Williams, Arizona – Home of the Grand Canyon Railway!

October 2019 – We have spent a lot of time in the neighborhood of Grand Canyon National Park this year, and in recent days while traveling with our RV along I-40, we paid a visit to Williams, Arizona, the Gateway to the Grand Canyon.

Williams Arizona Gateway to the Grand Canyon-min

Welcome to Williams!

Williams lies at the junction of I-40 and the road that leads to the popular South Rim of the Grand Canyon, so its “gateway” claim is well deserved. But it is also a Route 66 town and was the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by I-40.

But perhaps it is most well known and beloved for the Grand Canyon Railway, a train ride that starts in Williams and goes through ponderosa pine forests before arriving at Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

Trains cars on the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min

Williams is the home of the Grand Canyon Railway

Mark and I took this delightful train ride nearly 20 years ago as a weekend getaway and loved every minute of it. So, on this trip we wandered down to the train depot to see the train off one morning.

Railroad crossing Williamd Arizona 2-min


The trees were changing color and the daytime temps were pretty cool. Overnight temps in the area were in the low to mid 20s, and we were glad to have our trusty blue flame heater keeping us warm in our rig.

Fall colors in Williams Arizona-min

Fall was in the air!

The Grand Canyon Railway ride is a great family outing, and the train trip is popular in every season. The ride is especially popular with kids, and there are tons of family amusements all around the depot to keep everyone entertained while waiting for the 9:30 departure each morning.

With Halloween around the corner, the whole area was decorated with pumpkins and ghoulish goodies.

Ticket booth in Williams Arizona at Grand Canyon Railway-min

The ticket booth was decorated for Halloween!

We had fun taking photos of each other with the many props.

Corpse in a coffin at Grand Canyon Railway on Halloween-min

There are all kinds of fun things to keep passengers entertained while they wait for the train!

Pumpkin man and puppy-min

Buddy checks out Mr. Pumpkinhead!

Buddy saw Mark posing as Mr. Pumpkinhead and he wanted to join in the fun too. He spotted a circus lion cutout and wanted to poke his nose through!

Puppy dreams of being a lion-min

Puppy chow!

Suddenly we heard the distant rumble of a train and we looked up to see a Grand Canyon Railway train rumbling down the tracks.

Grand Canyon Railway train arrives in Williams AZ-min

The train arrives at the depot

The train essentially backed into place with the conductor at one end and the engineer at the other. The engineer gave us a wave and then climbed down out of the train.

Train engineer on Grand Canyon Railway Williams Arizona-min

The train’s engineer waves to us.

Train engineer climbs out of Grand Canyon Railway train car-min

It’s a long way down!

The Grand Canyon Railway has been in operation for all but 20 years since 1901. Back when it opened, the fare was $3.95 which was a whole lot cheaper than the alternative $15 stagecoach ride to the South Rim from Flagstaff. It was probably a whole lot more comfortable too!

Sunset Cafe train car on Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min


We walked along the train cars and were astonished to count twelve of them. Could that many people be taking the train to the Grand Canyon on a Tuesday morning in October? We sure didn’t see that many people around.

There were lots of fun references to train travel around the depot grounds, and we noticed a park bench made from two train wheels. After staring at the park bench we had to check out the real wheels on the train cars. Who’d ever think of recycling old train wheels to be park benches? Very cool!

Park bench made from train wheels Williams Arizona-min

This fun park bench was made from train wheels…

Train undercarriage Grand Canyon Railway-min

…so we had to run back and see what the train wheels look like when they’re on the train!

Suddenly we heard a loud train horn blast. Buddy jumped and so did we!

Horns on train car 239 Williams Arizona Grand Canyon Railway-min

Those horns could really let out a blast!

As we walked along the train platform we noticed a large group of people gathered at the far end. As we got closer we realized they were gathered on the edge of an old western town.

Crowd gathers at old west gunfight-min

There was a crowd gathered by a mock-up of an old frontier town.

We stood on our tiptoes and peeked between everyone. To our surprise a midget cowboy was expertly twirling a rope getting ready to lasso someone or something.


He could really make it spin!

Then we heard a shot, and the midget was on the ground!

Gunfight at the saloon in Williams AZ-min

Uh oh… it’s a shoot out!

We noticed a cowboy reaching for his gun and then there were some more shots and some more cowboys fell to the ground.

Reaching for his gun-min

Watch out!

Old west gunfight Williams AZ 2-min

Two down…

Old west gunfight Williams AZ 3-min

Oh dear, now they’re all dead.

The crowd laughed and applauded and then slowly made its way to the waiting train. A gal walking next to me said, “That was fun to see here, but I hope they don’t do it on the train!”

I just smiled. Back when Mark and I had taken this train all those years ago there was a holdup in the middle of the woods, complete with horseback riders rushing the train and forcing it to stop. The cowboys had jumped off their horses and run through the train cars making quite a commotion!

Tourists line up to take the train at Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min

Everyone made their way to the train platform.

As the passengers filed onto the train we chatted a little bit with the conductor, Bernie. He said today’s train was a small one with only about 500 or so passengers on it. On busy summer days the train would be about twice as long with 1,000 passengers on it.

Taking tickets at Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min

.Lots of folks take overnight bags and spend a night at the rim.

During the holidays, from November 8th to January 4th this year, the Grand Canyon Railway runs the Polar Express train. Bernie said about 100,000 people, mostly kids of course, take that ride each year. Wow!!

In no time the train was full. As it pulled away from the depot, a small group of us on the platform waved and the people on the train waved back. We were all grinning. It might all sound a little hokey, but it was all a lot of fun even though we didn’t get on the train this time around.

Grand Canyon Railway train departs from Williams Arizona-min

The train heads off on its two hour journey to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

As we walked through the Grand Canyon Railway yard back into town we noticed a funny looking little train car on display. It was a Cog Railway train car that was used on the Pike’s Peak cog railway in Colorado.

It was tilted forward because it was designed to crawl straight up the mountain.

A few years ago we took the Mt. Washington Cog Railway train ride in New Hampshire up to the blustery tippy top of Mt. Washington in the White Mountains. It was a blast. Ever since then, the Pike’s Peak cog railway ride has been on our bucket list!

Cog railway car from Pike's Peak on display at Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min

One of the old cog railway train cars from Pike’s Peak in Colorado.

After all this train excitement, Buddy said he wanted to go to the coffee shop. We’d been going to a really nice place on the main drag called Brewed Awakenings during our stay, and he excitedly led us right up to the back door.

Ready for a puppaccino at Brewed Awakenings in Williams Arizona-min

Buddy led us right to the back door of Brewed Awakenings.

Before my latte order had even been made, Buddy was quickly devouring his puppaccino (whipped cream in a bowl). Yum!

Puppy eats a puppaccino 2-min

Is there anything better than a puppaccino??

If you are traveling to the Grand Canyon and want to go to the heart of the South Rim’s historic Grand Canyon Village, the Grand Canyon Railway is a great way to go. Revived in 1989 after shutting down in 1968, the train has reduced the number of cars visiting the Grand Canyon by some 50,000 since it reopened!

Even if you don’t take the train ride, if your RV travels take you along I-40 in Arizona and you have a hankering to walk the pretty main street of a Route 66 town and join the excitement of the train’s daily departure, Williams makes a great stop!

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Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi – A Ride Through Thailand’s Countryside

January 2017 – Our stay in Bangkok, Thailand, was filled with exotic sights and sounds, and at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market we got a peek at a way of life that had been uniquely Thai back in the days when the city was built on canals. But it was a train trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, about 75 miles west of the city, that made us feel like we were beginning to see the “real” Thailand.

Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

Thonburi Station in Bangkok, Thailand

The train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is a 3rd class train that leaves from the Thonburi station in Bangkok. The station and the streets around it were absolutely teaming with people, as it sits alongside a huge market where anything and everything was for sale on a vast array of tables and carts.

Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

Passengers wait for the train to Kanchanaburi

Tickets for the three hour train trip were just 100 Baht each, about $2.85 US, but we’d made the mistake of showing up without any notes worth less than 500 Baht. To our surprise, the ticket booth at the train station wouldn’t accept a 500 Baht note for 200 Baht worth of tickets.

So, I ran off through the market, passed by an ATM that was out of order, and finally found a lady selling juice from a cart who had an apron filled with bills of all denominations. Fortunately, she understood enough English and sign language that when I waved a 500 Baht note at her she figured out what I wanted. In no time I was back at the train station ticket window with exact change. Phew!

Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

A train conductor and a station guard exchange paperwork through the train window.

There were quite a few “farangs” (foreigners) waiting for this train, as it is a popular trip for tourists to do. But all the other trains at the station were loading and unloading throngs of locals who were going about their daily business.

The Kanchanaburi train finally arrived, and we hopped on board. We hadn’t been sure what “3rd class” would mean, but it turned out to be just like the commuter rail trains I used to ride as a kid years ago, except the windows were all wide open.

Inside Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

The train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is “3rd class” but we found it clean and comfortable.

As we headed out of Bangkok, the train narrowly missed hitting the corrugated metal rooftops of endless rows of houses, and we got a peek at the backside of Bangkok, as is so common when you take a train somewhere. We saw what amounted to being the “other side of the tracks” in some very poor neighborhoods.

Houses by window Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

The train skims past corrugated metal rooftops in Bangkok.

Once we got out of town a ways, we began to see classic Asian sights out the windows.

View from train window Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand


Buddhist monk on motorbike Thailand


Views from Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand


We stopped at quite a few train stations along the way. Several stations were very ornate with uniformed guards standing watch, and most were decorated with memorials to the beloved deceased Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej who had died in October, 2016.

Train station Bangkok to Kanchanaburi train Thailand

A train station we stopped at on our route from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

During our stay in Thailand we saw thousands of memorials to the king, often with photos of him either as a young man who appeared to be very studious, or as a middle aged man dressed in all his royal splendor and regalia.

Train station Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

A train station decorated with the black and white ribbons memorializing the recently deceased King of Thailand.

In general, when we walked on the streets, we couldn’t go 50 yards without encountering a memorial of some kind, and in a car or on this train the billboards and roadside shrines appeared several times per mile.

Thailand King Memorial

Memorials to King Bhumibol Adulyadej were everywhere in Thailand.

After about an hour, we stopped at one train stop and a group of vendors got on board. They walked up and down the aisle selling foods of various kinds.

Food vendor on the Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

A food vendor offers munchies to travelers on the train.

Each vendor took a turn in each train car, waiting for the vendor ahead of them to finish walking through the car before strolling down the aisle themselves.

Food vendor Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand


Meanwhile, out the window, the ornate rooftops of temples and other buildings appeared between the trees.

Window view Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand


Thailand views Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand


In the seat in front of us, a little boy was as fascinated with what he saw out the train window as we were.

Looking out train window Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

The things we were passing were fascinating, and not just to us!

His sister hung her head out the window too, and we got such a kick out of watching these two adorable kids taking in all the scenery and pointing and commenting on it.

They were loving the train ride as much as we were.

Kids on Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand


Their mom let them take shots out the window with her cell phone and then she got some pics of the two of them. We couldn’t help but take photos of them too!

Boy with cell phone on Kanchanaburi train


After a while, the little boy peeked over the top of the seatback at me, put his hands together and bowed his head in the Thai expression of respect. I was touched and told his mom her children were very beautiful and she gave me a huge smile.

Playing on the train Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

These kids were so adorable we got pics and so did their mom!

She and I tried to tell each other where we were heading, though, and our attempt at conversation was hopeless. I think she said they were going to the mountains, and I tried to tell her we were going to see some waterfalls. But sign language and giggles only go so far.

Little Thai boy


The train ride took us out into the countryside, far from the chaos of Bangkok, and soon we began to see the rural sights of farms and farmers tending their fields. Some of the farmers were tilling the land by hand.

Farming in Thailand Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

We passed lots of farm fields and farmers working.

Farming in Thailand Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand


Thailand farming Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand


We passed a row of trees that was so perfectly lined up I just had to take a photo. I didn’t realize at the time that these trees were rubber trees. A few days later I would see these trees up close, each one holding a small mug-sized cup to catch the sap.

Rubber trees in Thailand

Rubber trees.

We also passed a cemetery filled with pointed shrines for deceased loved ones.

Cemetery in Thailand

We caught a brief glimpse of a cemetery with lots of tombstones.

In no time, the trip was over. The three hours had zipped by, and we had arrived in Kanchanaburi.

Kanchanaburi Train Station Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

Kanchanaburi Railway Station

An agent came to the train and greeted all the foreigners as we got off the train. She asked each of us where we were staying and assigned us to a cab or tuk-tuk to get us there. We were staying at the Bure Homestay which is just a few kilometers from the train station.

Peering out the window of the cab, the town of Kanchanaburi seemed very inviting. We loved the fish that adorned the tops of all the streetlights.

Kanchanburi Thailand city street

Out on the streets of Kanchanaburi

Streetlight decoration Kanchanaburi Thailand


As we wandered around the town we noticed some very cool buses that were two stories tall and were painted up in wild colors and said “Mr. Beer” on the side.

Mr Beer Bus Kanchanaburi Thailand

There are many ways to travel in Thailand!!

We poked our heads inside one of these buses and were amazed to find that the entire first floor of the bus was a bar! The two bar tenders greeted us warmly, although they seemed to be a few sheets to the wind themselves, and we got a chuckle as we realized there are many ways to get around Thailand.

For us, the 3rd class train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi was a great way to go, and it felt very authentic and made for a very pleasant three hour ride.

Mr Beer Bus Kanchanaburi Thailand

Welcome to the Mr. Beer Bus!

But taking the Mr. Beer bus could always be another option!

There are a few tips for taking the 3rd class train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi below:

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Mt. Washington Cog Railway – The Little Engine That Could!

July 2015 – One of the most well known landmarks in New Hampshire is Mt. Washington, the tallest mountain in the northeast. And on this mountain rides one of the best excursions you can find anywhere: The Mt. Washington Cog Railway.

Ammonoosuc Train The Cog Railway Mt Washington New Hampshire

The Mt. Washington Cog Railway — what fun!

The brainchild of Sylvester Marsh, an inventor and grain merchant who made a fortune designing machinery for the grain industry in the mid 1800’s, the Cog Railway is a fantastic train ride that crawls straight up the side of the mountain. No switchbacks needed!

Coal fired steam engine Cog Railway Mt Washington

The coal fired steam engine burns a lot of coal and blows off a lot of steam on the way up the mountain!

Back in the 1860’s, after retiring from the grain industry, Sylvester hiked up Mt. Washington with a friend. On the way, he encountered the typically brutal weather that this particular mountain likes to dish out. Other hikers had died on the mountain just prior to his hike, and he and his friend were grateful to make it to the Tip Top House, a hiker’s hut at the top.

Ticket booth The Cog Railway Mt Washington New Hampshire

Folks come early to get tickets or confirm reservations.

He was astonished the next morning when the storm subsided and the views unfolded all around him. Most folks of that time never got to see much beyond their farm fields, and he wanted to share this incredible beauty with everyone living at sea level yet make it easier and safer for them to get to the top.

He set about designing a train that would use not just normal railroad tracks but a third rail in the middle that was made of chain links like a bicycle chain. A cog on the bottom of the train would turn and claw its way up the mountain using this third rail to inch along.

Life Magazine cover Mt Washington Cog Railway New Hampshire

The Cog Railway has graced a lot of magazine covers. This Life cover is from 1958, 89 years after the railway opened!

It was a clever idea, but the big railroad barons of the day openly laughed at him. He was a grain guy, after all. What could he possibly know about trains? Well, he was a man with a vision, and he opened the railway to the public on July 19, 1869.

It has been a huge hit with visitors to New Hampshire’s White Mountains ever since.

Mt Washington Cog Railway coal fired steam train engine

Sylvester Marsh patented his design for this unusual cog rail train

The construction wasn’t easy, and everyday the construction crew rode a cog train up to the end of the line, wherever the previous day’s construction had left off. At the end of the day, they each rode cog sleds down the mountain. These sleds had brakes, but still, what a wild ride that must have been!

Riding the cog railway down on sleds

When the tracks were being built, the construction workers would slide down the mountain on sleds at the end of the work day!

We got caught up in watching the outsanding PBS documentary video about the history of the Cog Railway in the museum before our ride. We gawked at the magazine covers and old photos and mock-ups of the train that were on display. Suddenly, a train whistle pierced the air, and we ran outside to see the bright red train chugging up the hill from its overnight storage spot in a cloud of steam and smoke. What a thrill!

Mt Washington Cog Rail train chugs uphill

Our train, Engine #2, comes up the hill to pick us all up.

The coal fired steam engine runs just once each day, at 9:15 in the morning. And it is the real deal — authentic 1875 technology at work!

The Cog Railway actually has five other trains and coaches that run up and down the mountain all day long. They operate on biodiesel and make the journey a bit more quickly.

Biodiesel trains at the Cog Railway on Mt Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

Biodiesel trains make the trek up the mountain after the steam engine’s early morning run.

The 3 mile ride is a one hour trip on the steam train, but it’s about 20 minutes less on its biodiesel sisters.

The Cog Railway train car arrives at the station

This is a ride that’s fun for all ages.

Before we hopped aboard, our Engineer, Eggy, showed us the enormous pile of coal that would be shoveled into the fire by the Fireman, Ray, to keep the water boiling. Shoveling the coal is serious work, and Ray would be shoveling as fast as he could go during the steepest part of the climb, a 37.4% grade!

Engineer peeks out window Cog Railway Mt Washington New Hampshire

What a fun job!

Everyone aboard the train was grinning as Eggy blew the whistle. With a lurch, the train started the climb, pushing our coach car ahead of it. The engine car is built on an angle so it sits fairly level as it climbs up the mountain. The coach car isn’t, however, and we were pitched back in our seats and aiming for the sky!

A gorgeous view of the vast green valleys and mountains grew quickly behind us.

Cog Railway Train chugs up Mt Washington New Hampshire

Clouds of steam blanketed the engine as we climbed the mountain

In front of us, the cog rail was clearly visible in the middle of the train track as it snaked its way up the mountain. We crept up the mountain at the pace of a leisurely stroll, and noticed that each railroad tie was numbered. Our Brakeman, Kelly, told us that four people spend all day every day maintaining the tracks!

About halfway up we came to the Halfway House, a building that seems to sit at an impossible angle on the edge of the mountain. Situated at 4500′ elevation, the floor is actually quite level, it’s just that the pitch of the mountain is so steep it looks like the house itself is tilting!

Cog train tracks and halfway house Mt Washington New Hampshire

The “Halfway House” is at 4,500′ elevation

Not long afterwards we stopped for few minutes to get more water for the boiler. The water source at this important spot on the mountain is spring fed, and 300 gallons of water were poured into the tank with a gravity feed.

Then we reached the steepest part of the ride at a trestle called Jacob’s ladder that stands 25′ above a ravine. What does a 37.4% grade feel like in a train? Well, the seats in the front of the coach were 14 feet above the seats in the back of the coach — and the kids just loved struggling up and down the aisle between the seats!!

Jacob's Ladder trestle Mt Washington Cog Railway

Jacob’s Ladder trestle — the steepest part of the railway

As we climbed higher and higher, the views behind us became ever more expansive. Suddenly, we noticed people walking up a trail towards the train, and we realized that these folks had all hiked up from the bottom! The Cog Railway sells one-way tickets too, so undoubtedly some of these hikers would hitch a ride down after getting triumphant pics of themselves at the top.

Hikers coming up Mt. Washington Summit Trail New Hampshire

Hikers coming up the trail from the base of Mt. Washington

There was quite a line of hikers waiting to take selfies with the Mt Washington Summit sign at the top, and who can blame them. It’s quite an accomplishment to hike up. We felt a little soft for having ridden the train, but we had no shame, and we got in line and took pics with the summit sign too!

Mt Washington Summit

Hey, even if I didn’t hike I can still get a pic at the top, can’t I ?

We had about an hour at the summit before our train would start the journey back down the mountain, and we made a bee-line for the Mt. Washington Observatory where we took a tour of the weather station. Our guide, Kaitlyn, showed us the instruments that track the wind speeds and monitor the weather, and we were floored to learn that scientists actually live and work on the top of Mt. Washington year round, manning this station 24/7 in twelve hour shifts.

Kaitlyn Mt. Washington Observatory Weather Station New Hampshire

Mt. Washington has the most fearsome weather in the world, and our guide, Kaitlyn, explains how scientists live and work there, monitoring the instruments 24/7 !

They work for 8 straight days on the mountaintop and then have 6 days off, and they live all together, dormitory style, with a comfy common room, kitchen and bedrooms that reminded me of my college days. Volunteers can participate too, and we got a kick out of seeing two grey haired volunteers coming into the dorm after their shifts. The fun for them, they said, besides the working at the weather station itself, was that they could enjoy the hiking and outdoor activities of the White Mountains all summer long.

Kaitlyn then took us up through a hatch and out onto the roof of the observatory where we saw the wind vanes in action.

Climbing up the Mt. Washington Observatory Weather Station New Hampshire

Mark climbs up towards the roof deck where the wind vanes are mounted.

The highest wind speed ever recorded at a manned weather station occurred right here back on April 12, 1934, when a wind gust hit 231 mph. I had heard a story long ago that the wind vane was blown right off the mountain when that wind gust hit, but we discovered that’s an urban legend.

Four volunteers — the founders of the observatory — were manning the station that day, and they actually retrieved the wind vane from its spot on the roof and verified that it was functioning correctly and that its readings were accurate. Having the instrument blow right off the mountain makes a much better story, though!

Mt Washington Observatory Wind Vanes

The wind vanes on the top of the Mt. Washington Observatory

Since that time, a bigger wind gust was recorded in Australia during Cyclone Olivia in 1996. However, that happened on an unmanned weather station, so, awesome as it was, it doesn’t have quite the same mystique!

Before long, we heard our train whistle blowing again, and it was time to go back down the mountain. Still flushed with excitement from seeing the inner workings of the Mt. Washington Observatory, we quickly got swept up in the incredible marvel of coasting a big train engine and coach full of passengers straight down a mountain without losing control.

Fog shrouds the Cog Rail train at the top of Mt Washington New Hampshire

We had fog at the top, but that didn’t dampen our spirits one bit!

The train and coach are always oriented in the same direction with the train engine located below the coach. On the way up the mountain, the train engine pushes the coach. On the way down, the Engineer in the train engine uses compression brakes to slow the train and the Brakeman in the coach uses disc brakes to keep the coach from bumping into and pushing the train down the hill. It kinda reminded me of the brake action on our truck and trailer going down a mountain!

Our Brakeman, Kelly, worked constantly the entire way down the mountain feathering the brakes. She had two big wheels in front of her, one to make big adjustments and one for fine tuning. We were at such a steep pitch that it looked like she was leaning way back even though she was standing straight!

Brakeman controls the brakes on Mt Washington Cog Railway New Hampshire

Heading back down, our Brakeman, Kelly, feathered the brakes with two huge wheels. She isn’t leaning back, by the way. It’s the coach that’s on an angle!

The noise of the brakes and the shaking in the coach were quite dramatic, and we watched in amazement as Kelly worked at the wheels.

The jobs on this train follow the old tradition: first you become a Brakeman, controling the brakes in the coach, then a Fireman, shoveling coal into the hopper to keep the fire blazing to boil the water, and then you can be an Engineer, driving the whole thing.

Up ahead of us we noticed that two of the biodiesel trains were at the junction area in the middle of the mountain. They were passing each other as one was coming up the mountain and the other was going down.

Two trains pass at Mt Washington Cog Railway switching station New Hampshire

Two trains pass at each other at the switching station

We found out later that the dance of the six Cog Rail trains is a carefully choreographed ballet that is overseen by the director of operations who runs the whole show by radio. Each train leaves its station, going either up or down, at a very precise moment so pairs of trains can meet in the middle where a switching station allows two trains to be side by side and pass each other on parallel tracks.

The Cog Railway Mt Washington New Hampshire

A train climbing up the mountain passes us as we coast down.

Soon we were passing a train that was headed up the mountain. We took pics of them as they passed, and they took pics of us!!

Passenger takes a photo of passing Cog Railway Train Mt Washington New Hampshire

We all got photos of each other!

When we finally reached the bottom and got out, we hung around for a while to admire our little train. It huffed and puffed and made all kinds of noises as the steam spewed out around it. We noticed there was a lot less coal in the hopper than there had been on the way up, and Ray’s and Eggy’s faces and hands were dusted with soot. But their beaming smiles gave away what fun they have with their jobs.

The Cog Railway crew inspects the coal fired steam engine train

The train crew and the team of mechanics tune up the engine every afternoon.

It turns out that their day starts well before the 9:15 ride, because it takes them over an hour to warm up the engine and get the water in the boiler up to temp. After the ride is over, they spend hours going over every part of the train engine, lubing the moving parts and tightening anything that has rattled loose.

Meanwhile, the biodiesel trains were waiting their turns to go up the mountain.

Cog railway trains lined up and ready to go_

Biodiesel cog trains lined up and ready to go

The biodiesel engine trains are much simpler, of course. The engines themselves are 600 horsepower John Deere engines, and the ride is smoother, quicker and a lot less noisy. But there is a romance to the old steam train that enchanted us completely.

Mt Washington Cog Railway train climbs the mountain

What an absolute blast this ride was!

If you find yourself in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a ride on the Cog Railway is an absolute must. This fun little excursion is sure to put a smile on your face!

RV camped in Mt Washington National Forest

The White Mountains are a beautiful area for camping,
and the Cog Railway was a huge highlight during our stay there.

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More info about the Cog Railway:

The trains run from late April through November and you can reserve tickets in advance.

Other fun rides we’ve taken:

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Joseph Branch Railriders – What a ride!

Rail riding bicycle for two

A Joseph Oregon “Rail Rider” — What a blast to ride!!

July 2014 – While roaming around the backside of the pretty town of Joseph, Oregon, we came across a guy working on the most unusual looking tandem bicycle.

It had two seats side by side and was sitting on the old railroad tracks of an unused railway line.

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On the road to Baker City, Oregon

Big Money Bank Dayville Oregon

Mark greets patrons at the Big Money Bank

June 2014 – Leaving the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument behind and continuing our scenic drive to northeastern Oregon along Route 26, we passed through lots of small towns.  Each one celebrated the historic American West in its own way.

Still pondering the early 20th century sheep ranching lifestyle we had seen at the Monument, we came across a funny, fake old western town front in Dayville.

Rather than building a sheep ranching enterprise, perhaps the easiest way to make a fortune in the old west was to work at the Big Money Bank. Mark certainly thought so!

Miners' homes black and white

With the railway shut down, Whitney, Oregon, is now a ghost town.

Another community we passed, named Whitney, was once a railroad town for the logging industry. Now it is a ghost town.

Rails extended in all directions from Whitney so that an immense stand of yellow pine could be harvested and shipped out on rail cars.

From 1901 to 1947 as many as 150 people called Whitney home.  Today only a handful of crumbling buildings remain.

Sumpter Railroad Oregon

The Sumpter Valley Railroad between Sumpter
and McEwen is still alive and well!

Further east in Sumpter, Oregon, we found the lovingly restored remnants of the same logging railroad line that had put Whitney on the map: the Sumpter Valley Railroad

This railway now offers excursion rides. From the brake man to the conductor to the engineer, all the positions are held by dedicated volunteers.

Mark at the wheel of Sumpter Railroad Oregon

The engineer gave Mark a turn in the driver’s seat.

Volunteers work for a few years to learn all the skills necessary to be advanced to the level of train engineer, and that was the goal of several volunteers we met.


Meadow of Lupine Sumpter Oregon

We came across a vast field of wildflowers.

The train goes only a few miles between Sumpter and McEwen, but it is a popular ride for young and old alike.

The engineer invited Mark to have a seat in front of the engine. What an antiquated mechanical marvel that is!

The old mechanics who worked on these kinds of engines back when they were still in commercial use are now passing their skills on to younger mechanics who are learning how to restore them and keep them running.

Lupine in the woods

Lupine were blooming in the woods nearby too!

Back on the road again, we saw snowy mountains beginning to appear on the horizon.

When we passed a field full of purple and white lupine, we had to stop for photographs!

Hay bales in Baker Oregon

Baker City is smack in the middle of beautiful farm and ranch land.

While we were both knee deep in flowers, a fellow driving by stopped his truck and walked over to us, saying, “I was hoping someone would photograph those flowers!”

Welcome to Baker City Oregon

Baker City’s small town charm is infectious.

We ended up chatting with him for quite a while, right there on the side of the road. He wasn’t in a hurry and neither were we!

We had arrived on the quieter side of Oregon.

Baker City is the biggest city for hundreds of miles around. How big is big? 10,000 people live there.

How fast is it growing? The population has hovered around 10,000 since 1940!

Baker City Oregon city streets

Baker City Oregon

Baker Tower in Baker City Oregon

Baker Tower is STILL Oregon’s highest building
east of the Cascades!

What a contrast to other western cities like Phoenix that is 23 times the size it was in 1940, or Bend Oregon that has quadrupled in just a few decades.

City Hall in Baker City Oregen

The grand buildings like City Hall
belie the small size of the population.

When I asked at the fabulous Baker Heritage Museum in town why things haven’t changed much over the years, I was told it’s because a lot of old timers like the city just the way it is.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Grand Geiser Hotel Baker City Oregon

This small historic city oozes charm.

The nearest Walmart is 45 miles away, and there are no big box stores.

What really makes it special, though, besides its quiet, down to earth and friendly nature, is the beautiful Victorian arcthitecture all around town.

The Geiser Grand Hotel presides over downtown, along with the Baker Tower, the tallest building east of the Cascades.

Five pound gold nugget Baker City Oregon

Baker City was known as the “Queen of the mines” for good reason…

Keeping a lid on growth and resisting change doesn’t mean there’s no money around, however.

Northeast Oregon is the richest part of the state for gold, and the US Bank branch in town has a glass enclosed exhibit of gold nuggets that includes a fist-sized “nugget” that was found nearby in June, 1913.

The day after unearthing it, the two men who discovered it hopped on the Sumpter Valley Railroad (which was carrying passengers as well as logs by then) to take it to Baker City to have it appraised.

At 80.4 ounces (over 5 lbs.), it is one of the largest pure gold nuggets still in existence today (most others were melted down).

Adler House Baker City Oregon

Not all money came from gold and timber…
Magazine distribution magnate Leo Adler lived here.

At the time it was found, gold was about $18 an ounce, making it worth about $1,500 to those two lucky men.

Today, 99 years later, gold is worth over $1,300 per ounce, but as a collectible, this nugget is probably even more valuable.

One of the town’s most successful residents is Leo Adler who created a magazine distribution empire in the mid-1900’s.


Deer crossing Adler Path Baker City Oregon

A deer and his buddy surprise us on the bike path in town.

He started out by walking around town at age 9 carrying the Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal!

Young buck Baker City Oregon

They call this a city?!!

He loved Baker City, and he left the city a substantial sum, part of which has been used to create a paved bike path through town.

Fifth wheel trailer under a rainbow

What a soul-satisfying town
to call home for a while.

While we were riding on his namesake path one day, Mark saw a young buck nibbling leaves on a tree.

He trotted right between us!

We followed him and his buddy to a big field where they started grazing, totally unconcerned with our presence.

Such is life — one of peace and tranquility — in Baker City, Oregon.


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Here is a little more info for you about Baker City, and the Sumpter Valley Railroad.

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