As kids, we couldn’t help but find all of the old railroad tracks that has been torn up just a few years after we were born. In Newton, NJ, the old railroad depot was boarded up and overgrown and would be torn down when I was 5 years old.
There were tracks that led out of Newton and around Sussex County – all were branch lines off the Erie Lackawanna Line that went from Chicago to NYC, and which skirted Cleveland and parts of Upstate NY. Kids that had mini bikes – like my brother – rode on these tracks from Newton to Andover – and other points.
When I moved to Lafayette – and then Orinda – I rode my bike on a really beautiful little Rails to Trails track called the Lafayette – Moraga Trail section of the old Sacramento Northern Line. There is the only true waterfall in the area alongside those old tracks. Its near St. Mary’s College, and I always love to imagine as I ride my bike that I’m a train and what I can see along the way.
I’m very excited to now look into how the railroad shaped the Pacific Northwest. It seems that there is a really nice Railroad Museum and enthusiasts up in the Snoqualamie area of Washington State. It seems Central Oregon was connected – but like Newton – was some kind of branch or spur line.
We will be no strangers to Bend when we move there (hopefully before October). I don’t think there is a lot of railroad to explore in and around Bend, but there certainly is a set of tracks that parallels Highway 97 and which is fully operational and which seems pretty busy – so much so – we made sure we didn’t buy a house near the tracks.
I grew up near the Paulinskill Viaduct and also a big bridge that crossed the Delaware River going inoto Pennsylvania. I had two friends who lived right near these tracks and bridges / viaducts, and we even found an old telegraph hut that still had Western Union Telegrams littered about. Wish I wasn’t such a silly kid – I wish I would have grabbed a few. We noticed some dumb kid tried to set them on fire as a few were burned.
Anyway – railroad’s and trains aren’t so much in my blood as the Ghosts of Old Railroads are.
For your combined biking/railroading pleasure, check out the Palouse to Cascades rail trail once you’re up this way. It’s the abandoned right-of-way for the old Milwaukee Railroad, running more or less from Seattle to the Idaho border, and now a Washington state park. The western end, as far east as the Columbia river, is in very good shape. I walked a long chunk of it last summer, and the 3 mile long walk through the cold dark of Snoqualmie Tunnel was pretty memorable. Lots of very impressive viaducts and smaller tunnels too. Some corrupt legislators tried to give away the eastern end of the trail, a couple hundred miles, to private landholders a few years back. But there was a typo in the legislation, saying the trail was closed “from the Columbia River to the Columbia River” (instead of the “Idaho border”) so it had no effect. Enjoy it while you can!
P.S. I always thought Three Fingered Jack had the best name and the most interesting profile of all the volcanoes down in that stretch. Very distinctive.
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