Mo & Terry Smedley


New! Appalachian Autumn Rail Tour  

October 12-24, 2008





Join us in fall foliage season for this great new tour which encompasses parts of western Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. We travel from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Alexandria, Virginia on a program including eight rail rides, lots of scenery, and both railroad and non-railroad related history. Carl Whitehouse is your Tour Manager on this colorful mountain excursion.

Train rides include two Amtrak segments (most notably, the famous Horseshoe Curve) and luncheon trips on the Potomac Eagle, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, and New Tygart Flyer. We also ride the famous Cass Scenic Railroad (steam), the Durbin Rocket, and the Cheat Mountain Salamander through magnificent mountain scenery. Other rail attractions include the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum, Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark, Allegheny Portage Railroad N.H.S., and the Johnstown Inclined Plane.

But all is not railroading. Included are a tour of Pittsburgh and a visit to the Johnstown Flood Museum. We also visit the Frontier Culture Museum in the Shenandoah Valley and two homes of President Thomas Jefferson: Monticello, located outside Charlottesville, and Poplar Forest, his second (and less famous) home. For a bit of Civil War history, we stop at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park and end at the new Pamplin Historical Park and Museum of the Civil War Soldier, located on the battlefield at Petersburg, Virginia. Colorful drives in the famous Blue Ridge Mountains, three nights spent in mountain resorts, and meals in interesting venues round out this tour. Please join us for this fine program in a beautiful area of the U.S. All aboard!

Day One, Sunday, October 12 (D)

Arrive Pittsburgh; city tour; Welcome Dinner. Independent arrivals today into Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Participants need to be at our hotel by 12:30 p.m. to participate in a tour of the city. If your travel plans require it, we have reserved a block of hotel rooms at our group rate for the previous night. Ask us for a quote. Our activity this afternoon is a tour of the city. In the past, Pittsburgh had the reputation of being a polluted manufacturing city. No more! Pittsburgh has undergone a wonderful transformation, and its night-time skyline is absolutely beautiful. We enjoy that sight from our hotel, the Sheraton Station Square, located on a hill across the Monongahela River from downtown. This property is excellently located near the light rail line if rail fans would like to ride some of this route. It also is next door to our beautiful Welcome Dinner venue, the Grand Concourse restaurant, located in the spectacular former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Terminal Building. The marble staircase and stained glass ceiling create an elegant dining experience.

Day Two, Monday, October 13 (L)

Amtrak to Altoona; Railroaders Memorial Museum; Horseshoe Curve; Allegheny Portage Railroad N.H.S.; into Johnstown, PA. We depart Pittsburgh this morning, riding east on Amtrak through the famous Horseshoe Curve to Altoona. The Amtrak PENNSYLVANIAN follows the legendary former Pennsylvania Railroad “Broadway” mainline over the Alleghenies. There are sweeping vistas enroute across the multiple ranges of the “Endless Mountains”.

On arrival, we visit the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum and have an included lunch before driving a short distance to the Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark. Here we can watch passing trains from a special observation point. Another short drive brings us to the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, which demonstrates the ingenious 19th century engineering developed to lift both trains and canal boats over the mountains! We overnight at the Holiday Inn Johnstown.

Day Three, Tuesday, October 14 (L)

Johnstown Incline; Johnstown Flood Museum; Bedford PA; into Cumberland MD. Our first activity this morning is a visit to the famous Johnstown Inclined Plane. This nearly 1000-foot-long inclined plane with a grade of 71 percent carries passengers to a viewpoint about 500 feet above the town. After our ride, we visit the Johnstown Flood Museum. This museum documents one of the worst disasters in American history: the 1889 flood which killed about 2200 people when a dam broke above Johnstown. We then drive to Bedford PA for an included lunch and a bit of scenic driving through this area, which has numerous covered bridges. We arrive in Cumberland MD later in the afternoon and check in to the Holiday Inn Cumberland, where we stay three nights.

Day Four, Wednesday, October 15 (L)

Round-trip on the Potomac Eagle. This morning we drive to Romney WV, where we board the “Potomac Eagle” for a lunch excursion round-trip in the Dining Car. This is one of the most scenic rail lines in the east. We ride a former Baltimore and Ohio branch line through the deep canyon of the Potomac River known as the Potomac Trench. In the depths of the gorge, bald-eagles nest in great numbers along the river and frequently are seen from the train.

Day Five, Thursday, October 16 (L)

C & O Canal National Historic Site; Western Maryland Scenic RR. Close by our hotel is the C & O Canal National Historic Site, which we can visit prior to our departure on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. The Visitors Center is actually housed in the landmark former Western Maryland depot. Exhibits include a re-created canal boat and an explanation of the role of the C&O Canal in opening up the west. The station is also the terminus of today’s spectacular train ride.

The Western Maryland Scenic Railway climbs steeply up the mountains from Cumberland to Frostburg. In places, the grade is more than 3%, which is near the outside limit for a train. There are vistas of the mountains, a horseshoe curve and a narrow river canyon en route to the mountaintop village of Frostburg. Here we can photograph the engine as it is reversed on the turntable. Power for the trip is normally a powerful 2-8-0 steam locomotive. On this train, we travel in First Class with an included luncheon in the diner. During our layover at Frostburg, we can walk across the street from the station and visit one of the finest horse-drawn carriage museums in the United States or stroll up the steps to visit the downtown area. The Frostburg depot is also a beautifully preserved landmark.


Day Six, Friday, October 17

Cass Scenic Railroad to Whittaker; into Snowshoe WV. Today we drive to Cass WV, where we have lunch and free time on our own before boarding the Cass Scenic Railroad. We travel behind powerful Shay-steam engines to Whittaker. The Cass line is a remarkable survivor. This was the last full-scale steam logging railway in the eastern United States. When the mill and loggers village at Cass closed in the 1960s, the state of West Virginia reopened the line and preserved the village as a unique state park of the logging era. The line climbs very steeply, with actual reverse switchbacks enroute; and there are wonderful views of the Allegheny Mountains on the ascent. Later we make the short drive to Snowshoe WV, where we stay three nights in the mountains at the Inn at Snowshoe.

Day Seven, Saturday, October 18 (B,L)

New Tygart Flyer rail trip. We drive to Elkins WV this morning for a four-hour rail trip on the New Tygart Flyer in the “West Virginia” Parlor Car, with lunch included. Our ride includes two mountain grades, an unusual S curve tunnel, a high bridge, and passage through a 1500 foot-deep canyon. The route follows a former Western Maryland line up the rugged grade to the High Falls of the Cheat River, which we can view during our mid-day stopover at the falls.

Luxury Parlor Car Service on the NEW TYGART FLYER

Day Eight, Sunday, October 19 (B,L) Rides on the Durbin Rocket and Cheat Mountain Salamander.

This morning we travel to Durbin, where we have a round-trip ride on the Durbin Rocket before an included lunch at the Durbin Depot. The Durbin Rocket is powered by “Old #3”, one of only three operating Climax geared logging locomotives in the world. The line follows a former Chesapeake and Ohio Ry branch line through the magnificent canyon of the Greenbriar River. We then make a short drive to Cheat Bridge and travel round-trip on the Cheat Mountain Salamander, a replica of a 1922 Edwards Railway Motor Car which travels through the Monongahela National Forest. We return to Snowshoe for the evening.

Day Nine, Monday, October 20 (B,L)

Frontier Culture Museum; Blue Ridge Parkway; into Charlottesville VA. Our motorcoach takes us to Staunton VA this morning, where we have an included luncheon in The Depot Grille, located in the old freight depot wing of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. After lunch, we visit the Frontier Culture Museum, which showcases typical farms from Germany, England, Northern Ireland and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Spanning the 17th to 19th centuries, these farms demonstrate how European culture impacted the settlements and farming practices of the early American settlers in the area. Following our visit, we have a highly scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Blue Ridge Mountains. En route we have great views of the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont far below. We spend two nights at the Holiday Inn University in Charlottesville VA.

Day Ten, Tuesday, October 21 (L)

Monticello; Michie Tavern; Ash Lawn. This morning we visit one of the most famous of the Presidential homes in America, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Some historic homes truly provide a sense of the people who lived in them, and Monticello is an excellent example of this. The property is filled with the personality of Jefferson: his inventions, his interest in agriculture and architecture, and his insatiable curiosity. After touring the home and gardens, we have an included luncheon at Michie Tavern before re-boarding our motorcoach for Ash Lawn, home of James Monroe, the sixth President of the U.S. This home appears as a working plantation of the early 18th century; and Thomas Jefferson (his neighbor) assisted Mr. Monroe with the design and landscaping. We return to Charlottesville in mid-afternoon and have some free time downtown in this beautiful city.

Day Eleven, Wednesday, October 22 (L)

Poplar Forest; Appomattox Court House N.H.P.; into Petersburg VA. In mid-morning we visit the other home of Thomas Jefferson, Poplar Forest. This is the second of the homes which Jefferson designed; and he stayed here when visiting his plantations in the area. The home currently is undergoing restoration, so our tour will include information on the restoration process as well as his life here.

We then travel to Appomattox, Virginia for an included lunch and a visit to Appomattox Court House, the site of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia to General U.S. Grant and his Union army on April 9, 1865. This surrender soon led to the end of the U.S. Civil War, the bloodiest event in American history. The McLean House, where the surrender took place, has been reconstructed by the National Park Service and can be visited. A total of 27 buildings exist on the site, which has been restored to its 1865 appearance, and some of these also are open for visiting. We then drive to Petersburg, Virginia and overnight at the Best Western-Steven Kent.

Day Twelve, Thursday, October 23 (D)

Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier; Amtrak to Alexandria VA; Farewell Dinner. We spend the morning at Pamplin Historical Park on the site of the Breakthrough Battle of April 2, 1865 that ended the terrible siege of Petersburg and rapidly led to the end of the Civil War. This battle led to General Lee and his army retreating from Richmond, a few miles away, and heading toward Appomattox. The site features three antebellum homes, four museums, and living-history demonstrations. It also includes slave quarters, a military encampment, fortifications and almost a mile of the original earthworks from the siege of Petersburg.

In early afternoon we depart from Petersburg on Amtrak’s PALMETTO. We follow the historic Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railway line through its namesake cities and along the shores of the Potomac River and its estuaries to Alexandria, Virginia. The final night of our tour is at the Embassy Suites Hotel Alexandria Old Town. Our Farewell Dinner is included here in the beautiful Old Town area of the city.

Day Thirteen, Friday, October 24 (B)

Tour ends. Our tour ends today, following an included breakfast, with independent departures home.