If you love looking at peak fall colors and also enjoy riding on vintage trains, you need to know about the Autumn Colors Express.
From October 20 to 23, the passenger trains will travel from Huntington, West Virginia, to Hinton, West Virginia, through New River Gorge National Park and Preserve so passengers can enjoy peak fall colors in a special way. What makes the trip even more special is that each vintage rail car is unique.
Like numerous other activities and events, the Autumn Colors Express was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, when the trips were first offered in 2019, 3,200 passengers from 20 states rode on the trains, Adam Auxier, CEO of Rail Excursion Management, said, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Because the excursions in 2020 and 2021 were canceled, “demand for the event is now at an all-time high,” Auxier said.
Here’s the first reason the trains will be especially appealing to railroad buffs. The special passenger train, pulled by an Amtrak engine, is made up entirely of privately-owned and restored vintage rail cars from all over the nation, according to Autumn Color Express.
Secondly, although the cars are unique, they all are built for sightseeing. So, while the cars feature large, picture windows, they also feature glass-topped domes. What’s more, the train even has panoramic round-ended observation cars.
The Autumn Colors Express, which departs each day from the Huntington depot at 8 a.m., travels for more than 50 miles through New River Gorge on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad along the New River and Kanawha River.
The route passes through an area that was home to coal mines, timber operations, and railroad towns at one time. Along the way, the trains will pass Kanawha Falls, Hawk’s Nest Dam, and the ghost town Thurmond, West Virginia, before getting to Hinton.
Passengers then will have a three-hour layover so they can enjoy Hinton’s Railroad Days festival. The trains will depart Hinton for the return trip to Huntington, arriving at 7 p.m.
A Scenic Area
New River Gorge may be a relatively new national park, but it routinely draws more than 1 million visitors each year. In fact, in 2021, nearly 1.7 million people visited New River Gorge, according to the National Park Service.
Stretching for 53 miles along the New River, it conserves more than 70,000 acres of land. The scenic area is known for its hiking, camping, and rock climbing. Of course, since whitewater flows through the gorge, the New River is also famous for kayaking and whitewater rafting.
Know Before You Book
Autumn Colors Express trains will only make trips during West Virginia’s peak fall colors, which means the trains will only operate from October 20 to 23. Seating options begin at $179 per person.
You can learn more about the seating options and book tickets here.
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