Thursday, May 5, 2011

Track down some fun at Transportation Museum

Hearing “All aboard!” ignites my imagination.

Trains always remind me of a trip with my mom when I was a preschooler. I think we boarded in Cleveland, and I’m guessing Madison, Wis., was our destination. I know we were headed to her hometown in Belmont, Wis.

While the itinerary isn't memorable, the ride certainly was. On one leg, we were on the Santa Fe Super Chief -- the "Trainof the Stars" because of all the celebrities who traveled it from Chicago to California -- and the cars were brand new. I can still picture the colors, lines and shapes of the southwestern-inspired decor in the coaches.

Mom had to come looking for me when I went to the restroom and didn’t return to my seat. I’d somehow stumbled upon the lounge car and was talking to a very nice man. I didn’t recognize him, but my mom did. He was a network TV reporter, and he was often on the news that followed “American Bandstand,” which my mom watched while she ironed.

In Central Indiana, you don’t have to travel long distances to enjoy the train. The Indiana Transportation Museum offers short runs and themed excursions throughout its season, which opens Saturday and continues through the end of the year.

My favorite trip – I’ve taken many since my husband is an active ITM volunteer and member of the board -- is Dinner on the Diner. You board the restored, 1930 Cross Keys Tavern dining car, finding crisp white linens, fresh flowers, stemware and polished silverware on each table.

Each of the four courses is served at a leisurely dining pace. The evening I rode, the food was top notch in presentation and taste. After dessert was enjoyed while on a trestle bridge overlooking the White River, we got treated to volunteer Brian Henke singing and strumming train songs on his guitar.

ITM schedules rides that suit all ages; you’ll often overhear – or be part of – train stories that bridge generations as passengers chat.

There are destination rides, including ones to Tipton for pizza or a movie; experience rides, such as the popular caboose rides between Forest Park and downtown Noblesville; and event rides, such as Polar Bear Express at Christmastime or the Pumpkin Train in the fall.

If you haven’t been on an ITM ride, I highly recommend you make 2011 your year to ride the local rails. Maybe I’ll see you there!

What train trips do you remember taking or would like to take?

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