Train journeys from one town to another or one city to another; we’ve all done that. How about boarding a train to nowhere but the middle of a forest and back, that too, on an olden-day steam locomotive? Better still — an open train that chugs through hundreds of thousands of that variety of trees that are amongst the tallest of tall trees in the world? We got to do just that when we visited the Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton, California.
The Roaring Camp Railroads were laid in the 1870s and were initially meant for transportation of lumber from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Monterey Bay. In due course it became a tourist route for people who wanted a railway ride to the Santa Cruz Beach.
Purely for the sake of leisure trips, the Roaring Camp Railroads now plays depot for two trains: one that goes into the thick of the Redwood forest and up a hill and the other that goes from the forest to the beach.
Our choice for the weekend was the Redwood Forest Steam Train that traversed the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad. The journey started at the storybook-type train station with log cabins for a waiting room, a snack shop and a souvenir store to name a few buildings there.
It was almost half past three when the grand old, yet exquisite Dixiana drew into the station for her last trip of the day. Painted in green, brown and red, this classic engine, which is the camp’s locomotive number 1 was our ride that day. When she pulled out of the station, she went around a bend and chugged straight into the redwood forest towing along several yellow and green cars; most of them, open topped.
Inside the forest area, this train that ran on a narrow gauge railroad, began going up Bear Mountain, its whistles reverberating through the wooded area. Ahead of the train and behind, up the slopes and down the slopes, all we could see was a sea of redwood trees. Half way up the hill, the train came to a screeching stop. Just as we began to wonder why, Kent, the conductor who was also the tour guide told us that there was once a fire there and a trestle on this railway route was damaged. A few months later new tracks had been laid, these by-passing the original loop. As such, from that point the train had to go up another route for a while, this time with the locomotive at the other end, pushing the train up the hill till it came to another stop and changed tracks again. We had an experience of that.
A few minutes later the train was at the summit of Bear Mountain. There we got down, stretched our legs and tried to take in more of the history that Kent narrated. That was when I looked all the way up through the towering trees and saw some sunlight in the distance, trying hard to touch the floor of the forest. So extraordinary was that scene: the sight of the extraordinarily tall trees and the sky above it, that I almost froze but managed to capture a couple of shots; a priceless souvenir of photographs.
After what seemed like a few fleeting moments at the peak, the train took us down the hill, once again going backwards and forwards beside that once-damaged stretch.
Just before she rolled into the station, Dixiana let out huge clouds of steam and seemed to say aloud that she was calling it a day.
When our one-hour round trip came to an end, we had had our fill of the redwood forest. Redwood Trees have been the official state tree of California since the late 1930s, so I would say it is a must-see if you visit this state on the west coast of the United States of America.
For Redwood Forest Steam Train’s fares and timetable click here.