The word ‘Winter’ brings to mind many things. The cold of January, snowfall, ice, and darkness all combine to create a less than hospitable environment. With bleak landscapes and the January’s ever-present gray overcast sky, the winds of winter do not create the ideal scenario for excursions trains. Yet that did not stop myself and two of my co-workers from visiting the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway.
CVSR is one of few tourist trains that runs throughout the winter. Their 2015 Season began not long after their Christmas rides ended with the new season beginning January 18th. Through February 28th, they run two round-trips every Saturday. This is down from the Saturday and Sunday winter schedule of a couple years back, but is still one of the most comprehensive winter tourist schedules that I’m personally aware of.
The trip up I-71 from Cincinnati took a bit over 3 hours. We spent most of the time mourning the stillborn 3C Corridor. We arrived in time for the second round-trip out of Rockside Road. Along with Peninsula and Akron-Northside, this is one of three stations that are staffed operated during the winter trips.
Unfortunately, dome-car tickets were sold out, but we sprung the extra $3/ticket for first-class. First-class sat in the lower portions of the dome car Emerson (sponsored by the Emerson charitable trust). Perks included free coffee and hot chocolate, a snack, and a little more personal attention from the staff.
The Emerson built originally for the Denver & Rio Grande Railway as the Silver Bronco, it was purchased and restored by Cuyahoga in 2011. Selling naming rights on passenger cars is certainly a unique way to fund restorations. I noticed one other coach that had been sponsored by Key Bank. From what I understand of the non-profit word, more and more donations are coming through corporations. These sorts of corporate sponsorships may be the way of the future for museums and excursion lines everywhere.
This was my second trip on the CVSR. Previously I had ridden the train out of Canton, which ran only as far north as Fitzwater Yard. As a result, I picked up about 3 more miles between their and Rockside Station. The scenery was quite the inversion, with a blanket of snow on the ground and ice chunks in the river. The lack of leaves and underbrush really opened up the views of the river. Cross-county hikers, skiers, and even a game of outdoor hockey added to this wintery atmosphere, creating a scenic railway experience uncommon to the Midwest.
We departed just a few minutes behind schedule and headed south at a leisurely pace around 15 to 20 mph. The consist was impressive, with 11 cars and two locomotives. During this time of year the regular train is combined with the their dinner train, which added a couple of cars. Power was provided by CVSR 800, the ex-CN FPA-4 painted in B&O colors to honor the most famous owners of the railway through the valley. The other end was protected by the GP15 currently being leased from Larry’s Truck and Electric Service. Also on the train was FLNX 79896, a caboose apparently used for private parties.
The ride south was uneventful, with a brief crew change at the yard and a station stop at Peninsula. The layover at Akron-Northside allowed about 10 minutes on a rather icey platform, and gave us the opportunity to photograph the train. Loads were full but not crowded outside of the dome.
Crew members on-board were friendly, and our trip featured two guides from the National Park Service to narrate points-of-interest along the route. Cuyahoga is a mostly volunteer operation, with four paid operating crew members to cover the busy months and several paid management positions.
The sun was already low in the sky by the time we returned to Independence and Rockside Station, though it was only a little before 5 in the afternoon. The train deboarded quickly, and the crew wasted no time shoving back to the yard. But while they were heading south, we were back in the car heading north to ride more trains on the Cleveland RTA.
Do You Want to Know More?
CVSR is certainly the premiere scenic train in Ohio. If you’re interested in riding one of their trains, tickets are available online at www.cvsr.com. I recommend it, as there’s no better way to spend a cold winter afternoon than in a warm coach. If nothing else, it may hold my withdrawal symptoms at bay until summer hits.
If you would like to know more about the history of the Valley Railway, I recommend a reprinted route-guide originally authored in the late 1800’s. I own this book personally, and it’s neat souvenir.
The full album of photos from this trip are available on the Rare Mileage Google+ Page.
- CVSR 800 FPA-4
- Power Car
- Steven W Wait
- The Spirit of Summit
- Clarence Reinberger
- Akron Metro Coach
- Car 727
- Emerson Dome Car
- Unnamed Lounge Car
- Cuyahoga Inn
- FLNX 79896 Caboose
- LTEX 1420 GP-15
- New Miles – 3.2
- Total Miles – 48.8
- Rare Miles – 0