All Aboard the Fall Foliage Express

Posted on October 16, 2014 at 6:00 am

By Cara Strickland

All Aboard the Fall Foliage Express by Cara Strickland | Spokane County Library District

When it comes to trains, I am like a six year old boy. LEAD ME TO IT (and can I blow the whistle, please?) So, it won’t be too much of a stretch for you to imagine my delight when I discovered (several years ago) that the North Pend Oreille Valley Lions Club offers train rides between Ione and Metaline Falls. I grabbed two friends (with no idea what they were getting into) and started to count down the days.

I arrived in Ione, bundled up for the October weather (although there is both inside and outside seating, the enclosed train cars fill up fast, and I’ve never yet made it into one). We boarded the train, claiming seats in the caboose, and I started taking pictures. The train is vintage and that is just as cool as it sounds.

We set off on our journey through beautiful country filled with colorful leaves and I alternated between reading passages from my vintage train book aloud and sticking my head out the window to feel the wind.

All Aboard the Fall Foliage Express by Cara Strickland | Spokane County Library District

The conductor was happy to find someone as interested in the trains as he was and patiently answered all of my questions as we cruised along merrily. The air was cool and crisp, but it wasn’t too cold to walk out onto to the back platform and watch the ground disappear underneath us (and wave at people in the train car ahead of us).

At one point, we crossed a tall bridge and I took a moment to feel a bit small (and also exhilarated) in the presence of so much space and height.

When we reached the halfway point of our journey, we paused for a moment so that the engine could come to our side of the train and then we set off again, traveling in the opposite direction.

All Aboard the Fall Foliage Express by Cara Strickland | Spokane County Library District

Families with children (including some who seemed just as excited as I was), couples enjoying  the season together (one year for me was a date day with my then-boyfriend) and a few people who seemed to have come on their own. By the end of the trip, we all felt like friends, and we took turns pointing out particularly striking views and wildlife to one another.

It was with reluctance that I disembarked from the train (and that was only after a wonderful chat with one of the members of the Lion’s Club, who was more than willing to tell me the fascinating history of the trains).

I contented myself with the remembrance that I could come again as the leaves began to turn in the fall.

All Aboard the Fall Foliage Express by Cara Strickland | Spokane County Library District

I’ve learned a few things in my time riding the rails. Here are a few of my tips for making your train trip wonderful.

  • It’s always a good idea to dress warmly (even on fairly warm days, the wind can be a bit chilly), but I also recommend bringing a blanket or two to cuddle up in (and share with a friend, significant other, or child).
  • These train trips are very popular (and for good reason) so you’ll want to buy your tickets early to make sure you get a spot. You can make online reservations here.
  • If you need (or just really want) to do a Christmas picture, consider getting one in front of the engine. Wear your coordinated (or not) outfits and have someone capture the moment.
  • It’s a bit of a drive, so I find that it’s best to budget some time for a meal on one end or another. (Plus, it’s nice to warm up with a thermos of hot coffee, tea, or hot chocolate). On the more mild days, I like to pack a picnic and eat in the park close by the railroad station. It’s right on the water and the reflection of the leaves makes for a beautiful view (or another wonderful photo backdrop).

I hope you enjoy your train trip as much as I do (and be sure to ask if you can blow the whistle, my attempts have been successful thus far).

Cara Strickland

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