Southern Indiana officially entered the fall season on Wednesday. I also found out that the White Water Valley Railroad in Connersville offers a scenic Fall Foliage Flyer train ride every Thursday and Friday in October.
This small railroad became a non-profit organization in 1972. The Fall Foliage Flyer runs from Connersville to Metamora, where the train has a two-hour stopover allowing passengers to eat lunch and shop. The brilliant fall colors, however, are the highlight of the trip. My wife Diane is always a sucker for a train, boat or carriage ride.
I grew up in an industrial area of Illinois where there were many rail terminals that shipped steel, meat, products, and automobiles. After high school, I got a job at an ice cream factory that loaded ice into refrigerated cars. Later in college, I worked at a terminal that shipped cars by train from Detroit to the St. Louis area. Like Jeffersonville, the town where I grew up had a train car workshop, where they assembled and repaired train cars.
My father was also interested in trains. There was a brakeman’s lantern hanging in our garage. He built a big train for my older brother’s Lionel model trains. As a child, I remember going to the station to pick up my older sister, who often took the train home from university. Diane, who grew up in Wisconsin, says it was a major adventure to take the train south along Lake Michigan to Milwaukee or Chicago.
Despite all of these experiences, I never really thought of us as train people, although over the years we have taken a number of train trips.
We took the train to the Indiana Railway Museum in French Lick, Indiana. It was a roughly twenty-five mile trip through the rolling hills of southern Indiana, along the edge of the Hoosier National Forest. On this trip, you will see limestone and sandstone formations, a historic log cabin, and Indiana’s second longest rail tunnel. Besides. Indiana’s longest rail tunnel starts in Edwardsville spikes.
When we first arrived in Indiana, we also took the Corydon Scenic Railroad which offered a 90 minute tour. At the time, there was even an Elvis impersonator as part of the entertainment. After changing owners a few times, Lucas Oil eventually bought this railway and used it to transport raw materials and finished goods and to help other companies that needed the services of the local railway.
In our long list of train rides, we took our grandchildren on The North Pole Express tour offered by the Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad based in Lebanon, Ohio. It is also run by a local non-profit organization. On the ride we took, students from a nearby circus college dressed up as elves, served hot chocolate, performed various stunts, and made balloons for the kids. It was a short trip with a stopover to meet Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
We also took the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Nantahala Gorge Excursion. This trip went to Nantahala Gorge and back with a stopover in the heart of Nantahala Gorge, where canoe and kayak tours begin. There were two tunnels and 25 bridges on the road. This train has been featured in many movies and TV shows.
We even welcomed the millennium on a train. On New Years Eve in 1999, we took the Millennium Snow Train. This train was leaving from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and crossed the Agawa Canyon. Most of the time, I remember drinking champagne in the dining car, seeing a moose, and not being able to get my wife out of the crazed crowd of cameras on the platform at the end of the train.
Back in the days when Diane and I were involved in a long distance romance, living 360 miles from each other in Florida, we sometimes took a train to visit. Once on my way back to Daytona Beach, Diane dropped me off at the station where I took the train.
I was standing next to the driver by an open window, greeting Diane, when I suddenly realized that I had left my car keys in Diane’s car. I yelled at her for the keys and she went to get them. On his return, the train began to pull away from the station.
Much like in the movies, Diane ran alongside the moving train as it gradually accelerated. The driver and I both shouted at him to throw the keys in the open window. Finally, she threw her arm back and threw the keys at the train. They went straight up, missed the window, and landed with a thud on the roof of the train.
I was convinced the keys were going to drop from the vibrations so I went for a drink at the club because knowing that I would be arriving at Daytona Beach at three in the morning and not having the keys to my car .
A few hours later, the train came to a stop in Thomasville, Georgia. I went back to the window, got out, and reached the top of the train. To my surprise and the driver’s amazement, the car keys were still there, right where Diane had left them.
Psychologists have studied why people are drawn to trains and the like. Longing seems to be a big factor for many people. For some people, the attraction of trains seems to be linked to a fascination with the movement of wheels. Others seem to appreciate all the technical details involved.
Researchers believe boys can be biologically wired to be attracted to objects that move fast, roll, or have wheels. Boys are three times more likely to be attracted to trains than girls.
Even in studies with monkeys, it has been found that boy monkeys are more attracted to rolling objects, such as cars and balls.
From an evolutionary standpoint, such a game can help humans understand how things turn in three dimensions and improve spatial reasoning, which can have a number of survival benefits.
Psychoanalysts have noted the similarity between train travel and the slightly supernatural and detached sensations that people experience while dreaming. The rail traveler sees the world through the windows of the train and is thus somewhat removed from it.
Trains were widely used by famous director Alfred Hitchcock. He used them to provide a dreamy scenic and cinematic backdrop through the train windows.
The punctuality of the railroad schedules also provided a set timeline for moving the plot forward while also creating an unstoppable sense of excitement, suspense, and anxiety, much like the discarded car keys episode.