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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.
Do you remember the days when the trolleys ran up and down the streets of the city? Well, some of us do not remember as many cities removed the trolley lines many years ago before many of us were born, but cities like San Francisco, California still use trolleys. Today, some cities are bringing back the trolleys, but would it be nice to relive the glory days of the trolley?
Welcome to the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania. You arrive at the museum, and you purchase your ticket at the ticket booth. The trolley awaits you just steps away. You climb aboard the vintage trolley. When it is time to go, the trolley leaves the station. You stroll past the repair shops, and then you see the ruins of the furnace where the town gets its name. Then, you are in the woods. You arrive at the end of the line with U.S. Route 522 before you and a stream below on the left side. From here, you return to the station. The ride is over but wait. You see another trolley. You take a ride to the end of the line and back. This ride is over, but they decide to bring out a trolley that was used on the San Diego Trolley system in San Diego, California. Oh, you have to ride this trolley. You go to the end of the line and come back again. It is then time to leave the museum, and you have to return to the present day.
The Rockhill Trolley Museum is a great place to live or relive the days of the old trolleys. A ride really takes you back in time. With the East Broad Top Railroad across the street, the Rockhill Trolley Museum is a real compliment to your visit to the region. Let us say that you can have two great rail journeys in one.
The Rockhill Trolley Museum is at 430 Meadow Street (Pennsylvania Route 994) in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania. It is open on Saturday and Sunday from Memorial Day Weekend through October at 11:00am with the last trolley departing at 4:15pm. Parking is on sight. You can get more information on the trolleys and admission at http://rockhilltrolley.org/.
Do not waste time looking for a time machine. Just visit the Rockhill Trolley Museum, and go back in time.
It was the early days of what would become the United States of America. People came from across the ocean to settle in this new world. Many of the settlers encountered Indian tribes. While some of the tribes welcomed the settlers and interacted with them, there were tribes that wanted the settlers gone, and they attacked them. To protect the settlers from attacks, various forts were constructed. When an attack occurred, nearby settlers went into the fort for protection. Among them was Prickett’s Fort which was built in 1774 on a hill overlooking the Monongahela River by Jacob Prickett near Fairmont, West Virginia. The fort you see in the state park today is a recreated fort of what was there before. When you visit Prickett’s Fort State Park during the summer months, you will meet people in costume who recreate life in the fort. There is also the Job Prickett House, a house built by the great-grandson of Jacob Prickett, and a museum in the Visitor Center. Although none of the original structures remain, you can still get a glimpse of life in the early days or North America.
Some of you are saying, “This is really nice. They build these fort to protect the early settlers from attacking Indian tribes. There is a problem. These people did not use the railroad because the railroad did not exist. Therefore, I will not settle on visiting this place.”
Neither Prickett’s Fort nor the Prickett family have anything to do with the railroad… but the park does.
You arrive at the Visitor Center at Prickett’s Fort. It has a small museum that tells the history of the park which, of course, the history of the fort. Then you get a tour of the recreated fort. You see the recreated barracks and the general store where someone may try to sell you something. There are other artisans at work at the fort. From there, you can visit the blacksmith who you will find working on his creation. Then you visit the Job Prickett House.
After the tour, you cannot leave the park until you get a view of the Monongahela River and Prickett’s Creek. As you enjoy the view, you take notice of what looks like a railroad bridge. No, it is not a recreation, but it was once a bridge used by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The trains no longer come through here, but you can walk across the bridge as it is part of the Mon River Trail which follows the old railroad bed from the park north to Morgantown. As you walk along the trail and arrive at the river, you will see an old railroad bridge crossing the Monongahela River. Sadly, you cannot cross this bridge, but you can get a great view of the bridge from the trail. (It was a different rail line, and it is currently unknown who owned that line.)
And you thought that Prickett’s Fort State Park is just about a fort. It is about a fort with a little railroad history as well.
Prickett’s Fort State Park is located at 88 State Park Road in Fairmont, West Virginia. You can follow signs from Interstate 79. There is no entrance fee for the park or to walk on the Mon River Trail, but there is an admission fee to tour the fort and the mansion. The fort and mansion are open during the summer months, but the visitor center hours vary through the year. You can get more information at https://wvstateparks.com/park/pricketts-fort-state-park/.
It is time to head out to the great frontier, and make a detour to Prickett’s Fort where the railroad once roamed.
Is there a town called Railroad, Pennsylvania? The answer is yes. To answer the next question, there is a railroad in the town of Railroad. It owes its existence to the Northern Central Railway that connected the ports of the city of Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland to the city of Harrisburg, the state capital of Pennsylvania. However, it was not always called Railroad. It was originally called Shrewsbury Junction because it was the closest main line service to the town of Shrewsbury, which was served by the Stewartstown Railroad, a spur line from the Northern Central Railroad that also connects the town of Stewartstown.
When Hurricanes Agnes destroyed much of the railroad in 1972, the town of Railroad did not see the railroad, and Harrisburg was no longer connected to the ports of Baltimore by rail. A single rail line remained while the other line was removed to become the York County Heritage Trail. The rails that passed through Railroad did not see the railroad.
In June of 2013, ‘Steam Into History’ began to run along the rails through the town. The town of Railroad was seeing the railroad again.
Today, you can still see the railroad in Railroad (now rebranded as the Northern Central Railway). The town consists of a bed and breakfast, and old factory no longer in use, and a crab shack. If you ever visit the town, you will be very fortunate to see the railroad in Railroad.
The city of Elkins in the U.S. state of West Virginia is in the eastern part of the state. Although no interstates serve this city, it is a crossroads for U.S. Routes 33, 219 and 250. (It is also possible that Interstate 66 may make its way here in the future.) It was once a railroad hub for the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway. When they merged with the Western Maryland Railway, luxury passenger train service came to the town. Sadly, that all died in 1958. What was once a railroad hub was a hub no more.
Today, the train station remains, and it is the home of the Tygart Flyer, the Cheat Mountain Salamander, and the Mountain Explorer Dinner Train, and it is also a tourist information center. (Information on the trains is at https://www.mountainrailwv.com/.) A rail trail follows the rail line north of the city and parallels U.S. 219 to Thomas. A short walk west of the depot is the foundation of the old roundhouse. (It is currently fenced off.) You can see where the turntable once was. A short walk south of the depot along the rail line is the West Virginia Railroad Museum. It may not have any rolling stock, but it gives a detailed history of the history of the railroad in West Virginia. (More information at https://wvrailmuseum.com/.) As you walk around, you will feel that the trains never left town.
Elkins, West Virginia is a small city with great railroad charm. Also it is not a railroad town anymore, the people at the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad and the West Virginia Railroad Museum keep the city’s railroad heritage alive… and kicking.
The town of Point of Rocks in the U.S. state of Maryland is a small town on the Potomac River that gets its name from a rock formation. It is a place with a historic train station, and it is known as a great train watching spot as it is at a junction of two rail routes. (They were original lines of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, but they are owned by CSX today.) Once a passenger train station, it is a commuter train station for trains going to Union Station today. The train station, built by Ephraim Francis Baldwin in 1876, is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is not open to the public as it serves as offices for CSX. As a railroad town, it has seen some railroad battles.
As the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was building the railroad toward the Ohio River Valley in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was being built to connect barge traffic between the Chesapeake Bay and the Ohio River. Both the railroad and the canal converged at Point of Rocks. Both wanted the passage along the Potomac River. The result was that the passage was shared by both the railroad and the canal. Originally constructed as a single line, a second line was constructed by tunneling through the mountain with two tunnels with the original line still on its original route around the mountain. The tunnels are still in operation today and can be seen from the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Tow Path.
The second battle at Point of Rocks and the railroad took place during the American Civil War. This war was led by the famous Confederate General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson who led the Confederate Army across the Potomac River to Point of Rocks attacking the railroad line and seizing 56 locomotives and 300 rail cars. During the war, the railroad line attacked numerous times. Henry A. Cole was put in charge of what was known as Cole’s Maryland Cavalry who was set in the town to protect the railroad from future attacks.
Today, the main action in the town of Point of Rocks, Maryland are the trains passing through the junction. The trains pass through safely today, and many train watchers flock here to watch them roll by.
Point of Rocks, Maryland is served by U.S. Route 15 which crosses the Potomac River. The old train station is on Maryland Route 28 east of U.S. Route 15 beside the Marc Commuter lot. It is wheelchair accessible.
The next time you are in Point of Rocks watching the trains, remember that it is a quiet place where the railroad brought much turmoil.
The place is the big city. Carl is sitting in a seat looking out the window as the train was pulling out of the big train terminal. He has wanted to see the country by train. He knew that the flight to the opposite coast was faster, but he was tired of being in a cramped seat seeing nothing but the interior of a plane for six hours. He saw the buildings and the grade crossings and, finally, the countryside.
Hours later, the train pulled up to a small town. He looked outside and saw a beautiful lady with a backpack and her shoes in her hand. The conductor helped her on, and the train pulled away.
Carl looked at the houses as the train pulled out of town.
“Is this seat taken?”
He glanced back and saw the lady standing in the aisle with her shoes in her hand. He looked down at the seat next to him. “Have a seat.” He smiled.
“Thank you.” She sat down and dropped her shoes on the floor. “My name is Jenny.”
“I’m Carl.” He smiled. “Where are you headed?”
“Oh!” She wiped a piece of lint from between her toes. “I am just here to look at the countryside from the train.”
“So am I.” Carl was full of glee.
“Well then.” She grinned. “It looks like I will not be taking this journey alone after all.”
The city of Lynchburg in the U.S. state of Virginia is a city that has much history, and much of the city’s history is dependent on the railroad to include how the railroad was a major contributor to the Confederate Army to win the battle against the Union Army in the American Civil War. When you visit Downtown Lynchburg today, the railroad still runs through although they are CSX Trains now. While you are there, you may notice a little restaurant called the Depot Grille.
Now some of you are saying, “Wait a minute. Is this one of those restaurants where the founders came up with this crazy idea of a railroad name and tried to make it some kind of a railroad place?”
The answer is no. This restaurant is a railroad themed place that has a history with the railroad.
When you arrive, you will see that it looks like an old train freight depot. Why? Because it was an old train freight depot. You enter the restaurant, and you see the bar, and you see the interior. You see the different photos of the trains, and you see a model train designed by a retired Norfolk and Western Railway worker on display. There is also a small private room that display vintage railroad photos.
Some of you are saying, “That is very nice, but I have been to many restaurants that have photos of trains. There is nothing special about this place.”
Yes, there is. The kitchen is not your typical kitchen.
Some of you are saying, “It is a kitchen. You cook food in the kitchen, and you wash dishes in the kitchen. There is nothing special about this kitchen. It is just like any other kitchen in a restaurant.”
Yes, they cook food and wash dishes in this kitchen just as they do in any other restaurant kitchen. What is special about this kitchen? It just happens to be in two old boxcars. Yes, the same boxcars you see on trains except these remain here because without them, the Depot Grille would not have a place to cook food or wash dishes. The boxcars were used by the Georgia Northern Railroad before being decommissioned and, instead of scraped, were brought here to the Depot Grille.
Opened in 2004, the Depot Grille has been a staple in Downtown Lynchburg. Along with great food and service, you may see something very special. How often do you get to have a nice meal and get rewarded by a passing train? Yes, CSX will gladly compliment your meal.
The Depot Grille is located at 10 Ninth Street in Lynchburg, Virginia next to the waterfront and the active CSX rail line where you also get a view of a fountain that shoots up from an old bridge support situated in the James River. It is minutes from U.S. Business Route 29 and Virginia Route 163. Please note that you will need to navigate a steep declining street to the restaurant, but it is worth the drive. The restaurant is wheelchair accessible, and parking is on site. You can get information about the menu, the hours, and can how you can book a small private party at https://depotgrille.com/lynchburg/. Be advised that when you arrive, you may find it hard to leave. There is also a location in Staunton, Virginia that is also located in an old train freight house.
So, welcome to Lynchburg, Virginia, a city that was saved by the railroad, a city where the railroad is in the heart of the city, and a place where you can eat in a place where the railroad still has a home.
Oh, yes! You remember the days when you went to that old classic diner. You were hungry and wanted to eat. So you went to the nearby diner. You ordered that burger and fries. You ordered that chocolate milkshake. You ordered that banana split. The waiter took your order. The chef cooked it or made it. The waiter brought it out, and you enjoyed every bite. When you were done, you left hoping to return for that next great meal.
Some of you are saying, “You know? This is nice. I can reminisce those days of going to the diner. There is one question. What does this have to do with the railroad?”
That is a good question. The diners today are more different than the ones from years ago with that classic look. Did you know that many of those old diners were built out of old passenger rail cars and old streetcars? The passenger or streetcar was brought in. The seats were taken out, and tables and chairs were put in. Some had a counter with seats where you were able to see your meal cooked to order. To the rail fan, it felt great to be having a great delicious meal in a piece of railroad history.
The next time you head to that diner, remember where many of those old diners began… with a piece of railroad history.
In the east-southeastern region of the U.S. state of West Virginia is a little town of Cass. Established in 1901 on the Greenbrier River, the small town was a booming company town for the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company that had a paper mill in the town. Joseph Kerr Cass was the vice president and cofounder of the company, and it is he who the town is named after. The town is surrounded by mountains and forests, and the lumber was used at the mill to make the paper. How was the lumber brought to the mill? It was brought by the train. The town was served by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, but a special rail line was built haul in the lumber from the mountain. In 1960, the mill closed. The town was no longer booming. The town of Cass, West Virginia became another ruined town.
Or did it?
In 1963, the state of West Virginia bought the railroad, and the Cass Scenic Railroad was born.
Some of you are saying, “I know the story. The train comes, picks up people, they go to a place and come back. It is the same old same old.”
Well, this same old same old is one of the most popular train rides in the United States of America, and it has attracted many people from foreign countries.
Some of you are saying, “Yes, but you see the West Virginia scenery.”
You do, but it is not just the beautiful exceptional beauty of the West Virginia mountains and forests that attract people to the Cass Scenic Railroad.
You arrive in Cass. You get your tickets. Then you wait. You hear a while. You see the steam. The train is coming. You see it coming around the bend but wait. The locomotive is going backwards and is pulling the train. The train pulls into the station. Things are strange. You board the train. The train pulls away from the station, but the rail cars are in front of the locomotive. What is happening?
The train departs from the old Chesapeake and Ohio Railway tracks, and you see the ruins of the old paper mill ( burned down in 1882) and the water tower that is still used to add water to the locomotives. You pass through the yard and by the shops where the railroad equipment is repaired. Then, you are out of the town. You arrive at the first railroad crossing, and you feel the power of the whistle, but the train is still pushing the cars up the mountain.
Some of you are saying, “This is very strange. Why does the train push the cars instead of pull them like other trains?”
As you ride along, the tracks get steeper. The locomotive pushes the cars is because the tracks get steep. If the locomotive pulled the cars and the cars accidentally detached, they would roll down the tracks with little ability to stop them and to keep them from derailing which results in a huge mess.
Anyway, you continue up the mountain until you reach the first switchback. What is a switchback? Because of the steepness of the mountain, the tracks could not be built continuously up the mountainside. With the switchback, the train pushes the cars past the switch. (A switch, also called an interlocking, is where trains go from one track to another.) The tracks are switched, and now the train pulls the cars up the steep grade.
Some of you are saying, “Wait a minute. I thought the locomotive had to push the cars up the mountain.”
In this situation, the locomotive, or locomotives if there is more than one, pulls the cars up. It arrives at another switchback, and it pushes the cars again. You then arrive at Whitaker Station. What is Whitaker Station? It was and old logging camp, and some of the old logging equipment to include those that ran on the rails is on display. There is also a picnic area and a snack bar.
Some of the trains stop here and return to Cass, but you did not come to ride the Cass Scenic Railroad just to go part of the way.
You continue up the steep mountain grade passing through the forest. You occasionally pass by an overlook and get a great view of the valley below. After a long ride, you come upon a spring. It is here where the locomotive gets water. Once the locomotive is filled, it continues to push the cars up the mountain. It keeps pushing until, you reached the spot. What is the spot? It is Bald Knob, the third highest point in the state of West Virginia. The tracks end here, but when you walk over to the overlook, the views are never ending.
Sadly, it is time for the train to return to Cass. You board the train, and the locomotive carries the weight of the cars as it goes down the mountain. You arrive in Cass. The trip is over.
The Cass Scenic Railroad is part of the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and is owned by the West Virginia State Rail Authority, and it is operated by the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad who also owns and operates the New Tygart Flyer, the Cheat Mountain Salamander, and the Mountain Explorer Dinner trains out of Elkins, West Virginia, and it also operates the Durbin Rocket which has been relocated to Cass from the town of Durbin, West Virginia and runs along the old Chesapeake and Ohio Railway line north of Cass along the Greenbrier River. You can ride the train to Whitaker Station, Bald Knob, and select trips to the site of the town of Spruce Knob, a town that was only accessible by train. The state park along features the original general store that is open during the operating season. It features a museum that tells the story of Cass and the railroad during the days as a company and logging town. You can see the old mill (now in ruins). If you need to spend the night, some of the old company workers houses are available to rent. There is also the Greenbrier River Trail that runs along the old route of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway south of Cass. The trail takes you across the old railroad bridges and through the original tunnels, and you will get many great views of the Greenbrier River. Please be advised that the region is in a wi-fi free zone due to the nearby Green Bank Radio Observatory making your cell phones and iPhones useless.
The Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is located in Cass, West Virginia and is main accessible by West Virginia Route 66 which is a windy road between West Virginia Routes 28 and 92 in Green Bank and U.S. Route 219 and West Virginia Route 55 in Snowshoe. The Cass Scenic Railroad only runs from late May to late October, but there are plans to run the Durbin Rocket year-round. If you like, you can even spend a night in a caboose. The old houses are available to rent year-round. You can get more information at https://mountainrailwv.com/.
A ride on the Cass Scenic Railroad is a ride you will remember for a long time. Even if the trains are not running, a visit to the town will take you back in time.
He was nineteen. He was standing with his parents, his brother, and his sister at the train station. As the train was pulling up, they hugged each other. He boarded the train. They waved as the train pulled out of the station.
What they did not know was that it was a one way ticket.
He died in battle.
For many soldiers in wartime, it is a one way ticket. They board the train to head for battle, and they do not come back.
On this Memorial Day, we remember the men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, Navy Seals who boarded the train only to find that they had a one way ticket.
A special thanks to the Everett Railroad Company in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the Exchange Hotel and Civil War Medicine Museum in Gordonsville, Virginia, and the East Broad Top Railroad for supplying the models and for their service and honor of those who serve in the Armed Forces.