Chugga-chugga choo-choo

Ready for our train ride.

Do you have a bucket list? Is there something you really want to do before you kick the bucket?

For me, I’d probably say that traveling to the Outer Banks to view the lighthouses would top my list. Other than that mega-trip of a lifetime, I really haven’t thought much about what I really want to do or see.

I started thinking about it, though, as I embarked on my first-ever train ride last night on the North Shore Scenic Railway. I suppose if I had actually compiled a bucket list, I might have included a train ride among the things I’d like to do. At any rate, I’ve now made a mental checkmark next to train ride.

The Depot in Duluth offers a variety of train rides throughout the week during the spring, summer and fall. While I wanted to take the train to Two Harbors, it didn’t fit into the schedule, so I settled for a pair of tickets on the Pizza Train – an early birthday present for my mom.

Mom had actually been on a train once before, about 65 years ago, when she made a round-trip from Minneapolis to Willmar – not far from her family’s Kandiyohi County farm.

Last night’s journey included some beautiful views of the Duluth harbor, but mostly we saw a lot of trees, a couple of creeks and rivers and even a swamp that was rather pretty in the haze of an all-day rain.

When we reached the end of the line (within view of the Lighthouse Café, not too far south of Two Harbors), we had an unusual delay. It seems an engine pulling a series of cars loaded with grain was having power issues, and it needed to be taken

Crossing a river.

somewhere for repairs.

We waited as the engine was unhooked from its load, and then steered down the tracks toward us. It hooked onto the engine that was pulling our train, and after a more than 30-minute delay, we were moving full steam ahead back toward Duluth.

I’m sure our return trip was supposed to be a slow-moving, sight-seeing adventure, but instead it was filled with the fast-moving excitement I imagined was experienced by train travelers back in the heyday of train transportation.

Inside the 1918 passenger car.

On our way northward along the North Shore, Mom and I sat in what I figured was a typical passenger train. On the way back, we ventured to the last car (it became the first car after the engines when we’d had our long break) and discovered it had much more character. The passenger car was built in 1918, we were told, and featured the old velvet benches. The walls and window frames were constructed of wood, and a small restroom was located on either end of the car.

The train ride was fun, the views were something I wouldn’t ordinarily get to see by driving, and the pizza was OK.

The 1918 passenger car … now that was cool!

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