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Shenandoah Caverns, Quicksburg, Virginia

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Along the Interstate 81 corridor in the state of Virginia, you will find a great number of caverns that you can tour.  You have the famous Luray Caverns in Luray.  You have Skyline Caverns in Front Royal.  You have the Natural Bridge Caverns in Natural Bridge, Virginia.  As you visit each cavern, you find a uniqueness to each one.  This is also what you will discover when you visit Shenandoah Caverns in the town of Quicksburg.  For those who are disabled and have mobility problems, Shenandoah Caverns is special because it was the first cavern to be handicap accessible, and it is now one of two caverns that is accessible to those who are handicapped.  (Luray Caverns recently became handicap accessible.)  Shenandoah Caverns is an amazing place to see, and you will be amazed at the numerous stalactites and stalagmites.

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Some of you are saying, “Wow!  How cool.  This must be a beautiful place to see.  There is one very big problem.  Being a ‘cavern’ means that it is natural.  Being natural means that there are no trains here.  Therefore, I will naturally not be making a visit to this place.”

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There has never been a train that has gone into this cavern.  What does the railroad have to do with Shenandoah Caverns?

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A visit to Shenandoah Caverns is a visit to see many things.  The main attraction is, of course, the caverns.  You also have the Caverns Café which is set up like an old 1950’s diner.  It is a great place to have lunch.  You then have ‘Main Street Yesteryear’, a place that takes you back in time to see the old displays from the old department stores.

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Then you have the Yellow Barn.  On the outside, it is a yellow barn, but the very first thing you will notice is the caboose.  Yes, you want to see the caboose, but you must see what is inside.  As you enter, you will see plates behind the receptionist desk.  What is special about these plates?  They have locomotives on them.  Earl C. Hargrove, a former owner of the caverns, is a railroad fan, and this is just the beginning.  There are displays inside the main room, but while you are walking through, you will want to look up.  Why?  You can see the model trains going around.  In case you are wondering, this space is available to host your event.

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As mentioned, Earl C. Hargrove is the former owner of the Shenandoah Caverns.  (It is now owned by his daughter, Kathy.)  Before Earl Hargrove was the owner of the caverns, he was a designer of parade floats.  From his designing company in suburban Washington D.C. he designed floats for many parades to include town parades, the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California and numerous Presidential Inauguration parades in Washington D.C.  Many of his parade floats are on display at ‘American Celebration on Parade’.

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As you enter ‘American Celebration on Parade’, you will see a model train display on your left.  After seeing the trains going around, you will want to enter the main hall to see all the floats.  You will be amazed at the works.  Two things you will see is a trolley that was used in a parade in Cheverly, Maryland.  As you walk around some more, you will see your favorite float.  What will be your favorite float?  It will be the steam locomotive and caboose.  It is a float that you can climb aboard.  What is special about this float?  It is the longest float on display.  It was used in the 1994 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.  It was here where the float won top honors.  It was also used in President William Clinton’s 1997 Inauguration Parade and in three of Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Parades.

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Now some of you are saying, “That is nice.  Model trains.  Trains on plates.  A train float used at the Rose Parade.  I guess that is everything.”

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Not exactly.  The Yellow Barn and American Celebration on Parade has railroad stuff.  However, there is more.  This has to do with the discovery of Shenandoah Caverns.  How?  In the autumn of 1884, the Southern Railway was building a line through the Shenandoah Valley which would have brought service to what is Quicksburg today.  The rail line was being built next to a farm owned by a man named Abraham Neff.  The railroad needed some limestone.  Abraham allowed them to dig up his farm for the limestone.  It was on one Sunday that the two sons decided to play in the quarry while the workers were resting for the day.  While playing around, one of them felt cold air from the ground.  It was at this time when they discovered what would be Shenandoah Caverns.  In 1920, the property was sold to Hunter Chapman, a stockholder in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad who built a hotel (the current visitor center) at the caverns.  Being a railroad man, he ran excursions from Washington D.C. to Shenandoah Caverns.  Sadly, the trains no longer have passenger service to the caverns.

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Shenandoah Caverns is located at 261 Caverns Road in Quicksburg, Virginia.  It is just minutes from Interstate 81 and U.S. Route 11.  Although the caverns and ‘Main Street Yesteryear’ are open year-round, the Yellow Barn and American Celebration on Parade are open seasonally.  Access to the caverns is by way of an old elevator built in the 1930’s.  Although it is handicap accessible, those using a wheelchair may need assistance through the cavern.  You can get all of the information and learn more about the cavern at https://shenandoahcaverns.com/.

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The next time somebody tells you that there is nothing about the railroad at Shenandoah Caverns, tell them to pay the place a visit.  You will see a place that the railroad helped discover.

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The Town of Felton, Delaware

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Have you ever heard of the town of Felton, Delaware?  You have never heard of the town of Felton, Delaware?  The town is not a famous town.  If you had heard of this town, you are among a very few.  It is in the central part of the state.  What famous historic sites are here?  What great attractions are here?  It is not a town famous for its great attractions or history which is probably why very few people have ever heard of this town.

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What is so great about this town?

That is a great question.  In case you are wondering, this town was established in 1856.  No, it is not named after Tom Felton, the famous actor from the Harry Potter movies.

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If it is not named after Tom Felton, who is it named after?

Before we answer that question, let us talk about how this town even is in existence.  As mentioned, it was established in 1856.  How?  The town of Felton owes its existence to one thing: the railroad.  The Delaware Railroad was built, and the town was established as a whistle stop.  The lay out of the town had the rail line in the center with the town being equally divided by half a mile on each side.  The town was incorporated in 1861.  A train depot was built, and the town had normal passenger service.  It is named for Samuel Felton who was the President of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad.  (He is also famous for using the railroad to thwart Abraham Lincoln’s first assassination attempt.)   Despite the town’s size, it became a booming town which sadly was short lived when a fire destroyed the town in 1930 and a slumping economy after the 1929 stock market crash.  It still had regular passenger service until the 1950’s.  The Passenger depot remains as a reminder of the railroad heritage.  Only freight trains pass by the depot today.

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Now that you have heard of Felton, Delaware, you should drop by.  Pay the small town a visit.  Visit the depot.  See what the railroad can do.  It is just ten miles south of Dover on U.S. 13.  The town center is on Delaware Route 12 west of U.S. 13.  The old train station is just north of Delaware Route 12 from where it crosses the tracks.  (It is currently not open to the public.)

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Luray Caverns, Luray, Virginia

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If you drive 93 miles southwest of Washington D.C., and you will find yourself in the town of Luray, Virginia.  This small town located at the junction of U.S. Routes 211 and 340, it has a few attractions, but the most famous attraction is Luray Caverns, the largest cavern east of the Appalachian Mountains and the most visited caverns in the eastern United States.  The caverns, like others across the nation, is an amazing natural wonder.  If are even in the region, you will want to make your way to Luray Caverns.

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Some of you are saying, “I think that this is wonderful.  These caverns must be very amazing.  The problem is that this a cave, and there are no railroads in this cavern.  Therefore, you will not be seeing me explore this place.”

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Luray Caverns is a spectacular place to see.  Of course, there are no railroads inside the cavern.  However, there is much to these caverns that have to do with the railroad.

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When you pay your admission to Luray Caverns, you will be able to see, of course, Luray Caverns.  It also includes admission to the Car and Caravan Museum which displays classic cars.  You can enter the Luray Valley Museum where you can see how life was when this region was part of the western frontier.  Then you have Toy Town Junction.  Toy Town Junction features toys, but it also features model trains.  You will see two different model train displays plus trains displayed on shelves featuring different scenes.

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If you think that Toy Town Junction is all that Luray Caverns has to do with trains, think again.

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About one mile away from Luray Caverns is the town center of Luray.  Just south of the town center is the Luray Visitor Center.  What is special about the Luray Visitor Center?  It is housed in the old train depot.  Along with the visitor center there is also a small museum that features a model train display.  You can even take a seat in the original passenger ticket office.

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In case you are wondering, there is much more to the story.  This depot is a big part of the story.

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Before it was the Luray Visitor Center and Museum, it was the train depot.  It served as a normal small-town depot.  Passenger trains stopped here to pickup and discharge passengers.  Unlike your typical small-town depot, this depot had many visitors during the glory days of railroading.  Why did they come here?  They came to see this popular cavern that was located about one mile outside of the town.  When the passengers arrived at the caverns by train, they were given a special deal.  Those who came to Luray by train were given free overnight accommodations at a local hotel.  Sadly, the passenger trains no longer serve the town of Luray, but Norfolk Southern has freight trains that pass through the town.

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Luray Caverns is located at 101 Cave Hill Road in Luray, Virginia.  It can be seen from U.S. 211 and 340.  It is open everyday of the year, but hours vary by season.  It is also handicap accessible with no steps to the entrance although some assistance many be needed for the uneven walkways.  Your paid admission includes the caverns, the Car and Carriage Caravan Museum, the Luray Valley Museum and, of course, the Toy Town Junction.  You can get all the information you need at https://luraycaverns.com/.

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As for the Visitor Center and Museum, it is located at 18 Campbell Street (U.S. Business 340) in Luray, Virginia.  Parking is on site.  The museum is free, but they gladly accept donations to keep the museum up and running.  It features the old ticket office where you can sit at the ticket desk. You can see displays of the history of the railroad through the Shenandoah Valley, and you can enjoy the model train display.  The model train display was arranged by the Page County Model Railroad Club.  If you are fortunate enough, you may see a train pass by.  The Luray Visitor Center and Museum is open everyday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

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Next time you see an advertisement about Luray Caverns, do not think of it as just a hole in the ground.  Think of it as a spot where people once rode the train to.  While in Luray, visit the visitor center.  Be warned.  You may go back in time.

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Central Railroad of New Jersey Locomotive Number 113, Minersville, Pennsylvania

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What do you know about the town of Minersville, Pennsylvania?

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Some of you are saying, “Duh!  It is the home of miners.”

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That could be true considering that it is in the eastern central part of the state surrounded by anthracite coal mines, and it was the access to the mines that helped this town grow.  For the rail fan, coal mines usually meant railroads, and a railroad was built to transport the coal through the region.  There is another great reason the visit the town of Minersville.  What is that reason?  It is the home of the Central Railroad of New Jersey Locomotive Number 113.

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What is special about the Number 113?  It is an old switcher locomotive original built for the Central Railroad of New Jersey to be used in the freight yards as switcher locomotives were normally used for.  It is a 0-6-0 locomotive that was very powerful locomotive, and it was one of the heaviest locomotives with that type of wheel-base ever built.  (0-6-0 is the wheelbase of the steam locomotive with no guiding wheels, six driving wheels and no rear wheels.)  It went through many hands until a man by the name of Robert Kimmel, Sr. bought the locomotive and had it moved to the town of Minersville where it sits next to the old Minersville depot today.

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Now some of you are saying, “That is nice that it is now in Minersville sitting and rotting and sitting and rotting just like those old locomotives.”

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It was sitting and rotting until a restoration project began.  For years they had to work to find some of the original parks to include a bell that was removed.

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Now some of you are saying, “I bet that they cannot find all the parts, and it will never run again.”

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Well, it was taken to the Schuylkill Haven Borough Day in September of 2019, and it did pull a full trains in 2019, and the volunteers hope to see more excursions, but as for now, it rests near the old Minersville depot in Minersville, Pennsylvania. (The depot is also under a restoration project.  It is owned by the Reading and Northern Railroad and is leased from them.)  You can read more into the history of the CRRNJ Number 113 and more into the restoration project at https://www.rrproject113.org/.  You can also click this link to donate to the project, to buy merchandise, to see the restoration work, to see a YouTube video of the locomotive in action and to see when possible future excursions with the 113 will take place.

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The old Minersville depot is located at 113 East Sunbury Road in Minersville, Pennsylvania just east of Pennsylvania Route 901 next to the bridge crossing the Schuylkill River.  Although you can see the CRRNJ 113 and the depot, the depot itself is not open to the public.  Parking is on the street.

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Railroads in the Movies

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What does ‘The General’, ‘The Commuter’, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, ‘Silver Streak’, ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’, ‘The Railway Man’, and ‘The Girl on the Train’ all have in common?  They all involve trains.  From the days of silent movies to the modern, day trains have been in the movies.  From the wild, wild west to the train robbery to the murder to fast action to the regular everyday passenger, trains have been part a of the silver screen from Hollywood to across America to around the world.

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Trains have been as much of the movies as they have been a part of many lives, and they have the same fascination as watching the trains in real life.

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The next time you take a ride on a train, you will more likely not be part of a movie, but at least you can pretend.  Alright.  Please do not go and rob it.  Just enjoy the ride.

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THE  END

 

Special  Thanks  to  the  Walkersville  Southern  Railroad  in  Walkersville,  Maryland,  the  Everett  Railroad  Company  in  Hollidaysburg,  Pennsylvania,  Act  1  Productions  in  Shoemakersville,  Pennsylvania,  the  Strasburg  Railroad  in  Ronks,  Pennsylvania,  ‘Steam  Into  History’  Northern  Central  Railroad  in  New  Freedom,  Pennsylvania  and  the  Baltimore  and  Ohio  Railroad  Museum  in  Baltimore,  Maryland.

A Train Ride for the Holidays

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It is the week of Christmas. A father, mother and teenage daughter are waiting at the train depot. What are they doing for Christmas? They are spending it on a train. The train arrives, and they board the train. They go to their seat and sit down. They look outside and watch as the train pulls from the station. The father and mother look out at the scenery, the daughter yanks off her shoes and socks and lays across the seat to sleep. The father and mother are awed by the grace of her sleepy face, and they are in awe of the scenery outside. The snow falls covering the branches. They pass over rippling creeks. What a way to spend Christmas. They snuggle each other. The mother says, “Merry Christmas.”

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Whether you are riding the train or just watching trains or even working on the train. May you have a very Merry Christmas. Remember all of those who are working on this day to keep the trains running.

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TOP  PHOTO  is  of  the  diesel  Baltimore  and  Ohio  Railroad  Locomotive Number  722  from  the  Potomac  Eagle  Scenic  Train  in  Romney,  West  Virginia

SECOND  PHOTO  is  of  the  W.  M.  Mason  locomotive  at  the  Baltimore  and  Ohio  Railroad  Museum  in  Baltimore,  Maryland

THIRD  PHOTO  is  of  the  Number  17  William  Simpson  York  locomotive  which  is  operated  by  ‘Steam  Into  History’  in  New  Freedom,  Pennsylvania

FOURTH PHOTO  is  of  the  Holiday  Lights  train  at  the  Wilmington  and  Western  Railroad  in  Greenbank,  Delaware

FIFTH  PHOTO  is  the  train  depot  of  the  Colebrookdale  Railroad  in  Boyertown,  Pennsylvania

BOTTOM  PHOTO  is  a  caboose  from  the  Pennsylvania  Railroad  in  Boyertown,  Pennsylvania

Georgetown, Delaware

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The town of Georgetown, Delaware, located in the southern part of the state, is the county seat of Sussex County.  It is not a very popular town to tourists being far from any major route.  U.S. 9 is the only U.S. Route running through town, and U.S. 113 runs west of the town far from any interstate and from major routes like U.S. 13 and 50.  Its main attraction is the county courthouse, but it also has two other attractions.  One is the original firehouse.  The other is the old train station.

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In the 1860’s, a rail line was built to Georgetown which would continue to the coastal resort town of Lewes, but the passenger depot was built north of the town.  It was not until the year 1892 that the present passenger depot was built.  The railroad brought prosperity to the town.  However, as with situations across the nation, passenger service went in decline, and passenger service ceased in 1949.  It was then used as offices for the railroad until 1972.  From then on, it was just an abandoned passenger depot.

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Thanks to the volunteers of the Historic Georgetown Association, the passenger depot was not demolished, but it was restored to its original condition from the days of passenger service, the restoration was done by salvaging most of the original materials.  Although it was not being used as a passenger depot, it had new life.  Sadly, a fire in May 2011 destroyed the depot… but the great volunteers of the Historic Georgetown Association stepped in again, and it was fully restored in 2014.

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Now some of you are saying, “Yeah.  I have seen so many of these old train stations in these small out of the way towns that are just old train depots.  Although some were made into visitor centers or offices.  This place is probably just like those other small-town train depots.”

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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the old train station in Georgetown, Delaware.  It is not the town visitor center or offices, but it is the restored depot.

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Some of you are saying, “That is great, but you probably cannot go inside.”

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Although the depot has a fence around it, the Historic Georgetown Association does hold open houses at certain times of the year.  During the open houses you can see the old ticket office and waiting rooms, and they even have a model train.  The open houses are posted on the website.

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The old train station in Georgetown, Delaware in located at 105 Spicer Street.  It is just one block north of U.S. 9.  When the depot is not open, you can look at the depot.  If you are fortunate enough, you can possibly see a passing freight train.  Parking is street parking.  You can go to http://georgetowntrainstation.org/ to get information on the open houses and to read deeper into the history of the depot and the many efforts it took to keep the depot open, and you can read of the other sites that the Historic Georgetown Association is keeping restored as well.

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Welcome to the town of Georgetown, Delaware, an out of the way town that it truly worth going out of the way for.

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