A rail and trail ride
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Laura Kennedy, director for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, looks over the hundreds of bicycles packed into passenger car for Scenic Bike Rides, which were held on Saturday and Sunday. Kennedy said the event was such a success that there's a good possibility it will be held again in the fall.
It was a first in Jim Thorpe.
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway partnered with Pocono Biking of Jim Thorpe for what it called "Scenic Bike Rides" last weekend.
Laura Kennedy, director for the railway, termed the event the first of its kind "a huge success."
A total of four trips left from Jim Thorpe to White Haven, with seven passenger cars on each train. Every trip was sold out.
An estimated 1,400 people participated, ranging from small children to senior citizens.
The riders boarded the train at the Jim Thorpe Railroad Station, with their bikes placed in an open-air car while they rode in coaches to White Haven. From White Haven, they rode 25 miles on their bikes back to Jim Thorpe along the well-maintained Lehigh Gorge Trail.
Kennedy said she knows of only one other place in the United States that offers the combination of train and trial rides. It is the Cuyahoga Scenic Rail Ride in Ohio. Jim Thorpe might repeat the trip in fall.
A few chose the option of a round-trip ride to White Haven and back to Jim Thorpe on the train.
With temperatures in the upper 70s and clear skies, riders went through Mud Run, past Buttermilk Falls, onto Penn Haven and the large oxbow curve, and into Glen Onoko. Most of the journey was along the Lehigh River.
Participants either could rent bikes locally or bring their own.
Jerry Fascenda of Robbinsville, New Jersey, said he learned of the trip through a friend at work. "It looked like a fun trip," he said.
His wife Karen had never been to Jim Thorpe and Jerry said he last visited about 30 years ago.
"This is a great idea," Karen said, regarding the partnership with the train and bike companies. She said she and her husband have become avid bicycle riders.
Jerry said he enjoyed the train ride, noting the cars are well maintained.
Herb Harr of Paoli said this was his first time in Jim Thorpe.
He said friends in a bike group told him about the scenic bike ride and several of them were on the train.
"It's very impressive," Harr said, referring both to the train and the scenery. "I'm enjoying it."
"This is phenomenal," said Mike Gallagher of Sparta, New Jersey. He said he brought his grandson and a friend on the trip for this eighth grade graduation.
He said he does the regular Jim Thorpe train ride four or five times a year.
Barry Broyles and his wife and Sherry of Northeast, Maryland, were the only passengers to take the round-trip train ride on Sunday morning. The couple said they took the regular Lehigh Gorge Scenic Rail Ride on Saturday, then heard about the round trip to White Haven on Sunday.
Broyles, who is retired from the Baltimore Fire Department, said he and his wife enjoy trains and often visit the train museum in Strasburg, Lancaster County. They took the Amtrak train to Florida.
Their son works for a railroad.
"This is our first time in the Poconos," Sherry said. "We're having a great time. These train rides are fantastic."
Her husband said the scenery while riding the train is impressive.
"He's ready to come back already," Sherry said.
Upcoming events by the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.
• Scenic train excursions will return to Tamaqua on Father's Day, as part of the 24th Annual Tamaqua Summerfest.
• The steam train will return to Jim Thorpe on July 5, when a benefit excursion occurs from Mountaintop to Jim Thorpe, and back to Mountaintop.
• A Pennsylvania Dutch Treat Train, departing the Jim Thorpe Train Station, will operate on Sept. 6.
• Autumn leaf excursions from Port Clinton to Jim Thorpe, and back to Port Clinton, will be held in October.
• High Bridge train rides from Jim Thorpe to Hometown and back during October.
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway has a full operating schedule all summer, operating most days in July and August.