Point of Rocks, Maryland

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 Northern Central Railway, New Freedom, Pennsylvania

The Northern Central Railway at the Depot in New Freedom, Pennsylvania

In December of 1854, the Northern Central Railway was formed by a merger of numerous rail companies.  The rail line connected the city of Baltimore in the U.S. state of Maryland with the city of Harrisburg, the capital of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, and it connected numerous small towns in between.  The line was later taken over by the Pennsylvania Railroad.  During its time, many towns were formed.  There was a man named Abraham Lincoln who rode along this rail line numerous times.  He first rode this line when he was on his way to Washington D.C. to take up residence in a house known as the White House to serve the nation as the President of the United States of America.  While on his way to Washington D.C., the railroad thwarted the first assassination attempt which was supposed to take place at a station in Baltimore.  He went along this line to connect to a train at a place called Hanover Junction while on his way to a Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg.  Why was he going to Gettysburg?  Months before, a battle of the American Civil War that was the turning point of the battle, known as the ‘Battle of Gettysburg’, took place.  He went to the cemetery to honor those who lost their lives fighting for freedom with ‘The Gettysburg Address’.  His final ride was when his casket was on its way to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois.  Throughout the years, the line changed ownership, but the trains kept rolling on.

The Northern Central Railway in New Freedom, Pennsylvania

Until 1972.

The Northern Central Rail Trail in Freeport, Maryland

Hurricanes Agnes struck the United States of America in the early Summer of 1972 making landfall in Panama City, Florida.  The hurricane made its way to the Mid-Atlantic region causing much damage.  The tracks that were the Northern Central Railway in the U.S. state of Maryland were destroyed.  Penn Central Railroad, the last owner of the rail line, decided to abandon the line between Baltimore, Maryland and York, Pennsylvania.  The Northern Central Railway was gone forever.

Not exactly.

In Maryland, the tracks were taken up, and it is now the Northern Central Rail Trail except for a stretch of track that is part of the Light Rail Transit System for Baltimore.

The Abandoned Northern Central Rail Line and the York County Heritage Trail in New Freedom, Pennsylvania

What happened in Pennsylvania?

The Rails of the Northern Central Railway in New Freedom, Pennsylvania

The two-track line (became double-track during World War I) became a single track leaving the one track to remain with the York County Heritage Trail, the northern continuation of the Northern Central Rail Trail, running alongside the rail line.  For many years, no trains ran along this line despite that it was still an active rail line.

That changed in 2011.

‘Steam Into History’ began train excursions with a newly built steam locomotive pulling newly built old time passenger cars giving passengers a one of a kind passenger experience.  Many have come from across the United States of America and around the world to ride this train.  The Number 17 William Simpson York locomotive pulled passengers from its south terminus in the town of New Freedom, Pennsylvania through the towns of Railroad, Glen Rock, and Hanover Junction, the same place where Abraham Lincoln changed trains while on his way to Gettysburg.  (Sadly, only a short section of this track remains.)

The Number 17 York of the Northern Central Railway Ready to Depart New Freedom, Pennsylvania

Today, ‘Steam Into History’ has been rebranded at the Northern Central Railway, and it continues to take passengers along the same route pulled by Number 17 and by a diesel locomotive, and you can now ride to the town of Seven Valleys.  The Northern Central Railway is making a comeback, and they are looking to make its way to York.

Rail Fans Watching the Arrival of the train in Seitzland, Pennsylvania

The Northern Central Railway is at 2 W. Main Street in New Freedom, Pennsylvania.  You can learn more about the excursions and by tickets at https://www.northerncentralrailway.com/.

Number 17 in Seitzland, Pennsylvania

It may be not be ‘Steam Into History’ anymore, but the return on the Northern Central Railway will keep the history moving on.

The Train Returning to New Freedom, Pennsylvania

Northlandz, Flemington, New Jersey

The Home of Northlandz in Flemington, New Jersey

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.

The Outdoor Train at Northlandz in Flemington, New Jersey.

Welcome to Northlandz, home of a large model train display.

A Rail Yard at Northlandz.

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.”

A Factory or Warehouse at Northlandz

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.”

Small Town and Rail Yard

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.”

A Roundhouse

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.

Town in a Valley

If that is what you are thinking, welcome to Northlandz.

In the River Valley

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.

High Trestle Over a Town and River

Do you still think that this is one of those model train displays?

A Factory

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.

Factory on a Cliff

Some of you are saying, “Is it really this big?”

Town on the Cliffs

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.

Town and Tracks in the Valley

Some of you are saying, “Wow!  That is incredible.  I know that it took hundreds of people to build this thing.”

A Baltimore and Ohio Train

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.

Train Crossing a Lake

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.

The Organ at Northlandz

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.

In the Valley

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 Big Trestle

The Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, North Judson, Indiana

The depot at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana

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.

Bessemer and Lake Erie Caboose Number 1989 at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful about the state of Indiana, but does this state have anything to offer other than sports?”

The platform at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

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.

Between the Tracks at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

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.

The signals at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

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?

Passenger Cars at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

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.

The Ticket Window inside the Depot at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

Wait a minute.  You do not want to come here to see pictures of trains.  You want to see trains.

Old Commuter Passenger Car at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

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?

A Pullman Hospital Car at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

Be advised that you have a good-sized list of rolling stock here, but there is more to this museum.

Caboose Number 471 from the Nickel Plate Road at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

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.

An Old Yard Switch Tower at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

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.

Inside the Ticket Office at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

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/.

Number 508 at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

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.

Number 2789 at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, Nelsonville, Ohio

The Nelsonville Depot

The Hocking Hills in the U.S. state of Ohio is a region southeast of the state capital of Columbus that is full of forests, waterfalls, and other natural wonders.  People come here to hike and to camp and to be in nature.  With all these natural wonders, there is also a mechanical wonder in this region.

Number 3 at the Depot

All aboard the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway in Nelsonville, Ohio.  It runs on a line that originally was built to connect the city of Columbus and the town of Athens, and it was once part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.  Today, the line only runs between Nelsonville to Haydenville and does not connect to any other line.  The journey begins at the Nelsonville Depot which also houses a small museum.  You enjoy the museum, but you came here to ride the train.

The Number 3 Is at the Nelsonville Depot

You step outside, and you watch the train pulling into the station.  You feel transported back in time.  As you watch the train arrive.  You board one of the vintage passenger cars being pulled by a steam locomotive, and you take a seat.  The time comes when the train pulls out of the station.  You watch as you pull out of the town of Nelsonville.  You cross over a creek.  You pass by open land and houses and an old run-down depot.  They you see a quarry filled with water.  You then arrive in Haydenville.  Sadly, this is the end of the line, but you are not down on your luck because you watch the locomotive go by to reattach to the other end to pull the train back to Nelsonville.  As you are enjoying the ride back, you notice an old kiln.  It was here where bricks were made, and they were shipped by train to locations across the country, but you just see ruins.  The next thing you know is that you are back in Nelsonville and at the Nelsonville depot.  You get off the train, and you are back to normal life.

Steam Comes from Number 3

Along with excursion trips to Haydenville, the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is in the process of clearing old trackage south of the Nelsonville Depot to Robbins Crossing, a living history village operated by Hocking College.  A ride on the train to here will really bring your time travel experience to life.

A Homestead at Robbins Crossing

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is operated completely by volunteers.  There is no paid staff.  Their real payment is seeing the operation of vintage equipment and the joy of the passengers.

The Number 3 During a Photo Shoot

The Nelsonville Depot is located at 33 West Canal Street in Nelsonville, Ohio.  It is minutes from U.S. Route 33 and Ohio Route 278 and a short walk from the town center.  Parking is on site, and the train is handicap accessible.  You can get more information at https://www.hvsry.org/.  If you have a little time, you can take a short drive to the Robbins Crossing living history village.  Admission to the village is free.

A House at Robbins Crossing

The next time you are in southeastern Ohio, make your way to Nelsonville.  Climb aboard the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway where the history of the Hocking Hills still rolls on.

Here Come Number 3 of the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway