Monday, October 17, 2011

The Salamander!

Carole loves to take train rides. We've been on a few one-day jaunts, mainly in the mountains of North Carolina and West Virginia. Since most passenger train service is gone from that area, the only places to enjoy such an experience are where some public/private concerns have taken over short bits of rail lines, paid out the money for the purchase and upkeep of the necessary engines and rail cars, and instituted a tourist ride.

We found one such outfit in Elkins, West Virginia and promptly booked a couple of tickets. The day we went the weather was quite nasty, so we knew we weren't going to get any hiking and picnicking done. The price of the tickets included a buffet lunch, so we didn't even have to pack that. All we had to bring were some spare jackets (for rain), the camera, and a tripod. And off we went!

We took the Salamander, so named because of the endangered Cheat Mountain salamander. So they tagged it onto the official name for the line. The city of Elkins has refurbished the old train station--it's quite pleasant to look at and inside there is a museum, ticket office, information kiosk, a shop, and rest rooms.

We arrived for our ride at 9:30 am, and boarded the train at 10:00 am. After that, we were on our way!

The station in downtown Elkins, WV.

The choo-choo train!

The "green" car, and my sweet wife already making friends with the couple behind us before we can even sit down.

This guy was our guide and entertainment for the ride. He had a lot of cool history and information about our route and the cool stuff along it.

A rough section of whitewater taken through the window along the ride. The water appears "dirty" but in fact this river is one of the ten cleanest in the USA. The color is from tannins produced by tens of thousands of years of the drop of hemlock and spruce needles into the soil.

An abandoned rail bridge and rail line we pass along the way.

The most scenic destination on the ride: The High Falls of the Cheat River. They are called "high" not because of the height of the falls (only about 15 feet), but because they are located so high on the river--about 3,000 feet elevation. Also, they're not technically on the Cheat River, but on the Shavers Fork of the Cheat, which runs into the Cheat River. Because of the heavy rain, the volume of water going over the falls was very impressive.

Below the Falls.

Self-portrait in the rain. The rocks were VERY slick! If you go, be careful! It was really starting to pour down so I had to hurry this shot and get the camera dry.

The falls from above.

Video from above High Falls of the Cheat River.

The dining car where we were served sandwiches buffet style. The sandwiches were very good! Lots to drink, too. Tea, water, lemonade, coffee, hot chocolate, etc. And fruit and cookies, also.

These were once for men working on the rail lines. The company would drop them off with a couple of cooks and food and they would work the lines. Later, a train would stop to pick them up. After the line was abandoned, these houses were bought by individuals and are now private. Access is pretty much either by arranging a ride on the Salamander, or hiking in, or getting the Forest Service to unlock a gate on a primitive road. Our guide told us that he sees the owners using these two houses only a few times per year. They are extremely isolated.

The end of the line where the engine detached and reversed the train. It's called The Cheat Bridge.

We all got out to stretch our legs while the engine made its changes.

This is what happens when kids live in an isolated village with a population of 20. This car was stolen by some local teens in Bemis. Really. Only about twenty people live there year-round. The few kids were bored. So they hiked out, found this car, boosted it, drove it around for awhile and then somehow aimed it straight down the mountain and maneuvered it through the forest down a 40-degree slope and crashed it here next to the train track. The final impact set off the airbags. No one has yet been able to figure out how to get it the hell out of its current location. Despite appearances, this is not a road, but just a patch of green out in the middle of nowhere. I assume the insurance folk will just consider it totaled and pay the owners off.

And here is Carole getting off the train as we arrive back in Elkins!

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