A nostalgic steam engine returned to Hocking Valley Scenic Railway tracks in Nelsonville, Ohio.
Its curdling smoke through its stack to the delight of train enthusiasts.
Several years ago, a team of volunteers – “The Steam Boys” – led by Rob Baughman finished a grand restoration project that had many setbacks. But together, they ultimately succeeded in bringing back to life the 1920 Baldwin-built (former Ohio Power Company) 0-6-0 steam locomotive No. 3 for the first time in 60 years.
It has been used periodically for special runs posted at www.hvsry.org and on Facebook. On those occasions, coal is shoveled into the boiler for folks to see railway nostalgia in action as the steamer chugs through the scenic Hocking Hills countryside to ride the rails of Yesteryear!
No. 3, as it is often referred to by the “Steam Boys,” was donated to the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway in 1982, although serious restoration didn’t begin until 2004. It has since been a long-standing dream of many railroad men and women to restore it to its operational glory. Their dream is now a reality after years of volunteer hours in the making and at a cost of over $150,000.
The steamer isn’t the only unique offering at this old-time whistle-stop.
Tucked back in the rolling hills of Southeast Ohio Appalachia, there’s more than just nature’s beauty in the midst of this leisurely 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 crossing the tracks to the nostalgic depot to purchase your boarding pass, 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. But before time slips away or the train sells out, get your ticket. Sellouts are commonplace due to the demand.
Inside the old depot is a mini museum displaying railroad artifacts. In addition to specialty trains offered throughout the year, two diesel train excursions are offered regularly from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Roundtrip to Haydenville spans 1 ½ hour, departing at Noon. Roundtrip to Logan spans two hours, departing at 2:30 pm. There are also pre-season and post-season weekend train ride opportunities aboard enclosed coaches with heat and open-air cars for unobstructed views.
The narrator will tell you when to look left or right for the points of interest while sharing the history of the railroad and the area. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the leisure ride through the woods, rolling hills, and lakes. You even get to go over rivers and streams on a couple of train bridges. Near the halfway point, the train will stop; it isn’t being robbed by bandits, but that treat is saved for the specialty robbery trains. Instead, it is to treat everyone to a sight not often seen. The train is about to reverse direction, but instead of traveling backward, the engine is detached, slowly riding alongside everyone on the adjacent track before it is reconnected at the other end.
Now about those specialty trains. Hocking Valley Scenic Railway has rare opportunities for themed train rides throughout the year. These are all family-oriented and include Ohio’s Friendliest Train Robbery, All Caboose Train, Easter Bunny Train, Santa Train, New Year’s Eve Train & Fireworks, and Memorial and Labor Day excursions.
While you’re in 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 campaign stops. Guess how they got there? There’s also Stuart’s Opera House, built in 1879, and the restored picturesque Nelsonville Public Square. Next to the depot is The Rocky® Outdoor Gear Store. And, of course, there’s plenty of lodging throughout the Hocking Hills Area State Parks – the hot-tub capital of the Midwest!
If you plan to ride the rails, CLICK HERE 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!
By Frank Rocco Satullo, your Tour Guide to Fun!