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Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo, Maryland

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It was started by two brothers, Edward and Edwin Baltzley.  It began as a real estate investment, and it became the assembly site of the Washington D.C. Chapter of the Chautauqua Assembly.  Structures were erected.  ‘Glen Echo on the Potomac’ was born.  The name was later shortened to Glen Echo Park.  Through the years, it became an entertainment venue and then evolved into an amusement park.  There were bumper cars, a carousel, a roller coaster, a swimming pool, a dance hall and an amphitheater.  For those who lived in the nation’s capital, it was a great escape.  It began to decline in the 1960’s, and the park closed in 1968.

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Today, the National Park Service owns the park.  (They took control in 1970.)  The structures except for the amphitheater remain.  (The amphitheater is in ruins with little of it remaining.)  The rides except for the carousel, are gone.  (The carousel operates in the warmer months.)  Only the façade of the pool remains.  The buildings that once housed a bowling alley and popcorn stand now houses art studios, a museum and a puppet theater.  The ballroom still hosts dances.  A trip to Glen Echo Park is a trip through time.

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Now some of you are saying, “What a really neat place.  There is probably a lot of history here.  It is kind of like the Coney Island of Washington D.C.  The problem is that there are no railroads here.  Therefore, you will not see me here as I do not find this place amusing.”

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You are right.  This is just a historic park.  There is no railroad here… but that was not always the case.

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In the beginning, Glen Echo was a simple getaway from Washington D.C.  There was very little development as you see today.  People came here to ride the bumper cars.  They came to ride the carousel.  They came to relax by or take a dip into the Crystal Pool.  They came to ride the rides.  They came here to enjoy the entertainment and to have fun.

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But how did they get here?

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When the Baltzley Brother established Glen Echo Park, also established the Glen Echo Railroad, a trolley line that ran between the park and Washington D.C.  In 1903, the Washington Railway took over the trolley line and the park.  The era of the ‘trolley park’ was born when trolleys brought people from the inner cities to the amusement parks outside the city.  Through the years, the trolley line changed names, but the passengers were thrilled to ride the trolley to and from the park.  Through the 1950’s and the 1960’s, the streetcars in Washington D.C. went into decline, and trolley service ceased… and it was the end of the trolley ride to Glen Echo Park.

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Today, as you enter the park from the main parking lot, you cross the bridge over Minnehaha Creek.  You can see the old trolley bridge that remains intact.  (It is part of a bike trail.)  You continue into the park and look upon the old carousel.  To the left you will see a stone tower which now houses artist studios.  You walk through what was the original entry point to the park.  You look down and see the old streetcar tracks.  The parking lot that is before you were built on the old trolley line.  To the right the came from the city, and they offloaded from the trolley into the park.  You walk forward and turn around to see the Glen Echo Park sign that still welcomes people to the park today.  This is Glen Echo Park.

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Glen Echo Park is owned by the National Park Service which controls the museum and the carousel, but the art studios, ballroom, theater, classes and the ballroom is operated but the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture.  It is located at 7300 MacArthur Boulevard in Glen Echo, Maryland.  Admission to the park is free, but programs, theater and dances may charge admission.  There is plenty of parking.  You can learn more about the park itself at https://glenechopark.org/ and at www.nps.gov/glec.

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Take a journey to Glen Echo Park.  Take a journey today, and go back in time.

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John Henry Historical Park, Talcott, West Virginia

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This is the story of a man who took on a challenge… against technology.  What was this challenge?  It was the hammer in the hand of John Henry versus the steam-powered drill.  The year was 1870 in a valley in south-southeastern West Virginia.  Who was victorious?  It should be obvious.  There is no possibility that man can win against modern technology… unless you are John Henry.  That is the truth.  John Henry using just his hammer and the strength of the muscles in his arms defeated the steam-powered drill.  It was a challenge that made him victorious… and sadly ended his life.  When the challenge was over, he dropped his hammer… and he fell over and died.  He became an American folk hero in the years following with a famous song plus a few movies.  His story continues to live on through the years.

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Now some of you are saying, “This is such an amazing story, and he was an amazing man.  It is so sad that he died the way he did.  Does that interest me?  No.  He may be great folklore, but I enjoy hearing stories about trains.  Therefore, I will not be that interested in the life of John Henry.”

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John Henry was an African-American man who was very muscular.  Very little is known about his birth or about his life.  He was famed for swinging a hammer to drive spikes to create holes for explosives.  What were the explosives for?  He was a railroad worker for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and the explosives were used to blast out tunnels.  He was working on the Great Bend Tunnel near Talcott, West Virginia where his big challenge against the steam-powered drill took place, and it is said that he was buried somewhere near the east portal of the tunnel.

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Not as many people may not know about John Henry today as they did in the past, but his legacy as a hard-working man and a worker on the railroad continues.  The John Henry Historical Park was established to commemorate this great man.  The statue that was originally erected in 1972 on the Big Bend Mountain overlooking the current site park was relocated to the east port of the Great Bend Tunnel in 2014 where it can be seen by everyone who visits the Great Bend Tunnel.

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The John Henry Historical Park is located on West Virginia Routes 3 and 12 on the west side of the town center of Talcott, West Virginia.  The park is open from dawn to dusk all year round.  There is no admission.  The park consists of the statue of John Henry, the east portal of the Great Bend Tunnel (entry into the tunnel is not permitted), ruins of the equipment used to build the tunnel, a monument to the workers plus the replacement tunnel and the relocated railroad line that is still active.  You can learn more about the park at www.johnhenryhistoricalpark.com.

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The John Henry Historical Park is a great place of history, a place that inspired a legend and folk hero, and, in you are fortunate enough, a place where you can watch a train pass through a tunnel.

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‘On a Midnight Train’

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Imagine this.  You have a lady who lives in a small town where she has very few friends.  She has no opportunities.  She is very lonely.  What does she do?  She goes to the train station.  She buys a ticket for a random train.  The train arrives at midnight.  She boards the train and goes for a ride hoping that opportunity would find her.

You now have a man who is a native of Detroit, Michigan and had spent his entire life there.  He seems to find nothing but dead ends where he goes.  He wants out, but what can he do?  He goes to the train station, and he buys a random ticket.  The train arrives at midnight.  He boards the train in hopes that it would take him to a better life.

The man takes his seat… and he just happens to be across the aisle from the lady from the small town.  Their eyes meet.  She gets up… and sits next to him.  They engage in conversation.  It is not long before they fall in love.

Now some of you are saying, “Wait a minute.  This sounds like the song that the rock band ‘Journey’ sang back in the 1980’s.”

It sure does.  Don’t Stop Believin’ was a hit song by the band ‘Journey’, and it remains an iconic hit song to this present day.  The premise of the song is two people boarding… a train, and they meet.  Imagine how many people have found their special someone while riding a train.  For a fan of trains, it can make Valentine’s Day very special.

I hope that you have a very Happy Valentine’s Day.  If you do not have a loved one to celebrate the day with, may true love find you one day.  May you enjoy the ‘journey’, and ‘don’t stop believing’ that your best days are ahead.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Depot, Covington, Virginia

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The town of Covington, Virginia, located in western Virginia, was a major stop along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.  Although passenger service is no longer available in the town, the town has preserved its two depots.  The Red Depot is used to host events and can be rented out.  The other depot, the old Chesapeake and Ohio Depot, houses the Allegheny Historical Society Museum.  Although most of the museum focuses on the region around Covington, you can still see the old ticket office and the waiting room.  There is even a model train display.

The C&O Depot is located at 149 Maple Avenue.  Please note that this museum is only open during the week.  It does not open on weekends.  Parking is street parking, and there is plenty of it.

Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia, Beckley, West Virginia

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Beckley, West Virginia is a city in the south central part of the state.  It is a city that has a few great tourist sites.  One of those sites is the Youth Museum.  It is an interactive museum with changing exhibits allowing children to interact with the real world as well as entertain.  Your children will have a great time visiting the Youth Museum.

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Now some of you are saying, “This is wonderful.  It is great that kids love this place.  However, I am not a kid nor do I have kids.  I want to see trains.  Therefore, there is no reason for me to visit this place.”

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That is a great point.  However, there is something amazing about this museum.  What is amazing?  The museum is housed in four box cars that were once used on the railroad.  You going inside and look through each car each with an exhibit in it.  So when you visit the Youth Museum, you will be seeing trains.

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The Youth Museum is located at 509 Ewart Avenue in Beckley, West Virginia next to the Exhibit Coal Mine.  It is open all year round between 10:00am to 6:00pm.  It is a great compliment for your children while visiting the mine.  You can have your children inside a box car.

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Ontelaunee Park, New Tripoli, Pennsylvania

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New Tripoli, Pennsylvania is a small town that is thirty miles northwest of Allentown.  It is not a very popular town, but it is where you will find Ontelaunee Park.  Features of this park include an eternal flame memorial, a historic village operated by the Lynn-Heidelberg Historical Society and an amphitheater.  There is also a stream that runs along the west edge.  It is a beautiful town park that is good for a lovely stroll.

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Now some of you are saying, “I love these small town parks.  They are so lovely.  However, there are no trains.  Therefore, you will not be seeing me here.”

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As mentioned, the park has a small village, memorial and an amphitheater.  The other feature includes a replica of the New Tripoli Train Depot.  New Tripoli was a town once served by a railroad.  Sadly, the railroad is gone.  The town had regular passenger service that was eventually ended.  The ‘Berksy Train’ gave regular service to this town.  There was also the ‘Ontelauntee Express’ which was a small train that ran through the park.  Today, the park is in the process of restoring an amusement train in the park for passengers to enjoy.

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You see.  You now have a reason to visit New Tripoli, Pennsylvania.  The town is located along Pennsylvania Route 143 fifteen miles north of Interstate 78.  It is a detour worth taking.

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Winchester Little Theater, Winchester, Virginia

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Come on in.  The show is about to start.  Take your seat.  The lights are about to dim, and the show is about to begin.  Enjoy the show.

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Welcome to the Winchester Little Theater in Winchester, Virginia.  Located in downtown Winchester just a few blocks from the main downtown mall, the theater puts on shows throughout the year.  The next time you are in Winchester and want to see a show, make your way to this little theater.

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Now some of you are saying, “Well isn’t that something?  You have a little theater in Winchester that puts on shows.  I love to watch a show from time to time, but it would be really nice to see something about the railroad.  Therefore, the shows at this little theater will be going on without me.”

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You do have a point.  Why go to this little theater when it has nothing to do with trains?

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You are driving to the Winchester Little Theater.  As you are driving along, you see and old Pennsylvania Railroad Freight House.  How cool is that, but you have a show to see.  You decide to check out this old freight house.  You pull into the parking to park, and you walk around.  You see an old box car in the back.  You climb the steps onto the platform, and you look inside.  It looks like a theater lobby.  You walk around, and you see a sign that says ‘Winchester Little Theater’.

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The Winchester Little Theater is housed in the old Pennsylvania Railroad Freight Station which was built in 1890.  (The year the depot was decommissioned and rail service discontinued was unknown at this point.)  The Winchester Little Theater was performing in other locations in Winchester, but they purchased this depot and performed their first show in August of 1974.  When you walk around the gravel parking lot, you can see some of the old rails embedded into the gravel.  When you enter the building, you can look on the walls and see a map of the rail lines going north of Winchester to points north.  You have a display of timetables from the Cumberland Valley Railroad.  There is also a photo of three steam locomotives to include a Class J.  All of these displays were put here in the theater by the Winchester Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society.

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The Winchester Little Theater is a community theater that is non-profit, and it is an all-volunteer organization.  They do five productions a year mostly on weekends, and they have open auditions (for those who live in the area) to act in one of their plays.

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The Winchester Little Theater is located at 315 Boscawen Street (U.S. 50) in Winchester, Virginia just a few blocks from the downtown mall.  Parking is free and plenteous.  Tickets can be purchased either by phone or online.  Be advised that most shows do sell out.  You can get more information and to read more into the theater company at https://wltonline.org/.

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How cool is it to be watching a great theatrical production while seated in a piece of railroad history?  How good is the show?  Let us say that it is an experience that can really knock your socks off… really.

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