Sunday, July 22, 2012

#56 - Taking the train

I've always loved the descriptions of traveling by train in the books I've read.  I can imagine the thrill of seeing the American West by steam train - perhaps viewing bison from the windows - or the adventure of riding in a Pullman sleeper car and awakening to an entirely different scene than where you fell asleep.  I'm not an engine fanatic by any means ... no model railroading for me ... just the thought that taking a train means an adventure.
North Shore Scenic Railroad - the diesel engine, open air car, and part of the converted boxcar that serves as a concession stand.

With this in mind, I invited some of my young friends - Silas and Oren - along with their mom - my good friend Amanda to take a day outing to ride the North Shore Scenic Railroad based in Duluth.  I had often seen this train go down the shore when I lived in Duluth many years back, but never had a chance to try it out.
Oren and Amanda at the playground

Silas "drives" the ship at the playground.

We started our day in Duluth with a leg-stretching stop at the playground near the Great Lakes Aquarium.  After this, Silas wanted to take me out (he had a pocket full of change) to Red Lobster - I suspect that the lobster tank was the main attraction since we spent quite a bit of time examining its inhabitants.
Waiting in line to board - the double decker car is in the background.

Oren and Silas are ready to start their adventure.
We got to the Depot station just in time to join the line for the train ... there were several cars to choose from.  We started in the double decker coach - in the top naturally.  The guide said this car was air-conditioned; however, at the top it was still fairly warm.  We had great views of Lake Superior as we went along.  I was also surprised at the number of people on the lakewalk that stopped to wave as we went by.  The boys were very excited - Oren in particular.
I can't recall the name, but the tour operator said this ship is currently the largest on the Great Lakes.

Oren acts as super ship spotter while Silas points out the smaller craft.
One of the things that was particularly evident from our elevated view was the debris left from the flooding that Duluth experienced last month.  Though the city has done a great job of cleaning up, you can still see along the creeks and culverts bits of trees (some quite large) that were violently washed to the lake in the storm.  (Unfortunately, my camera batteries gave out before we reached the Lester River, so I don't have a shot of this.)  Another viewing highlight was all of the ships in the harbor - both pleasure craft and shipping vessels.

 The trip lasted 90 minutes - including time spent on the siding as the engine moved from one end of the train to the other to head back to the station.  We used this time to explore some of the other cars  - including a trip to the concession car which has been converted from a boxcar.  I have to admit that when reading the Boxcar Children books as a child, I always imagined the boxcar as much smaller - no wonder they thought it would make a good house.  We spend the last part of our trip in the most elegant (and coolest) car watching Duluth slip by.

After some time exploring the adjacent museum and the engines and cars you could actually enter and explore (my favorite was the incredibly high seat in the snowplow engine), we were all ready for the trip home.
Our drive home featured some interesting cloud formations!

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