Updated Fri, Sep 27, 2013 12:43 pm
Athens County’s most popular tourist attraction has made the list of the Travel Channel’s “World’s Best Family Train Trips.”
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway made the list of 12 railways in the world to be featured on the list. The historic railway located in Nelsonville attracts tens of thousands of passengers to Athens County annually.
The railway is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve, restore and operate historic railroad equipment for the education and entertainment of the public.
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway was founded in 1972 and offers diesel-powered rides on the vintage railcars. Passengers have their choice of cars including 1920s commuter cars, open-air cars, the 1940 air-conditioned B&O coach or an air-conditioned two-level car built in 1970.
“The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway remains one of Athens County’s best assets,” said Paige Alost, executive director of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It represents an authentic piece of regional history in a way that’s easy visitors to engage with, especially with all the special trains they host each year. Plus, it brings visitors to Athens County from all across the country, and serves as a primary attraction in which to introduce people to other great assets in our region, including the city of Nelsonville.”
Alost said it’s important for people to know that the railway is operated and maintained solely by volunteers.
“It is almost entirely volunteer-run, and the amount of work that goes into maintaining the trains and tracks, not to mention each ride, is incredible,”she said.
The railway not only offers rides on weekends, but also a plethora of special event trains held throughout the year including a Santa Train, New Year’s Train, Easter Train, fall foliage rides and a “friendly train robbery” train. Area nonprofits utilize the railway to hold special fundraisers such as the Summer Wine Train and the Chocolate Choo Choo for Valentine’s Day.
“I think part of what makes the HVSRY so unique is the fact that you can ride the train multiple times throughout the year and have a difference experience each time,” Alost said.
The main route for the rides is from Nelsonville to Logan and back. The route was once part of the original Hocking Valley Railway’s Athens branch. According to the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway’s website, the railway merged into the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in 1930 and the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway was able to purchase the route in 1985.
Other train rides featured on the Travel Channel’s list include the Cass Scenic Railroad in Pocahontas County, W.Va.; the Swiss Chocolate Train; Darjeeling Toy Train in India; Grand Canyon Railway; Alaska’s Denali Star; Niagara Falls Train; Whistler “Sea to Sky” Climb in Vancouver; Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in North Carolina; Coast Starlight (from Los Angeles to Seattle); Harry Potter Train in Scotland; and the Heber Valley Railroad in Utah.