Hey folks; have I got a blog for you. Two weekends ago I spent my Saturday and Sunday taking an abridged tour of Iowa. Let’s start at the beginning: The Boone Scenic Railway Tour. Months ago – in advanced bucketlist preparedness – I purchased Groupon tickets for two. Lewis and I started at the railroad museum; tickets to the museum are included with a train ride purchase. The museum consists of one large room with a handful of cases displaying historic railroad articles like building machinery, tools, and uniforms. The museum included giant informational sheets.
I was surprised to learn even in the 1950’s travelers’ trains could speed along at 90-miles per hour, getting a passenger from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Los Angeles, California in just two days.
My favorite part of the museum was the small area devoted to Kate Shelley, an Iowa heroine. In 1881, from her home overlooking Honey Creek, she heard a pusher engine fall into the flooded creek. With a lantern in hand she crawled across the bridge to warn the coming train and save the two survivors of the accident who were clinging to a log in the creek.
When we sat down in the (unconditioned) train, a woman began directing the cab in a chorus of “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad.” The 1880’s Folk Song is a tune I was familiar with as a southern classic; it dustily emerged from my childhood memory as the harmonious voices rang out.
The train left late, and unfortunately we sat in the heat listening to indiscernible crackling over the intercom for about 30 minutes. After a bathetic start we edged along the track. First we passed Boone’s “Red Mountain”: A giant hill of dirt gathered after some construction. Don’t worry, that was the “low” point of the trip. We passed along old railway carts. We crossed the tallest bridge in Iowa while I credulously held my brand new iPhone 5 outside the window to film the lofty 5-mph chug-along as Lewis looked nervously upon me.
After 45 minutes the train stopped and waited for an engine to come along, hook onto our train, and pull us back to the station. We waited outside in the cool air, sitting in a cart with no walls or ceilings, but railings along the edges. We were shooed inside when the train began its return. Apparently patrons pay more for an outdoor ride. This is something I would not recommend, as within the first 15 seconds of the ride Lew and I became dusty with soot from the billowing black clouds being churned from the hard-working engine. If you do pay more – and decide to go in mid-July – I’d suggest moving your rears to the air-conditioned car. While the overall ride was a little long, the experience was fun and, as advertised, scenic.