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NE Road Trip 2010 – Day 20: Choo Choo

by Amanda
As we approached the ticket booth at the Steamtown National Historic Site this morning another family was walking up from the parking lot with a little boy. The youngster pointed at one of the engines on the track bordering the site. "Choo choo," he said. And that about sums up the day. Although hopefully he didn't repeat that mantra throughout the whole site and drive his parents crazy because there were trains everywhere. As appropriate based on the name, steam engines were the star of the site, but there were also diesel locomotives as well, in addition to freight cars, passenger cars, and even a mail car you could walk through. The site is located on a restored Delaware, Lakawanna & Western Railroad yard, centered around a 90-foot-long turntable. The D, L & W railroad was one of the major carriers of anthracite coal mined from the region.

I should digress here and go back to yesterday since Eric said I should write about the tour of the Lackawanna coal mine. First a tip- it's chilly underground, don't wear shorts. Had I had more than a minute to rush to get on the last mine tour of the day that might have occurred to me, but instead I used the opportunity to get a fuller understanding of the air drafts that ventilate the mine. Thank goodness they at least had jackets available for borrowing. It was interesting to walk around down there and get a better understanding of the mining experience. I can't imagine spending a 10-hour shift down there, especially working in some of the smaller veins where you can't stand up. Our tour guide said the average width of a vein of coal in the area was three feet. That's tight quarters.

So back to the railroads, what the miners hauled out got loaded onto the steam engines. Eric was won over by the site before we'd even bought tickets after spotting the 4-8-8-6 steam engine that was out front. The numbers are a wheel count- four forward, eight driving, a second set of eight driving, and six trailing. It was quite a machine. We toured the shop where they repair and restore the trains as well. A lot of metal and a lot of men in overalls. Literally living history inside a building built in the early-1800s. Inside the museum portion we walked through a luxury business car. It put our little Amtrak room to shame. Beautiful. There was also a mail car, which was neat to walk through and imagine the hustle as the train hauled in mail bags hanging from poles at stations as it sped along, sorted the letters, and tossed the bags full of correspondence back out along the route, delivering the mail across America. It was a neat place and hard to go through without getting excited about the heyday of steam locomotives. Eric and I are definitely putting this on the list of places to return to since we didn't get to see it all today.

We did get to visit though with two of my favorite people who are headed south now on their own trip back home to Charleston. Although only 23 hours long, we had a fun-packed time with my parents and enjoyed our stay at the Radisson, located in the renovated Lakawanna railroad station, an absolutely beautiful building with marble walls and stained glass ceiling panels. Our lodging tonight is not so glamorous but it is peaceful. We're at Ricketts Glen State Park, about an hour outside of Scranton, camping- thank goodness- when we arrived to check in at the park office we discovered we didn't actually have reservations like we thought we did. I don't know what went awry- I remember clicking through the online reservation system, but maybe I missed a final step. The ladies in the campground office got a good laugh out of our discombobulation though and hooked us up with one of the handful of campsites still available for the evening. We strung up the hammock again and have enjoyed relaxing so far this evening. We also had a nice chat with our neighbors across the way, who came over to warn us a bear raided their campsite last night. They had left food out and shortly after they crawled into their tent for the night heard a racket outside. They looked out and there was the bear on their picnic table gnawing away at an unopened ketchup bottle, can of soda, and Tupperware container of garlic among other items. They banged a spoon against a pan and he/she eventually wandered back off into the woods. They also spotted a skunk the other day. We have no intention of meeting any of the wildlife, however, and as usual will be keeping all of our food inside the Rubbermaid container inside the car.

Tomorrow if Eric's knees are feeling better we hope to hike to some of the more than 20 waterfalls in the park and then head south.