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A few years ago I enjoyed a White Mountains weekend with my family, and our visit included a ride at one of the area’s most recognizable spots — the Conway Scenic Railroad. Located smack in the middle of the White Mountains tourist town of North Conway, in North Conway Village, the station sits like something plucked from a children’s book. Even on an overcast late May day, it stood out in vibrant color.
The depot, built in 1874, was designed by Nathaniel J. Bradlee in an eclectic “Russian Victorian” style. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, just five years after the railroad switched over to a fully-tourist operation.
They offer a variety of main railroading adventures, mostly diesel electric-powered. Two family-friendly “Valley” routes head north to either Conway (11 miles) or Bartlett (21 miles), while another, longer “Notch” route heads to the mountains and Crawford Notch. The latter is the for those wanting the “real deal” mountain train experience, and it’s magnificent in the fall, when the autumn colors are blazing. Throughout the year, special events like the ultra-popular “Journey to the North Pole” during the holiday season bring in even more crowds.
Directly behind the depot, the tracks (and adventure, perhaps?) await.
I made my way through the door marked “Ticket Office” and into the lobby…
…where I was met with the quintessential 19th century train depot. Inside, the lobby is comfortably cluttered with train ephemera, objects from railroading days gone by, and (yes) a ticket window. My thanks to friendly Scenic Railroad staff member Dick for helping me get my ticket sorted! And to the Brass Whistle Gift Shop for helping me pick up copies of “The Little Engine that Could” for my niece and nephews.
With time to spare before our ride, I wandered over to the adjacent train yard to check out some of the colorful (retired?) cars at rest.
Then it was back to the depot to wait.
And a short while later, it was time to climb aboard!
Mindful of the fact that we had a pair of two-year-olds and a one-year-old in our group, we took the shortest ride — the one hour Valley train south to Conway. It was just long enough for the kids to enjoy themselves without getting restless, and the views were a combination of rural and suburban.
After passing the golf course of the North Conway Country Club, we passed through some fields (one with cows), alongside a school, and over a bridge that spanned a small river, before pausing for a moment and then repeating the journey back to the station. Despite the short length of the journey, the conductor generated many hearty train whistles, and the kids loved it. It also sounded like there may have been some guided audio narration, but if the speakers were turned on in our car, they weren’t loud enough to make out any of what was being said.
“Our goal is to preserve a piece of New Hampshire’s railroading history for all to enjoy for generations to come” they say at the Conway Scenic Railroad. I’d say they’re not only doing that, but guaranteeing a memorable and old-fashioned adventure for all who climb aboard.
Have you ever ridden the Conway Scenic Railroad? Share your memories in the comments!
Conway Scenic Railroad. 38 Norcross Circle, North Conway. 603-356-5251; conwayscenic.com.This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.