the road. The train passed by, and we went left on Walker Mill Road. As we crossed Ritchie Road, we saw the passengers waiting at the station. It was here where what is now Walker Mill Road was built on the track bed of the railroad as it went under Interstate 495. The train arrived, and the passengers boarded. We saw the passengers waving at us. A young lady was dangling her bare feet out the window. The train began to continue to Chesapeake Beach. We continued along side of the train as we went under the interstate, but the road turned off.
We turned on Ritchie-Marlboro Road. We looked right and saw the train to the left of us. We raced to Brown Station, but we saw no passengers here. We waved at the train as it flew by us.
We went back to Ritchie-Marlboro Road and continued south watching the train roll on. We turned left on Old Marlboro Pike and took it into the town of Upper Marlboro where we saw the train pull into the station where a small group was waiting to get aboard. After the train pulled away, we hurried down Maryland Route 725, and then we turn right onto U.S. Route 301. We turned onto a service road and watched as the train pulled into the Pennsylvania Junction. A large crowd was waiting for the train as it is here where it meets with an old Pennsylvania Railroad line. As the passengers were boarding, we headed back to U.S. Route 301 and the south on Maryland Route 4 and then turned into the Jug Bay Wetlands Center.
We got out of the car, and we walked on a trail to where it met the old track bed. It was just dirt, but we waited. We heard the whistle. We watched as the train came towards us and then the engineer blew the whistle again and again and again. It rolled by as the passengers waved at us.
We hiked back to the car and continued south on Maryland Route 4. We arrived at Maryland Route 260 and saw that the bridge over Lyons Creek was gone with only the brick bridge supports remaining, but we waited. We knew that the train was coming, and it did cross the bridge over the creek. We continued south on Maryland Route 260 with the train next to us. (Maryland Route 260 was built on the old track bed.) The passengers waved to us as we were next to each other. As we approached the town of Owings. There was a train station there, but nobody was waiting so it continued to its destination. We continued alongside the train, but then the train and the road parted ways.
We were in the town of Chesapeake Beach. We turned right onto Maryland Route 261, and we arrived at the end of the line just as the train was pulling into the station. We saw the roller coaster, the carousel, the boardwalk, we saw a band playing in the bandshell. It was the town everyone came to see. As the passengers were stepping off the train, everything started to fade. The carousel, the roller coaster, the band was gone. The passengers were fading. A lady waved at us as she was fading. The train was fading away. Only the train station remained. The ghosts were gone. It was the town of Chesapeake Beach as it was now. I looked if any of the ghosts would come back, but just like the old town of Chesapeake Beach, they were all gone.
Today, much of the old track bed of the Chesapeake Beach Railway is on private property, but there are areas where you can travel the old roadbed. You can follow Walker Mill Road under Interstate 495 which was built on the old roadbed. You can visit the Jug Bay Wetlands Center and hike along the section of the old roadbed from where is crossed the Patuxent River where one of the old bridge supports remain, and you can follow it through the park. You can see the old supports of the bridge over Lyons Creek from the ramp onto Maryland Route 260 from Maryland Route 4. Much of Maryland Route 260 was built on the old roadbed apart from the last two miles of Route 260 before Chesapeake Beach. There is also a short stretch of the old roadbed in Chesapeake Beach off Maryland Route 261 that you can walk on and is wheelchair accessible. The old train station was the end of the line and is the only surviving train station, outside of Union Station, on the old railway. From there, it is a short walk to the bay.
Flemington, New Jersey is a town that is situated about halfway between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York City, New York. It is one of the places where you can board the Black River and Western Railroad, and one of the old train stations is now a bank. The town is not known to be a tourism town, but it is the home of a very great attraction.
Welcome to Northlandz, home of a large model train display.
Some of you are saying, “Not again. It is just another one of those model train displays. The trains go around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around. It is the same old thing.”
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Northlandz. As mentioned, it is the home of an exceptionally large model train display. You pay your admission. Then you enter to see the display. You see a model train yard. Train go through just like any other train display. It is structures just like any other model train display. It has scenery just like any other model train display.”
Some of you are saying, “Just like I said. It is just another model train display. The people who built this thing says that this is different from anything you have ever seen before. The problem is that it is just like the others. Go to a local train show. You will see what you see at this place.”
Why come to Northlandz? Why travel to this town in New Jersey? It has trains just like any other model train display. It has structures and scenery like any other train display. Therefore, it is a waste of time to travel to this place.
If that is what you are thinking, welcome to Northlandz.
As mentioned, you first see a train yard. You see cliffs but wait. You see train tracks. Trains go by. You continue to a lake. The lake becomes a stream. The stream flows between two high cliffs where the trains run alongside. You look up. You see bridges. You see more bridges. Then, you see tunnels and bridges. You see towering scenery with trains and trains and bridges. Then there is a huge valley with bridges and trains.
Do you still think that this is one of those model train displays?
This model train display is huge. How huge? The walking path that takes you to every section to see every part of this display… is about three miles long. It is on three levels. There is eight miles of track, four hundred tunnels, over one thousand buildings, over one hundred bridges and two hundred fifty thousand trees, and there are sixty trains running at one time. Yes, it is that big. Make sure that your camera is fully charged and that your card has plenty of space. You will be taking plenty of pictures. There are great shots at every turn.
Some of you are saying, “Is it really this big?”
So, you need evidence. Is there any evidence? If there is any evidence, where can you go to get it? Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence is easy to get. All you need is a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records. Yes, we are talking about that Guinness Book of World Records, the book that contains, of course, world records. This display holds the world record for the longest laid HO scale track in the world and the world’s largest miniature wonderland.
Some of you are saying, “Wow! That is incredible. I know that it took hundreds of people to build this thing.”
When you see this thing, you may think that… but you will be wrong. This whole display is the work of one man: Bruce William Zaccagnino. It took five years to build working sixteen-hour days. What began in his home was eventually moved into the current structure today. It appears as if you are looking at a theater or maybe a hotel, but when you go inside, you will see a great show, and you will find this place a great place to stay. Today, Bruce is less involved with the display and has put Northlandz under new management who is keeping this great attraction open for many generations to see.
Along with the model trains, there is also an organ which Bruce plays in a theater, named the Great American Theater, (as mentioned, it looks like a theater on the outside) with a large chandelier to give it the grand theater look. It is home to the Doll Museum that features his wife’s doll collection where dolls and doll houses are displayed, and art gallery, old model trains on display, a play area for the kids and a full-scale outdoor train. Be advised that you, friends, and family are going to enjoy your visit.
Northlandz is located northeast of Flemington, New Jersey on U.S. Route 202. The address is 495 U.S. Highway 202. Admission is required. Parking is on site. It is open from 10:00am to 6:00pm and closed on Tuesdays. You can get more information at www.northlandz.com, and you can also read more about Bruce Zaccagnino and how he built the display millions enjoy today.
Do you need to escape? Go to Northlandz in Flemington, New Jersey where you will find yourself in a whole new world… of trains.
The small town of West Liberty in the U.S. state of Ohio is a town that was once along the main road between Dayton, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan. With the development of the Interstate Highway system, the town does not see as much vehicle traffic. One of the things that does bring visitors to this town is not necessarily in the town itself, but it is a natural wonder that is east of it.
Welcome to Ohio Caverns.
Some of you are saying, “Oh, great! Another cavern. What is up with this one?”
Ohio Caverns has a few claims. It is the largest cavern in the state of Ohio. It has been recognized as the most colorful cavern in America. It has the ‘Crystal King’, the largest free hanging stalactite in the state of Ohio. Like over caverns, it has formations that are unique. Here, you will see many crystalized formations throughout your tour. The great thing about these caverns is that they are open year-round. If you are in the western part of Ohio, you will want to make your way to see Ohio Caverns.
Some of you are saying, “This must be a very wonderful place to see. It looks like I am going to have to visit this place. There is one thing. This, being a railroad site, are writing about these caverns because these caverns have a connection to the railroad.”
Well, you are right. The Ohio Caverns does have a railroad connection. What is the connection these caverns have with the railroad?
To answer the question, we must go back in time. As mentioned, before the Interstate Highway was built in the United States of America, people drove on roads. The U.S. Routes were the original interstate system, and U.S. Route 68 was the way people went between Dayton, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan. (U.S. Route 68 still passes through the town today.) The early part of the twentieth century was also the heyday of passenger rail travel. During this time, the railroad made many stops in small towns. One of those small towns was West Liberty, Ohio. Why did they come to West Liberty? They wanted to see the Ohio Caverns. The original depot, built in 1900 by the Big 4 Railroad, was partially destroyed by a fire. A new depot was built in 1926, and when the New York Central System came to town, the region was bustling.
The train arrived at the depot in West Liberty. The passengers be-boarded the train, and they were taken by a shuttle to the caverns. They did the tour of the caverns. They were taken back to the train, and they went on their way.
Unfortunately, passenger service ended in 1942, and freight service slowly came to an end as well.
Some of you are saying, “That is very nice, but I guess the railroad is gone and the depot was destroyed.”
Let us say that passenger service is no longer available to West Liberty. The railroad still passes through on the west side of the town. As for the train depot, let us say that things got very sweet.
Some of you are saying, “What do you mean by ‘things got very sweet’?”
The answer is simple. It is now the home of Marie’s Candies (https://mariescandies.com/). Moved to its present location on U.S. Route 68 north of the town center, Marie’s Candies is in the old West Liberty train depot, and the candy shop helped spare this piece of the town’s history from being destroyed. We can all say, ‘How sweet of them’.
Ohio Caverns, as mentioned, is open year-round closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The hours do vary by season. They offer different tours to include the Limestone Tour which is handicap accessible. You can get all the information you need at https://ohiocaverns.com/.
Next time you are in the western part of Ohio, visit West Liberty. Visit Marie’s Candies. Visit Ohio Caverns.
The U.S. state of Indiana has the nickname of being the ‘Hoosier State’. How does the state get that name? There is no real known answer to the question, but there is a theory being that Indiana is not one of those states that comes first to many people’s mind that the word ‘Hoosier’ comes from the phrase ‘who’s there’. The definition is simply a resident of the state of Indiana. Many travel experts would tell you that there is nothing to the state of Indiana. Sadly, they are mistaken not knowing that the state is the home of one of sports hallowed grounds known by many racing fans as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which hosts the Indianapolis 500, the greatest Indy Car race in the world. The southern part of the state in the Louisville, Kentucky metropolis, and horse racing fans are fully aware of another hallowed ground known as Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, the longest continuously running sporting event in the world, and it is part of what is known as ‘The Triple Crown’. It is also a big basketball state, and South Bend is home to the University of Notre Dame, a university famous for its football team.
Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful about the state of Indiana, but does this state have anything to offer other than sports?”
That is a great question. Did you know that the city of Indianapolis has the second largest number of monuments of any city in the world? (Washington D.C. is number one.) The three longest routes in the United States (U.S. 6, U.S. 20, and U.S. 30) all pass through Indiana, and the longest interstate route (Interstate 90) passes through Indiana. If that is not enough, the city of Elkhart is called the Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World. How? Many recreational vehicles are manufactured here, and it is the home of the RV Hall of Fame.
As for railroads, many the America’s major railroads passed through the state of Indiana. The New York Central System had Elkhart as one of the railroad’s hubs (it is home to the New York Central Railroad Museum), and it is a hub for the Norfolk Southern Railroad today. We can go on about the many great sites and accomplishments of the state of Indiana, but one of the great sites you will see is a great railroad site that bears the state’s nickname.
Welcome to the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana. Located in the northwestern region of the state, it is a short drive from the major cities of Indianapolis and Chicago, Illinois. What will you see here?
You begin inside a replica of a Chesapeake and Ohio Railway depot. Here you will see photos and photos and photos of trains that passed through North Judson. You will see the ticket office and a bench used for passengers in the waiting room. You will see a model train running around the top of the museum. Of course, you will also find the gift shop where you can buy a souvenir from the museum with proceeds going to the museum itself.
Wait a minute. You do not want to come here to see pictures of trains. You want to see trains.
Well then. It is time to go outside. You cross the tracks. You see so many cabooses and locomotives. Where do you begin? How about starting with Caboose 1989 from the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad. You can see the old commuter passenger from the Long Island Railroad. How about Caboose Number 9914 from the Illinois Central Railroad which has a small museum inside?
Be advised that you have a good-sized list of rolling stock here, but there is more to this museum.
You have an old switching tower and a watchman’s shanty, and you can also visit the shops. Here, you can see dedicated volunteers rebuilding and refurbishing locomotives and rolling stock.
There is so much that you can see at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum. If this is not enough, you can also take a train ride. Train rides happen from May through October and during special events like Easter and Christmas.
The Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum is an all-volunteer organization. There is no paid staff. It is at 507 Mulberry Street in North Judson, Indiana, a few blocks north of Indiana Route 10. The museum is open every Saturday from 9:00am to 4:00pm year-round, but train rides only take place from May to October. The museum is free, but they will gladly accept donations to keep the museum open and to help with the costs of refurbishing the equipment. There is a cost to ride the train. Parking is on site. You can get information about the museum to include the train rides and to see more of their equipment at http://www.hoosiervalley.org/.
Now, what was this about there being nothing special about the state of Indiana? There are many great places in this state. The Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum is one of them. It is an out-of-the-way museum in an out-of-the-way town worth going out of the way for.