Saturday, July 23, 2011

Historic Railroad Expedition

Whether you live in the Ozarks, or happen to be a tourist here, there is a wonderful attraction in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, that is well worth a visit. It is the ES &NA Railway---The initials stand for Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway. There are lots of historic railways around the U.S., but only a limited number have been able to keep operating year after year, to give their customers a glimpse of a bygone era in travel. I took this photo of my grand kids, Kaitlyn and Jacob, pictured with the Conductor of our train, on a visit we made to the ES & NA location earlier this week. The train engine that the kids are standing on, is one of many locomotives and rail cars that are on display on the grounds of the train depot. The management told us we could explore any of the old equipment that we wanted to, so Kaitlyn and Jacob had climbed up to perform a rendition of a "Do the Locomotion" dance, when the conductor walked by, and agreed to pose for a photograph with the kids. We later found out that this conductor, was a walking, talking encyclopedia of all things relating to trains. He kept us entertained on our trip with a plethora of train facts and history, that I found to be very interesting!

Photography is such fun around antique train equipment, and the grand kids did not complain a bit about all the pictures I wanted to take of them with the historic "photo props". At one point, we all three had climbed up to the roof of an abandoned rail car, and I imagined filming one of those chase scenes from a movie, where the performers were running along the top of a moving train. (Note to the parents: I was only imagining this---your kids did not REALLY chase each other on top of the rail cars!) Speaking of "filming", nine-year-old Jacob did a great job filming video (on his new camera) of the train engine, as it maneuvered into place to hook up with the passenger car that would carry us on our trip.

One advantage of being atop a parked rail car however, is the added height it gives you for viewing a scene. The top photo of this collage shows a good view of another locomotive, with the train depot in the background. This depot has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places ever since 1979, long before the grand kids were born! It was built in 1912 and an Arkansas Heritage publication lists it, as the one of the state's most elaborate applications of the Italianate style of architecture. The inside of the rail car that we rode in (lower photo) maintains the atmosphere of an antique rail car by having the windows up, and the old-fashioned ceiling fans adding to the breeze, that passengers feel, as they roll down the track. And in keeping with the design feature of rail cars in those days, your seat back would shift the direction it faced, which came in handy, when the engine of the train switched from the north end of the rail car to the south end.

When we arrived to the midway point of our excursion, the train conductor had a great diversion to occupy our time while the engine was unhooked from the north end of the rail car, and moved to the south end of the rail car. The conductor directed us to get out of the train, and gather along side the track. He then proceeded to give instructions on how we could take one of our coins, spit heavily onto the bottom side of it, lay it on the shiny part of the track (not the rusted part of the track, because rust meant that the train wheel did not touch that part of the track), step back several feet from the track, watch the train engine go over it, and then pick it up (after waiting a few moments to let it cool down.) The top right photo shows Kaitlyn and Jacob carefully placing their coins for this "experiment". The lower photo shows what a quarter looks like before, and after, a locomotive has rolled over it. It was a good example of why you sometimes hear folks who are feeling badly, say "I feel like I have been run over by a freight train." It is an expression that the Apostle Paul might have used (if trains had been invented two thousand years ago) when he said "Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked." (2 Corinthians 11:25 - 28) He was telling this story to show how he had come to totally rely on the strength of God to get him through the tough times, not just his own power. Hopefully, we won't have to get "run over by a freight train" to come to the realization that God's grace is enough; God's strength comes into its own, in our weakness. The only thing that needs to be smashed flat, like that quarter in the photo, is my own ego! If you would like to perform this "freight train and smashed coin" experiment for yourself, just log on to, to plan your visit. Besides the sight-seeing only excursions, the ES & NA Railway also offers a dining car experience, as well as an on-site food concession, gift shop, historic depot interior, and clean restrooms. So grab your striped overalls, bandannas, and engineer's cap, for miles of "choo-choo" smiles, on a historic railroad ride! Tricia

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