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The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina

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The Great Smoky Mountains, a small mountain range in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee that is part of the Appalachian Mountain range, is known for its densely foggy weather.  The park is filled with streams and numerous waterfalls, and it is full of wildlife.  Every square inch of this park will leave you in awe.  This is one of many reasons that this national park is one of the most visited parks in the United States.

Just outside the park on the south side is the town of Bryson City, North Carolina, and it is here where you will find the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

You arrive at the depot.  You get your ticket and board the train.  You sit down in a vintage coach.  The train leaves the station.  As you look out the window, you see the Tuckasegee River flowing along.  You cross the first trestle looking down at the river below.  You see the homes and the farms along the way.  You see the water rolling over the rocks in the river.  You then come along some train wreckage.  This is the set of the 1980’s movie ‘The Fugitive’ which featured Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, and the wreckage remains for riders to see.  You arrive in the town of Dillsboro where you de-board and walk around.  You then get back onto the train and return to Bryson City.  As you head back to your car you think, “Think may be the best part of my visit to the Great Smoky Mountains.”

Along with the Tuckasegee River Excursion, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has other great excursion trips as well.  The great thing is that they have excursion trains running all year long so you very rarely have to worry about a down season.  (The winter excursions mainly run on weekends.)  While you are visiting, you will want to check out the Smoky Mountains Trains Museum located next to the boarding area.

The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is located in Bryson City, North Carolina on Everett Street a few blocks north of Main Street (U.S. 19).  You can get more information about their other excursions and how you can get a special lodging package at http://www.gsmr.com.

The Great Smoky Mountains are calling.  Answer the call, and ride the train while you are there.

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“Steel Giants of the B&O Railroad”

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Imagine this.  You are wondering what to get your rail fan for Christmas.  You can get him six locomotives that changed the course of railroading.

Now some of you are saying, “That is very nice, but those locomotives have to cost millions.  I would be in debt for many years.”

You do have a point.  Therefore, there is the next best thing.

Lark Media Group and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad museum bring you ‘Steel Giants of the B&O Railroad’ a forty-eight minute DVD that tells the history of six locomotives that changed the course of railroading.  Narrated by Courtney Wilson, executive director of the B&O Railroad Museum, you will get an in depth story on how each of these locomotives made great contributions to the railroad.  You can enjoy this DVD in the comfort of your own home… or… you can make your way to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland and see all six of these locomotives on display.

‘Steel Giants of the B&O Railroad’ is available at the B&O Museum Store or online at www.borail.org.  You can also purchase it directly from Lark Media Group at http://shop.larkmediagroup.com where they will also send you a free hand-drawn poster of the locomotive wheel arrangements.  For your rail fan, it may be the best present they get this year.

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A Train Full of Thanks

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Here we are at the train yard here in Realitysburg.  We are about to assemble a train headed to a town called Thanksgivingville.  We have the locomotives all ready and gassed up for the long journey.  We can now assemble the train.

The first car is the Engineer Car.  We then have the Conductor Car followed by the Brakeman Car.  Then we have the Porter Car.  From there, we have the Chef Car.  Behind that, we have the Waiter Car and the Waitress Car.  Now we have the Mechanics Car.  After that, we have the Maintenance Car.  Following that is the Ticket Agent Car followed by the Baggage Handler Car.  We have the Cleaners Car, and then we can finish the train by adding the caboose.  The train is complete, and the train is ready for the journey to Thanksgivingville.  We can sit on the bench at the watching platform and watch the train roll out.  If you are anywhere between Realitysburg and Thanksgivingville, you will want to make your way to the tracks.  This train will be passing through your town, and it is a spectacular sight to see.

For the many thing we can be thankful for, let us be thankful for the great men and women who keep the trains running all day and all night to make sure everyone and everything gets to the destination.  May you have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy your ride on the Train Full of Thanks.

The Everett Railroad, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania

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The city of Altoona, Pennsylvania is a city built around railroads.  It has been referred to as ‘The Railroad Capital of America’, although Trains Magazine has named Chicago, Illinois as the ‘Railroad Capital’ mainly because of the massive number of railroads that serve that city.  How does Altoona get the name?  It does not have as many railroads as Chicago, but it does have many railroad sites.  You have the Juniata Shops where trains are serviced.  You have the Railroaders Memorial Museum.  For train watchers, you have the famous Horseshoe Curve where you can watch trains roll on through.  You also have the Gallitzin Tunnels that helped pave the way for railroads through the high Allegheny Mountains, and you have the Portage Railroad that had the task of link canal barges across the mountain range.  Yes, you have great railroad sites in Altoona.

Now some of you are saying, “Wow!  That is so ool.  There are so many railroad sites in Altoona, but I do have to agree with Trains Magazine about Chicago being the official ‘Railroad Capital’.  With all those sites in Altoona, it would be nice if they had a train to ride.”

That brings us to another railroad site in Altoona.  Located in the town of Hollidaysburg is the Everett Railroad, a small short line railroad that runs freight service, and it also runs passenger excursions.  It departs from the station and heads south through the countryside down to the town of Roaring Spring where you can step off the train for a little ice cream, take a tour of the depot or see the ‘Roaring Spring’ located just a short walk from the train.  The train, made up of old passenger cars, is pulled by the Number 11 steam locomotive, a restored Alco-Cooke 2-6-0, or by older model diesels.  For those who love trains, this may be your best reason to visit Altoona.

The Everett Railroad is located at 244 Loop Road in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania which is south of Altoona.  It is just east of Pennsylvania Route 36 and south of U.S. 22 and three miles east of I-99.  You can get more information at www.everettrailroad.com.

You now know about another great railroad site in Altoona.  The Everett Railroad is a ride that you will enjoy.  Also, you can head south to the town of Everett and visit the Everett Railroad Station Museum.  It was here where the Everett Railroad originated.  You can visit their website at www.bloodyrunhistory.org.  The museum is open every Saturday between April and October from 11:00am to 4:00pm and is free, but they gladly accept donations.

The Potomac Eagle: “Where Eagles Fly”

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You have scenic railroad excursions.  Then you have the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad excursion.  You are probably wondering how this train gets its name.  The answer is centered on a particular bird.

You board the train at the depot in Romney, West Virginia.  From there, you ride south, and you roll mainly along the South Branch of the Potomac River.  Yes, many trains run alongside of rivers and pass by cliffs.  Then you come to ‘The Trough’, a long valley between two high ridges with the river flowing through the middle.  It is a place that is only accessible by canoe, by hiking or by the Potomac Eagle.  You cannot drive here nor can you fly in here on a plane.  Well, there will be no place to land a plane.  It is here where the Potomac Eagle gets the name and where the phrase ‘Where Eagles Fly’ comes in to play.  The ‘Trough’ is a common place for eagles, and you will find eagles nests here.  The train slows down every time an eagle is spotted.  Before the train enters the Trough, passengers have the option to ride in an open air car to get an unobstructed view of the entire trough and the Potomac River below.  As you ride through the Trough, you will be surrounded by nothing but natural scenery, and even if you do not spot an eagle standing on a branch or flying around, you will enjoy the scenic views that the Trough has to offer.  There is so much scenery to see as you ride the Potomac Eagle.  No matter how old you are, the Potomac Eagle will give you memories that will last a lifetime.

Although the ride through the Trough is the main highlight of this excursion, the Potomac Eagle has many other riding options like an all-day ride to the town of Petersburg and a one-time excursion that runs north to Green Spring in late October.

The Potomac Eagle is located at the Wappocomo Station on West Virginia Route 28 north of the town of Romney.  It is a two and a half hour drive from Washington D.C. and an hour drive from Cumberland, Maryland.  You can go to www.potomaceagle.com for more information on the train schedules.

Come and ride the Potomac Eagle in wild and wonderful West Virginia and see the place ‘Where Eagles Fly’.

The Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern Railroad, Kempton, Pennsylvania

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There are many great excursion railroads in America.  A good number of them are in the state of Pennsylvania, and there are a few that are off the beaten path.  One of them is in a little town of Kempton.

Welcome to the Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern Railroad commonly known as the WK&S and nicknamed the ‘Hawk Mountain Line’.  You may not have heard of this train, but once you take a ride, you will want to ride again.  It runs along an old three and a half mile stretch of landlocked track once owned by the Reading Railroad.  Yes, it is a very short ride, but there is much scenery to see.  On certain days, you can ride many trips for just one fee.  You have your choice of and old style passenger car, open air gondola or the caboose.  The best way to enjoy this train is to take a ride yourself.

At the station, you can also see a model train display set up in an old Atlantic City Rail Car.  You can also tour the old Kempton depot and visit the gift shop.  It may be a small railroad, but you will have many memories to take away from here.

The WK&S is an all-volunteer railroad that operates mainly on Sundays from late May to early November.  Proceeds go to the operation of the train, maintenance of facilities and the restoration of locomotives to include Number 65 steam locomotive in hopes of getting it operational to pull trains in the future.  The train station is located at 42 Community Center Drive in Kempton, Pennsylvania just off Pennsylvania Route 737 eight miles north of I-78.  You can learn more about this train and get directions at www.kemptontrain.com.