June 10, 2014

Ride the Rails on Arkansas’ Excursion Train

All aboard!
With one short blow of the whistle and a chugga-chug-chug we were off to an adventure on the A&M Railroad Excursion Train through the mountains and valleys of Northwest Arkansas.

Emmy At The Excursion Train Window

As my children were gazing out the beautiful windows of the impeccably restored first class passenger car, I was daydreaming of days gone by – wondering how life may have been in 1947 when the car was new and the locomotive was powered by steam. I was taken back to when Arkansans relied on the rails.

The bounce of the cars was very relaxing – putting me deeper into my dream like state, even though at times it seemed as if the cars were going to bounce apart by the way they moved to and fro. I was suddenly awakened by two long, one short, and one long blow of the whistle announcing that we were approaching a railroad crossing. Reality.

Arkansas Excursion Train Crossing
It was a beautiful spring morning – 74 degrees. Perfect weather for a day outing. We traveled through the ruggedly beautiful Boston Mountain range of the Ozarks, into the historic Arkansas River Basin and over three valley trestles crossing deep canyons.

Arkansas Excursion Train Engine

The view atop the 120 foot high railroad trestles was like no other. You could see miles of God created beauty. I was reminded why Arkansas is the Natural State.

We were approaching the long awaited Winslow Tunnel. Emily Claire’s eyes widened with excitement and Hunter stood to get a better view. “There it is! There it is!” I heard. And so did everybody else! Just then our vintage passenger car went pitch black – adding to the excitement.

Ice Cream on the Arkansas Excursion Train

There is nothing quite like a tunnel – any tunnel – when you are between the ages of 2 and 5. At twenty-four feet high, nineteen feet wide and a quarter mile long the Winslow Tunnel is impressive to any age. It opened to rail traffic in 1882 and was enlarged in the late 1960s to accommodate larger engines and railroad cars. And, right now, is was allowing us to take this amazing journey.

Arkansas Excursion Train Boys

Before long, we arrived at Old Frisco Station in historic Van Buren. It welcomed us just as it had countless others for over a century.

After a three hour layover, we boarded the train for our return home.

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Van Buren Depot - Arkansas Excursion Train

Clickety clack, clickety clack went the train and off to sleep went my sweet babies. As for me, I drifted back to my daydreams with the help of our spirited conductor’s stories of an era long ago.

Arkansas Excursion Train Conductor

As we pulled back into the A&M Depot in Springdale, I was thankful my family can experience the “Golden Age of Travel” in today’s modern world. But, admittedly, I am even more grateful for my mini-van with automatic doors and DVD player!

Arkansas Excursion Train Depot

For more information on excursions offered by Arkansas Missouri Railroad, visit amrailroad.com.

 

Amtrack Exhibit Train

For an extra special train experience, hop on board the Amtrak Exhibit Train. It will pull into the A&M Railroad Depot on Emma Avenue in Downtown Springdale for a special event, June 14-15. The train will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no admission charge.

Train enthusiasts will be able to learn about Amtrak’s history, discover the future of high-speed rail, work the signal display and engineer’s stand and much more. While there, be sure to visit the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad Museum.

Annette King

Annette is the momma of sassy Emily Claire (2) and athletic Hunter (6). When not playing princess or basketball, she can often be found working at First Security.

View Annette's website