FRENCH LICK, Ind. (WTHR) — "ALL ABOARD!"
Hearing Richard Olsen belt out the command took me back to my childhood when I would board the old Chicago Northwestern Train to travel from my suburban Chicago home into the city or even better — when my family would board the city Of New Orleans on the old Illinois Central Line to visit family in Mississippi.
The train business isn't what it once was, but WTHR Photographer Scott Allen and I took a trip back in time, along with 180 other passengers on the French Lick Scenic Railway. Leaving the French Lick Resort, Scott and I rode the first leg of the trip up front with John, the train's engineer. Traveling into the Hoosier National Forest along limestone walls and gently rocking on the wet rails, we saw Indiana as never before. It was quiet, peaceful, breathtaking and moving.
To our left, rain swollen fields, streams and creeks. To our right, the sheer limestone, plant covered walls and I thought, this must have been what it was like 100 years ago as passengers rode from English to West Baden to see friends or buy supplies.
The highlight of the trip for me was the slow, almost creepy trip into the fog-filled, damp cold 2,200 foot Burton Tunnel. John the engineer moved at a snail's pace, just in case a critter got lost and decided to make a home on the train track. The sound of the whistle banged against the tunnel walls, letting everyone know we were coming through!
The passengers loved the trip. One family I met, the Thomas Reda family from Indy, (Big Sunrise fans) made the trip to Orange County. Thomas said he wanted his family to know what it was like to travel on a train and the beauty of the experience.
It was beautiful. And remember the Chicago Northwestern train I spoke of earlier ... The French Lick Railway has one of those cars on the trip! Boarding it brought back wonderful memories of my late mom and dad and the fun childhood I enjoyed riding on that train.
A trip on this train is highly recommended and by the way, special dinner train trips and The Polar Express Christmas train ride are all on tap later this year.
Taking the trip took me back to a slower paced time, when conversation, scenery and family seemed to mean so much more than they do now.
Too French Lick train trip ticket info, click here.