Ride the Rails This Fall

Step back in time on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway this fall.

Family fun is only a train ride away on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway. Passengers will make tracks to history when they ride this historic tourist railroad located in Nelsonville, Ohio, near the Hocking Hills.

The HVSR is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that offers historic train rides between Nelsonville and Logan along a former Hocking Valley Railway section. The Nelsonville area was once rich in coal mining and brick production.

This fall, the railroad will offer diesel-powered historic train rides every Saturday and Sunday through the end of October. The popularity of fall colors even prompts the addition of extra trains on Thursdays and Fridays throughout October. The railroad’s fully operational steam locomotive, No. 3, is slated to pull steam specials on Nov. 4 and 5 and should be sporting a recently purchased 5-chime whistle.

Aside from its regular trips, there will be several themed trains this fall, including a pizza and pop train on Sept. 8 to honor a deceased volunteer, an elegant dinner train on Sept. 23, a caboose train on Oct. 7, and a Halloween train on Oct. 28. For the Halloween Train, passengers of all ages are encouraged to come in costumes. Some of the railroad’s volunteers might even be in costume. Children can “trunk or treat” after the ride and visit the haunted train car.

The railroad also has some trains in store for the holiday season. The popular Santa Trains will begin on Nov. 25 and run on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in December before Christmas Eve. Aboard the heated train, passengers will be visited by Santa Claus, who will also distribute candy canes. Some friends may even join Santa. The train will be decorated inside and out. The popular New Year’s Eve Train is also back this year. Passengers will have the option of either riding a car with wine and cheese (21+) or one with pizza and pop. A fireworks display at midnight will help usher in 2024.

Reservations are highly encouraged or required for the railroad’s specialty trains and can be purchased at either hvsry.org or (855) 32DEPOT. Folks should watch the railroad’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for any additional dinner trains, steam specials, or other specialty trains that may be added throughout the year.

Passengers on the HVSR are treated to vintage passenger cars from various railroads. The cars were built between 1916 and the early 1960s. One car was built for branchline trains, while three others were built for commuter trains. Some of the railroad’s cars were built for long-distance trains and currently feature air-conditioning. There is even a 1950 dining car used on the dinner trains. Three passenger cars are former freight cars converted to open-air cars.

The railroad owns six vintage diesel locomotives and one steam locomotive. The diesel locomotives were built between 1944 and 1957, and three are currently in operating condition. One diesel, Chesapeake and Ohio No. 5833 is identical to locomotives that operated in Nelsonville during the 50s and 60s. In April, the HVSR purchased a 1956 diesel switcher from an industry in Columbus, Ohio. The locomotive will soon be moved to Nelsonville by rail and will receive some minor repairs upon arrival. Once repaired, it will begin a new career hauling passengers.

The railroad’s steam locomotive, No. 3, was built in 1920 for Beech Bottom Power Company in West Virginia and was in service until 1968. The locomotive was donated to the HVSR in 1982, and its restoration commenced 19 years later. The volunteer-led restoration was completed in 2015.

Aside from the steam locomotive, restoration projects have ranged from rebuilding a diesel locomotive to restoring passenger cars. The current major shop project is converting an ex-Canadian Pacific coach into a table car for use on the dinner trains.

The railroad’s history dates to the mid-1800s as the Nelsonville area’s coal industry developed at a fast pace. The Hocking Canal could not keep up with the coal industry’s rapid development. Ground was broken for the railroad in Columbus in 1867, and it reached Nelsonville in 1869. The railroad’s arrival helped bring an economic boom to the coal-rich region. Nelsonville once had over 40 mines and mining communities. Brick production was also a prominent industry in the Nelsonville area that thrived with the railroad. On board the train, passengers will see several historic sites, such as brick kilns, a canal lock, and an old company town named Haydenville. Haydenville was named after industrialist Peter Hayden, who incorporated the Haydenville Mining and Manufacturing Company to produce clay products from rich clay. Many company houses are still standing and can be seen from the train. A round silo brick house and the Haydenville Methodist Church can also be seen from the train. The Church incorporates more than 24 types of brick and tile pieces.

This fall, plan to step back in time aboard the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway.

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