One gorge-ous ride
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Car attendant Matt Fisher punches tickets for riders on the Pa. Dutch Treat Train of the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, Saturday. The train, with over 250 passengers, traveled from Jim Thorpe to White Haven.
"Oh listen to the jingle.
The rumble and the roar."
Roy Acuff sang the stirring line about a train in his hit "Wabash Cannonball."
It surely applied Saturday to the trek through the depths of the Lehigh Gorge by the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.
The railway ran a special excursion from Jim Thorpe to White Haven a 50 mile round trip carrying 251 passengers.
The 2 1/2 hour ride was accompanied by great weather. Virtually every passenger had their window open enjoying the breeze as the train went through such landmarks as Glen Onoko, the Ox-bow, Old Penn Haven, Rockport, and, its destination, downtown White Haven.
It was labeled "Pa. Dutch Treat Train" because riders were served ring bologna, cheese, pretzels, shoofly pie and a soft drink.
On the train, the passengers were also given narration about the various sites they passed.
Larry and Patricia Krome of Gilbert were among the riders.
"I definitely would recommend it," Larry said. "I thought it was very interesting."
Patricia said she found the staff to be "very accommodating."
Laura Kennedy, director of passenger services for the railway, said the trip was a sellout.
She said the ride was "very enjoyable," adding, "We had great weather; probably the best weather we've had."
This is the fifth year for the White Haven ride.
Because of its success, she said another White Haven trip is being planned in September. In the past, only one such trip per year was done.
The train had four passenger cars. There were diesel engines at each end of the train.
The trip began at the Jim Thorpe Railroad Station. It went the full length of the Lehigh Gorge State Park.
An announcer commented on such topics as how Glen Onoko got its name, the various junctions and their importance on the railroad, the tunnel that's no longer used in Glen Onoko, a tunnel near Hickory Run in which the train went through, and the old turntable in White Haven.
"I learned a lot of history," Krome commented.
Although most of the riders were local residents, there were a lot of people on the train, too, from various distances.
Jenee Lindner of Fairfax, Va. was on board along with her husband, Gary. They decided to ride the train when they heard the whistle blow while staying at a nearby mansion.
Jenee, who is a historian for the Fairfax station Railroad Museum, said the thing that most impressed her was the steepness of the valleys in the gorge.
"Here the trains have to really hug the river," she said. "They can wind around the mountains in Virginia."
She remarked, "I'm really glad I took the long run," noting that the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway also has shorter runs from Jim Thorpe to Old Penn Haven.
Gary stated he didn't realize how central Jim Thorpe - or Mauch Chunk, as it was then called - was so vital to the industry of the United States.
He is a math teacher and also builds robots with students. He said he wanted to see the rock formations in the mountains, noting that in Virginia the formations are mainly from clay.
For Gary and Nancy Beaver of Bowmanstown, this was their first time on the scenic railway.
"It was fun and very interesting," Gary said. "We enjoyed it."
In July, the one-hour round trip rides of Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railways will be held every day during through the 10th, then Wednesday through Sunday through the end of August.
High Bridge rides, into Schuylkill County, are scheduled on select dates in October.