A locomotive pulls six cars and a caboose through Washington's forests.
Come the first chill of autumn, a corner of Washington springs to life. Railroaders roll out a diesel engine. Volunteers touch up 1940s Pullman cars. And visitors from across the Northwest arrive for the North Pend Oreille Valley Lions Club Excursion Train Ride.
The 19-mile journey follows the stately Pend Oreille River from Ione to Metaline Falls and back on rails built a century ago to serve the area’s sawmill and cement factory. Although the businesses have vanished, the tracks still snake along the steep canyon, offering riders a bird’s-eye view of the valley’s autumn foliage. “It’s beautiful,” says Mike Borysewicz, a wildlife biologist with Colville National Forest. “The trees are golden, the shrubs are red and brown, and it’s all reflected in the water.”
Passengers see vestiges of the past: a 19th-century homestead, a cemetery, and ruins in the once-thriving town of Cement. Don’t forget binoculars—the surrounding area draws deer, bears, bald eagles, and trumpeter swans. The trips run weekends in October; buy tickets ahead. $15 (adults), $10 (children and seniors). (877) 525-5226, lionstrainrides.com.
Photography by Elizabeth Cope May
This article was first published in September 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.