“I like trains. I like their rhythm, and I like the freedom of being suspended between two places, all anxieties of purpose taken care of: for this moment I know where I am going.” ~Anna Funder
Trains have been around for several centuries, beginning as a way to transport goods, and other necessities needed to live across the vast landscapes of this world. It quickly became a way for people to travel in a speedier fashion. In the 1860’s, which is consider its heyday, train travel was as much an event as a need. Passengers would get dressed up in all of their finery, hanging out in the gilded dining cars, sipping cocktails, and smoking cigarettes. It wasn’t just about the travel, but a social experience. And at a time where no one considered the impact on the environment, it was actually more eco-friendly and still is.
Today, the efficiency of trains has given way to flying and other modes of transportation, but train travel is still in use. In many cities, trains are used int he form of the fast paced subways and metro. And while less glamorous, you can still travel overnight, thanks to Amtrak. Gone is the ragtime music, elaborate train cars, which many could have been considered a work of art, and an era where everything was slower, but glamorous. Yet, train travel still has an allure. There are many train enthusiast who will hop on Amtrak just because, or visit the still magnificent Grand Central Station. And there are even trains which are tourist attractions. One such train, The Conway Scenic Railroad, is located in my hometown, and it is a train that almost feels like you are going back in time.
The Conway Scenic Railroad
The Conway Scenic Railroad is a heritage railroad which use to be part of the Massachusetts and Maine lines transporting goods, and most notably granite to other parts of New England and even as far as New York. In 1974, as rail service began to dwindle, an employee convinced the Maine and Boston rail roads to sell him a portion of the Conway branch rail road track which would have been abandoned. Thus the Conway Scenic Railroad was born.
The station which is deemed a historical landmark and on the registry, is in of itself a destination, as well as a staple in the North Conway Village. It serves as the main hub for the railroad as well as has a museum that shares the history of train travel in particular in New England. The train travels two routes, one designated the Conway Branch and the other the Mountain Branch which is stunning during foliage season as it goes up through Crawford Notch. It is a fun excursion to do on a rainy day and especially with littles, which is exactly what we did.
This is a trip I have done multiple times. More then multiple times actually in my life. As I mentioned on a rainy day, it is perfect, and I remember taking the trip with my cousins as a child. Now that my brother and cousin’s have kiddos, the next generation gets to do it, and I get to see it through their eyes, which is always fun to do. We have usually taken the train that goes up to Conway and back, but this time we decided to do the Sawyer River route. As the name suggests it goes to Sawyer River and then comes back. In fact on every ride you get to see the train engine switch ends which is always fun. Another tradition is the switching of seats so you get to see the other side.
We sat in what is considered first class and had wicker chairs which were surprisingly comfy. The windows opened up so you could feel the wind as we rode, and the train not only had a narrated portion sharing the history, but also played music of days gone by. I loved it, as did my goddaughter and nieces. They had a food car, which also happened to sell spirits, which was a nice addition. In a digital era, they still hand out paper tickets, which they then hole punch. It makes a great souvenir.
All in all the train ride lasted two and a half hours, and it really was perfect thing to do on a rainy day. Or even on a sunny day. It kept the kiddos entertained and gave you a different perspective of the Mount Washington Valley. If you haven’t done it, I highly recommend you do.
Have you ever been on a train? Do you like taking train rides?