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Winter by Train

Winter by Train

by Chris Petry

For today’s topic, let’s rewind the clock back to 1802. In Shropshire, England, on the Welsh border, inventor, engineer (and wrestler interestingly enough) Richard Trevithick, introduces the world’s first steam locomotive. It’s hard today to really explain the revelatory nature of that moment but suffice it to say, the world was forever changed.
Today, steam engines are little more than a novelty for railroad enthusiasts and collectors. Trains, however, live on. In fact, they’re thriving. Why? It’s still the most efficient, cost-effective, and safe mode of transportation ever invented. Subway stations in Tokyo, London, and New York City cumulatively average over six billion riders a year. There are only 8 billion people on Earth! Even though those numbers obviously reflect repeat or daily users, it’s still impressive.
Electric rail travel is also the greenest form of travel we have available. According to OurWorldinData.org, passenger vehicles account for 45.1% of global CO2 emissions. Freight trucks another 29.4%, meaning road travel in total, accounts for over 74% of all emissions. Planes account for 11.6%. Trains only 1% of all emissions. Yes, everyday it looks more and more likely that the future of transportation (both human and freight) looks a little more like transportation’s past.
If you’ve never taken a trip by a train, you’re definitely missing out. My own father is a lifelong train fanatic. He’s spent untold hours of his retirement toiling away on his HO scale model railroad, subscribes to at least two different publications on the topic, and has corralled the family into multiple scenic railroad excursions over the years. Most recently, my sister and I joined him on an autumn daytrip in Cumberland, Maryland, where they still run steam to the delight of fanatics like my Pops.
If you ask me, however, the best time to take a trip by rail is winter. We’ve all seen The Polar Express, Murder on the Orient Express, and Terror Train. Okay, maybe just me on that last one. The point is, the scenic views are all the more enjoyable when they’re covered in a layer of snow and ice, all while you’re riding in a warm cabin, cocoa in hand. It’s an experience you’ll soon not forget. Below is a list of winter train excursions, sure to get you in the mood for snuggly sweaters, mistletoe, and sugar plums. Just what is a sugar plum anyway?
The Adirondack Train, New York to Montreal
This is a 10-hour trip, from New York City to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. An absolutely breathtaking trip that will take you the vertical length of New York State, through the Appalachian Highlands. The Adirondacks are worth visiting on their own but the vastness and beauty of the region is more easily encapsulated by rail.
The Santa Claus Special, Lehigh Gorge, Jim Thorpe, PA
This is a smaller, family-friendly trip, in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, at the foothills of the Poconos. I’ve never personally rode this train but I have visited Jim Thorpe and it’s the closest thing you get to Switzerland in Pennsylvania. You enter, descending the mountain, seasonal lights shining in the distance, a layer of snow coating the trees. It’s something to behold. The train trip offers kids, and kids at heart, the opportunity to interact with “Santa,” making it a very festive ride indeed.
The North Pole Adventure, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Akron, OH

Another one a little closer to home, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs a 26-mile excursion from Akron Station to the North Pole. Which is really somewhere in Cuyahoga National Park but don’t let the kids know. Enjoy hot cocoa, cookies, and holiday carols as you wind through the snow-covered valley.
The Cog Railway, Mount Washington, New Hampshire
This trip is weather contingent as you ascend the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. I highly recommend checking out a YouTube video of this particular train before booking, especially if heights are not your thing. For everyone else, it’s a fun ride! Of course, those peaks always look the best sitting under a layer of fresh powder. Bundle up!
Ethan Allen Express Train, New York City to Burlington, Vermont
Much like the Adirondacks Train, this particular excursion begins in the Big Apple. On your way to Burlington, you’ll delight in awe-inspiring views of the Hudson Valley and the Green Mountains.
Aurora Winter Train, Alaska  
True thrill-seekers will want to book a ticket to this one right away. The train departs from Anchorage, making its way to the top of the Denali, the highest peak in the United States. This is as close as you can get to visiting Santa’s hometown. I probably don’t have to tell you this since it’s in Alaska, but dress warm people. Flip-flops and artic winds do not mix.
The Ski Train, Colorado
This train takes you from Denver, Colorado to Winter Park Resort in Winter Park, Colorado. Stunning views of the snow-covered Rockies and a six-mile trip through a tunnel beneath the Continental Divide, are the obvious highlights of this essential expedition railroad.