Carol Forsloff – With the demise of airline-friendly skies more and more people are taking to the rails for fun, transportation and to rekindle old memories of simple, leisurely ways of relating, where folks can take time to smell the flowers and find pleasure in nature’s bounty, as happens daily on the Mount Hood Railroad in Oregon.
Early in 2011 Amtrak reported how more and more people are taking the train along the routes from Detroit and Pontiac to Chicago. The increase is said to be over 22 percent than previous years, and the amount of income from tickets up 26 percent. Amtrak maintains its “revenue and ridership soared” in the final three months of 2010 and increases continue this year. Much of that comes from people wanting to avoid the complexities that have developed in air travel since 9/11 as well as the growing expense of those added features that used to be part of the flight and are now those extras driving up the cost of fares.
The Mount Hood Railroad has served as a means of travel and now principally that rekindling of old memories for the thousands of people who have enjoyed the trip around the Mount Hood region, specifically the Hood River area. The train meanders leisurely through the thick, colorful foliage that has given Oregon its reputation for environmental beauty. It offers those special joys of service that the old-time travelers experienced as they rode the rails across not just Mount Hood but the entire United States, feeling those wheels “rumbling ‘neath the floor” in the style described by the famous City of New Orleans.
For more than 100 years, the Mount Hood Railroad has made its way through the decades, traveling through the countryside that rings the famous mountain associated with the city of Portland and its extensive small-town branches. Meadows, orchard lands and vineyards extend in all directions, as nature stirs its pot of wonder for the lucky who make that wonderful trip to enjoy rocking and rolling on the rails at a Friday party, special festivals, murder mystery dinner shows and the reenactment of western train robberies.
But it’s the casual, authentic magic of the train itself and the hum of passenger and train staff voices that pleasantly outlines much of the Mount Hood Railroad travel. The train passes through small towns, with the largest having little more than 100 people and most having only a handful of folk, as cars have overridden the rails as the principal mode of transportation in these mountains. Most people travel to Hood River for major purchases or medical care, even as they enjoy that feeling of remoteness in a simple, shared experience with few neighbors.
It’s a western history that unfolds through these mountains, but a history that each traveler writes of his/her own life in the process, as the train’s magic makes the mind wander creatively while the heart is in soft repose.
It’s a time to enjoy just being, most folks say, as they travel on a train that is certain to fascinate and soothe, as the memories unfold around the mountainous, wooded byways of Oregon at its best.