Do You Like Trains?
Many people plan for months for their spring break. Taking exotic vacations, or visiting family or running off to the beach for fun in the sun after the cold winter months. But in this financial recession many families can’t afford those big plans to get away from it all. For those folks there’s still things to do to enjoy the week and relax a little.
We’ve learned that sometimes the best memories come from the simple things that cost little to no money at all. As long as you’re spending the time with those you love. And doing something you truly enjoy doing.
For us, that’s a little 20 minute trip into town. In particular into Ashland, Virginia. Touted as the “Center of the Universe“, it’s a simple little historic town where one of the countries oldest colleges calls home. That would be Randolf-Macon College.
One of the advantages of living in the middle of no where is that going into town is often a an adventure. And that’s true for us.
Because we’re so far away from civilization we plan our trips, whither we go north to Fredericksburg or south to Ashland.
But on occasion taking a spontaneous trip brings the most fun. And on our last Saturday of Spring Break that’s exactly what we decided to do. We made it a train day!
We took a trip to the local Dairy Queen, grabbed some dinner for a picnic and went into the historic side of town to watch the trains roll through. The boys get all excited when they hear the train horns sound as they approach town. Followed by the ding-ding of the crossing bars slowly moving down to stop traffic. And the final roar of the train engines and rumble of the cars on the track as they pass by.
Ashland is one of the few places where you can still stand on the platform, or sit by the old depot and feel the trains vibrate through your body.
Often on a Saturday afternoon there’s a gathering of train enthusiasts to visit with. Guys who have or still work for the train companies. Others who are simply big train fans. A smattering of guys who have invested heavily in their passion with video equipment, cameras and train communication radios all gather by Ashland’s little historic train depot.
The shared interest and enthusiasm brings strangers together as if you’re meeting old friends you haven’t seen in ages.
On average 40-50 passenger and freight trains run through the center of Ashland each day. Benches are situated outside the station about 6-8 feet from the tracks, (they travel through at 35mph and are loud!). Old folks watch young kids cover their ears from the loud roar. Kids really enjoy walking across the tracks and watching the road signs close off traffic before the train arrives. Moms and Dads help their kids place a coin on the track to be smashed and flattened by the heavy engines and then carefully search for them after the tracks have cleared and it’s safe to walk the rails.
- Bring an activity and snack for the kids while you wait.
- If you have little ones consider watching your first train from afar and/or keeping hands on little ears while the engine roars by.
- If you want to really avoid the noise you can park along the tracks and wait for the trains to roll through from the safety of your car.
The track sees various freight trains from CSX and both commuter and passenger trains from Amtrak. Our favorite freight train is one we fondly call the CSX-Tropicanna train which travels north at the beginning of the week and south near the end of the week. You can almost smell the oranges as it passes by.
Each night right before dinner time you can see the Amtrak AutoTrain roll south. We’re going to ride that train one day!
While you are there stop by Ashland Coffee and Tea or Homemades by Suzanne for a snack, located next to the visitor’s center. If you prefer ice cream, venture back over England Street to The Club Car, which has a big picture window where you can continue to watch for trains. Or check out all the dining options in and round town. And if you’re really looking for a place to take in all the sights and sounds, think about staying over night at the Henry Clay Inn which sits right behind the old train depot. Oh did I mention the depot is now the Ashland Visitors Center?
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