Cuyahoga Valley National Park & Scenic Railroad

We decided to ride the rails for my granddaughter Maddy’s 8th birthday. So we drove through a blaze of fall leaves in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park to ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR).

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We caught the train at the very first stop at Rockside. That way we were guaranteed our seats in the premium panoramic car and we also got the longest ride, nearly 4 1/2 hours.
All aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
All aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad with my son David, daughter-in-law Stacey and granddaughter Maddy. We were welcomed by the CVSR volunteers.

I last rode the CVSR nearly 30 years ago.  I remember how excited Maddy’s daddy was to climb aboard the huge steam-driven train for a ride between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio.  We rode with the windows open and cinders flew into our faces as we stormed down the tracks towards the newly opened Quaker Square in downtown Akron.  The old Quaker Oats factory is now used by students at the University of Akron but it was a fun destination back in 1985 where we bought balloons and cotton candy before re-boarding the train for home.

Maddy and Stacey ready for the CVSR adventure.
Maddy and Stacey ready for the CVSR adventure.
A view of our panoramic car.
A view of our panoramic car.

Times have changed and my sophisticated little granddaughter climbed aboard the train with the aplomb of an experienced traveler.  We shooed folks out of our reserved seats in the panoramic car (if ticket-holders don’t show up, they are available to anyone who wants to sit there) and tucked into our comfy leather seats for a 4-hour round-trip adventure through the Cuyahoga Valley.

The Chagrin Valley Scenic Railroad
The Chagrin Valley Scenic Railroad
Most of the train cars are different because the CVSR has purchased cars as they become available. This is a typical passenger car.
Most of the train cars are different because the CVSR has purchased cars as they become available. This is a typical passenger car.
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One car featured strap-in seats for babies and toddlers.

Our conductor turned up just as we were about to take off with a basket of complimentary treats and drinks.  He is one of the all-volunteer force that welcomes passengers and shares stories about the Cuyahoga Valley.  We packed snacks and food for the trip and no one seemed to mind when we snacked as we rode.

There is a food car on the train where you can buy vending snacks or food at a snack bar. The train also features full breakfast (buy your tickets ahead of time) and frequent dinner trips.
There is a food car on the train where you can buy vending snacks or food at a snack bar. The train also features full breakfast (buy your tickets ahead of time) and frequent dinner trips.
I knew you would want to see the toilet facilities - here you go.
I knew you would want to see the toilet facilities – here you go.

The National Park is part of the Ohio & Erie Canalway.  The 110-mile canal extends from Cleveland south to New Philadelphia.  We caught glimpses of the canal during our journey along with peeks at swamps, forests and ravines.  We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife but we did spot a few bald eagles perched at the top of dead trees in a swamp and a great blue heron flew alongside the train like one of Harry Potter’s snowy owls looking to deliver mail.

It was fun to whiz by cars stopped at the railroad crossings to get a perspective of what train passengers see when it's my turn to wait.
It was fun to whiz by cars stopped at the railroad crossings to get a perspective of what train passengers see when it’s my turn to wait.
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A typical pastoral scene in Ohio complete with a flock of Canadian geese.
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It was inspiring to travel under the turnpike and freeway bridges to see what man has created next to nature.
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One of their posters even publicizes the beauty of the bridges soaring over the train.
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This is a shallow bit of the waterways (maybe the canal) that lines the bed next to the railroad tracks.
There's something wondrous about traveling on a train and seeing the front of the train curving round a bend.
There’s something wondrous about traveling on a train and seeing the front of the train curving round a bend.
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We saw some little waterfalls along the way but the water was very shallow in October.

Our ride was smooth as we moved at a leisurely pace through the national park.  We saw an equal mix of families and athletes along the trails and frequently passed the tiny farms and villages reminiscent of turn-of-the-century rural Ohio.

One of the many typical farms still existing in the national park.
One of the many typical farms still existing in the national park.
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Wetlands in the Cuyahogal Valley National Park.

The week before our trip, our conductor had bicycled the tow path with friends and he said he was happy to be in our air-conditioned car while bicyclers rode in the box car near the front of the train.  “You don’t want to be in there,” he confided.  “It stinks!”

 

The CVSR operates a Bike Aboard!, Hike Aboard! and Run Aboard! program for cyclists, hikers and runners to traverse the Towpath Trail in one direction and ride the train in the other (CVSR).  Like most of the other 1,700 passengers scheduled on the day we traveled, we chose to ride in the comfort of a passenger car and enjoy the passing scenery.

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There is also a nice selection of souvenirs ranging from high quality shirts to the parents’ favorite, a loud train whistle.

Maddy was mesmerized for the first hour but we were all glad that I packed coloring books, crayons, puzzles and snacks to keep her occupied as the morning wore on.

Maddy journaling her trip through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Maddy journaling her trip through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

As for me?  I could have kept riding and looking out the windows for hours on end.  Can’t wait to do it again.

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For more information:  www.cvsr.com, 800.468.4070

Author: barbgrano1

Just let me see the world! I’m currently focusing on the US and Europe and invite you to share my travels. I teach ethics and political science at St. Petersburg College part time; I retired as a college administrator in Ohio. I am a total geek about government with huge wishes for continued freedom and respect for the individual. We must each do our part.

4 thoughts on “Cuyahoga Valley National Park & Scenic Railroad”

  1. Hey Barb, Nice to see you, David and his lovely wife and daughter. Are there any pictures of the other Grano kids? Chip and I look forward to seeing you this summer in Ohio. Happy 2017! Judy

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