full steam ahead

on sunday we rode a train from asheville up over the mountain (passing over the eastern continental divide) to old fort and back.  this little trip was special for several reasons.  typically, the tracks here are only used to transport cargo, usually wood chips or coal.  norfolk southern owns the tracks and there is no commuter/passenger rail service out this way.  the closest amtrak stations are located around 2 hours away.  there is a bit of a demand for passenger rail service here, but it doesn't seem likely to happen anytime soon.  so, it was exciting.  exciting for claire, who loved the train ride from nj to philly last summer when we went to see uncle kevin, exciting for us to see the area we know so well from a new perspective.  a trip that would have taken us about an hour round trip by car took 4.5 by steam locomotive. (oh yes, there's that, too- the train was made up of several old passenger train cars led by a 1904 steam locomotive.  there were two diesel engines as well, to assist)  we wound down the switchbacks after cresting the continental divide, and then it took nearly an hour to turn things around before heading back up and over on the way back to asheville.

we had only heard of the trip a week ago, and by then it was sold out for the four rides over the weekend.  we found out because mike got an email from the fire department soliciting volunteers to act as EMTs on board.  he jumped on it and got one of the few available spots, and in exchange was allowed to bring a passenger (and a half) along for the ride.  claire wasn't so sure at first about getting up at 6:30am on a mid-thirties april morning, but after waking a bit she was quite into it.  afterwards, we spent most of the afternoon in the yard, (me in the garden, papa working on a stone wall) but after hearing the whistle blow on the first leg of the afternoon train ride, mike decided he wanted to see it from another angle, and so he and claire headed out (with the bike on the back of the car) to hunt it out and try to find it coming through one of the mountain tunnels.  they made it just in time.  when he's home from work tomorrow I will add some of his photos and maybe a video, here.


  1. aw...so pretty! bea would LOVE that. she is quite the train enthusiast! we took a steam engine train ride here earlier this year through hill country, but, boy oh boy, those old smokey mountains must have been a scene to behold.

    1. it was pretty cool- mostly in the woods, winding up and over the mountain on switchbacks, not much in the way of long-range views. very neat to see all of the older houses and buildings that were along the tracks, and to guess at their history, etc. we are big train fans, too.


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