Ohio’s Scenic Railway & Wonderland
Fall foliage tours and…dare say? Santa Claus is coming to town!
Tucked back in the rolling hills of Southeast Ohio Appalachia is historic Nelsonville – a town redefining itself through art, niche shopping and the historic railroad depot offering leisurely rides along the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway.
Nearby the Nelsonville depot, there’s an eatery where train enthusiasts like to grab a bite before boarding time. Sometimes the air is filled with lively railroading stories. Go ahead, interrupt and ask your questions, they don’t mind. It’s all part of that Hocking Valley charm. Before boarding time, be sure to take advantage of the photo ops that abound. Stroll among railroad history and see lines of coaches, cabooses and engines depicting the eras of railroads past. The railroad itself operates on a line that dates back to the Civil War.
Riding this nostalgic railway can be a new adventure for youngsters, a trip down memory lane for grandparents, or just a fun thing to do for people in-between. Whatever your age, there’s a certain mystique about the conductor’s cry of “All Aboard” just before the train’s whistle blows for all to hear. It’s time to roll. And so the train gently sways into motion and glides across its steel ribbon of rail. It meanders through some of Ohio’s most beautiful countryside across meadows, through woods and over bridges.
These trips are never more beautiful than during Fall when you see the foliage turn color. And it’s never more fun than when Santa boards to talk to each and every child in December. Fall Foliage and Santa train rides often sellout so you may want to plan ahead. Tickets are available now at http://www.hvsry.org/tickets/.
In October, a Friday excursion train to Logan is added to the regularly scheduled rides on Saturday and Sunday. Friday trains depart at 1pm between October 6 and 27, 2017 and last approximately two hours. The Saturday and Sunday trains run from Memorial Day through the end of October departing the Nelsonville depot at Noon and 2:30pm. The Noon ride is roundtrip to Haydenville, spanning 1 ½ hours. The 2:30 trip is to Logan, spanning two hours. These trips feature full narration on board, describing the area history, sites along the way, and the history of the train itself. You also have many options available to you as far as seating. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Seating options include climate controlled coaches (air or heat), two open-air cars, and enclosed (but not temperature controlled) coaches.
Toward the end of the train ride, there is a stop at a quaint recreated town called Robbins Crossing. This village is a recreation of a typical 1840s-era Ohio pioneer village, which showcases candle-making, a working blacksmith shop, a general store, a one-room school, and a lot more in original log cabins.
But not to be outdone, this all-volunteer operated railway takes most of November off to decorate the train and depot in the holiday spirit as it readies for the arrival of Santa Claus in December. These are just about as equal in popularity to the October trains, so be prepared for a crowd if you plan to make the trip to “North Pole Nelsonville.” While Santa’s reindeer are stabled elsewhere, Santa boards the train and walks through from end to end, visiting with each and every pajama-smiling child along the way! Of course, the coaches are heated throughout—one of them with an old coal stove—and the festive mood of Christmas is evident enough, as the coaches are decorated for the season. Old musical favorites of the holiday season, from Bing Crosby to the Chipmunks, are played during the whole ride over the train’s PA system. Plus, each child receives a candy cane treat.
With some luck by way of Jack Frost, the winter journey will include a blanket of snow-covered countryside, sure to put everyone in the Christmas spirit. It’s a great ride with Santa Claus and the kids or grandkids. It usually takes about two hours to complete. Santa Trains operate weekends between November 25th and December 17th at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., plus an evening version at 6:00 pm on December 2nd and 9th only.
While you’re in this lovely small town, you may want to also make time to see the Historic Dew Hotel, where President Roosevelt, President Taft, President McKinley, and President Harding all made whistle stops while on the campaign trail. There’s also Stuart’s Opera House, built in 1879 and the restored, picturesque, Nelsonville Public Square. Next to the Nelsonville depot is The Rocky® Outdoor Gear Store. And of course, there’s plenty of lodging throughout the Hocking Hills Area State Parks, which is known as the hot-tub capital of the Midwest!
If you plan to ride the rails of this rolling countryside, visit http://www.hvsry.org for the latest fares, specials, operating times, how to charter a private train and other details along with directions. Make your next whistle stop, Nelsonville, Ohio to board the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway.