ESSEX - When riding the coach just doesn't cut it, climb into the cab and seize the opportunity to maneuver an authentic piece of history. "It’s the most wondrous gift there is. You get a chance to operate these big fire breathing dragons," says Kevin Dodd, President of the Essex Steam Train Valley Railroad Company, of a unique program called Hand on the Throttle. "1910, 1920, up through the forties, there were thousands of steam locomotives operating all around the United States. Today, there’s less than 200 operating." And you can drive one, after a lesson at the station.
Participants take to the black behemoth for a "bucket list" experience. "We have men do it, we have women do it," says Dodd. "You are going to be handling number 3025, built in 1989 (in China). It has been rebuilt and restored here." Participants sit in the "driver's seat", get a quick review of the controls - such as the throttle, the brake and the reverse lever - and begin to roll down the tracks!
The whistle is vital (and entertaining!) when passing through crossings. The fireman helps the operator by shoveling coal and keeping an eye on the tracks, as the train thunders forwards toward Deep River at about 15 mph.
The steam train is gearing-up for a summer of fun activities - including the dinner train and Rhythm on the Rails. "We are a full family venue of entertainment," says Dodd.
At the Deep River station, the bell and brake come into play, as we put the train in reverse. It stays that way for the trip back to Essex. It's a little dusty and slightly nerve-racking but operating the massive locomotive is incredibly exhilarating! A true adventure along the rails!
"Lots of people do it every year," says Dodd. "It’s a great thing!"
Click here for more information about Hand on the Throttle. This "bucket list" experience costs $550.00 and is booked by appointment.
It's opening weekend for the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat! In honor of Mother's Day, Mom will receive a potted plant at the end of Sunday's standard train rides. A special dinner train has also been added to the schedule. Check out this link for more information.