Few areas in the state are more scenic than southern Ohio in the fall as leaves change from green to vibrant hues of red, orange and yellow. As I sit on-board the open-air train car of the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway I cannot help but close my eyes and breathe in the signature scent of an Ohio autumn.
Departing from the Nelsonville Depot in Nelsonville, Ohio my two-hour round-trip ride to East Logan is filled with images of pixelated trees beginning to change color. The children on the train are busy building memories as they inquire about sights along the way like the Hocking Canal locks that are still visible from the tracks, the flowing Hocking River and the train tresses rusted from years of railroad use.
The hypnotic sound of the clank, clank, clank along the tracks is soothing. I watch families connecting with one another as they spend a day away from electronics and everyday stimulus. Once they hand their tickets to the conductor families get to enjoy a few hours together playing on-board one of Ohio’s most precious gems. The nostalgia of a train ride is magical no matter what your age especially as the colorful autumn scenery whizzes by.
We pass through the historic town of Haydenville which was part of a clay and brick company many years ago. A brief stop in the town introduces passengers to demonstrations of blacksmithing, weaving and cooking that exemplify life in Haydenville in the mid-1800s.
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway offers regular train rides of varying lengths every weekend between Memorial Day weekend and the last weekend in October. The shortest of the trips is a 1.5-hour trip that leaves at noon for Haydenville. This is ideal for families who have a shorter time commitment. The second weekend train leaves at 2:30 p.m. heading to East Logan. This two-hour trip passes through historic Haydenville and takes you through the hillside of the Hocking River Valley past canal locks and a gravel mine.
Throughout the year the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway offers themed trains including an October Weekday Foliage Train showcasing the spectacular southern Ohio views during peak leaf-peeping season. The fall foliage rides depart on Thursdays and Fridays in October at 1:00 p.m. for a two-hour trip. Since Ohio weather is unpredictable you can choose between the spectacular open-air cars or the heated coaches.
During the rest of the year the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway hosts other themed trains like the Santa Train in November and December, an Easter Bunny Train in April and a friendly train robbery trip in the summer.
Beyond the spectacular memories made during the train experience the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is special because it is an entirely volunteer operation supported by tickets and donations. Since 1972 the railway has maintained operations and offered a unique getaway for families. Be sure to look around the depot when you pick up your tickets and admire the preservation efforts of this organization to offer such a beloved experience in Ohio.