On and Off The Mountain/Stephanie Grubert

THE READING BLUE MOUNTAIN & NORTHERN STEAM ENGINE 425 will pull the passenger train from Mountaintop to Jim Thopre on July 5 at the Rotary Club’s event.

Spring is inching its way into our lives. We have glimmers of sunshine now and then and when the temperatures climb into the 60’s we really get excited.

My vegetable plot is composted and tilled. Next up is planting seeds first and then plants toward the end of the month. Each day my lawn is a little greener and the daffodils are at their peak this week. I have one stand of pink hyacinth that glistens in the sun. All of the flowers are staying extra long with so many cool days and nights now into May.

Riding the Rails

Looking ahead to July 5, 2014 the Mountaintop Rotary Club is planning a gala train ride excursion from the Penobscot Rail Yards in Fairview Township to Jim Thorpe. The total distance is about 33 miles, but because the rail route is freight only it is not listed on Google Maps.

Passengers on the Rotary’s unique excursion will ride the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad (RBMN) train pulled by the restored Steam Locomotive #425. RBMN is a regional railroad operating in eastern Pennsylvania. It operates occasional passenger excursions utilizing restored steam locomotive #425. In addition, RBMN operates the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, a heritage railway based in Jim Thorpe. RBMN interchanges with the Norfolk Southern Railway –Reading, North Reading, Temple, Lehighton, and the historic Mountain Top Yard at Penobscot Knob.

Steam Locomotive No. 425 is a 4-6-2 light Pacific built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1928 for the Gulf, Mobile, and Northern Railroad at a cost of $44,000. No. 425 weighs approximately 110 tons, and its tender weighs approximately 91 tons. It holds 18 tons of coal and 8500 gallons of water. Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad purchased Steam Locomotive No. 425 in August 1984.

The Rotary Club’s website rotarytrainride.comis selling tickets for $60 in May and $70 in June. Their description says “Your senses will tingle from the exhilarating whistle of the steam engine to the gentle rumble of the train as we traverse lush forests and quaint towns of northeastern Pennsylvania. Bring your camera to capture the view of not one, but two tunnels and a beautiful waterfall to be enjoyed both en route to Jim Thorpe and upon return to Mountain Top.”

Rotarian Dave Suitch says that 700 seats will be available on the train’s passenger cars.

The train will be open from 8 a. m. with departure for Jim Thorpe at 9:30 a. m. from the rail yards. Parking will be at Mountaintop Hose Co. No. One with buses ferrying passengers to the train. Arrival in Jim Thorpe is estimated to be at noon and departure back to Mountain Top is at 3:30 p. m. with arrival at 5:45 p. m.

Rail travel in the Mountain Top area and around the country was the standard from the late 1800’s to the 1950’s.

Hike the Trails

The freight rails now in use parallel with another abandoned rail line, possibly the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which has been developed into the Delaware Lehigh National Heritage Trail. Years ago there were separate rail lines used for a specific purpose such as for coal, freight, passengers, timber and ice harvesting. The Lehigh Valley Railroad built the Glen Summit Hotel, grand in its day but gone now for almost 100 years. The low grade of railroad beds provides an even surface to walk or bike ride.

The 13.2 mile completed portion of the Black Diamond Trail in Wright Township to White Haven is the most recently completed portion, which will eventually link up to the trailhead adjacent to the Hose Company Number One property. To date there is a gap between linking the two sections of the trail with securing an easement through the Glen Summit area. The popular “rails to trails” project is enjoyed by thousands of walkers, hikers, cyclists and picnickers.

I have only walked that trail, but I see joggers, runners and cyclists there every time I go. For me it is a nice easy 3 miles per hour outing. Closer to home I hike up the big hill from my house to Heslop Road and then head east toward PA Gamelands 207. That trek has a lot of variations in elevation including a good mile straight up hill through all kinds of rocky washed out terrain toward the “top of the mountain” near Brown Street through the Gamelands. Each time it gets easier, but I am still at only 2.1 miles per hour for the rocky mountain trip. I enjoy clocking my progress with my iPhone pedometer. For the last 30 days I have walked/ hiked 60.5 miles. And it is one step at a time.

We have choices now this summer in Mountaintop. We can ride the rails or hike the trails. Both are wonderful options in our beautiful community.

Travelling the Mountain Route 309 has been open with only

one lane north and one lane south for about 10 days. PennDot has agreed with Mountaintop officials including police and emergency services to enact a ban on trucks weighing more than 10.5 tons (20,500 pounds) between the hours of 4 a. m. and 11 p. m. daily. It was announced last week that 300 detour signs are on order to direct truck traffic on the 26-mile detour. All trucks will be directed to proceed south on I-81 to I-80 where they will be directed to travel east to the Route 309 exit and then proceed to destinations north to the Crestwood Industrial Park and other locations.

I tried out the new northbound lane last week and saw a pileup of vehicles going up the mountain in the southbound lane. There is little room for emergency pullouts and motorists must be attentive to travel through the 1.3 mile construction corridor. At this writing school buses will be allowed to travel through the blasting zone.

We’ve had major construction on I-81 in years past, which diverted a lot of traffic to Route 309. The pain is temporary and every driver who uses that road will appreciate the result.

Theodora’s Now Open Theodora’s Restaurant plans to

open this week on the site formerly known as the Historic Stage Coach Inn on Route 309 in Drums near the I-80 intersection. Chef Drew Wandishin invites the public to enjoy the new Theodora’s everyday between 4 p. m. and 10 p. m. and plans to open on Mother’s Day from noon to 10 p. m. Theodora’s has a beautiful outdoor gazebo and garden and an outdoor patio bar area with fire pit tables. Dining includes casual to fine dining, home-style meals to go and weekly dinner specials. Lunch hours are coming soon. For more information call Chef Drew at 570-708-7500.