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The Blizzard River & Western

by Laura

We both love steam trains and have been on some local steam excursions. The opportunity came up to ride the Black River and Western steam train on an all day Steam excursion in February. We would be able to ride the Boonton coaches that were used on the Sussex Branch of the DL&W. We bought tickets and waited for the day to arrive.

February 5th rolled around. It was a clear cold day, but we dressed warmly and figured the coaches were heated. We packed up a lunch and set off. It began to snow a little but we weren't concerned as there was no real snow in the forecast. As we got closer to Ringoes the snow got heavier. We decided to keep going since we were almost there. To head back home would be dangerous since the road crews would not be out to sand the roads anytime soon.

We arrived at Ringoes station and looked forward to a heated coach as the temperature had dropped to 15 degrees. We boarded the train and found the "heated coach" was warmed by a little coal stove by the door. I was not a happy camper.

The train ride began and we enjoyed the view. The snow came down even harder and the temperature inside the coach was no different from that outside. After a while, we arrived at the first spot for a photo run by. We were glad to get out and move around, hoping to restore some circulation in our feet.

Because of the snow, the run by took 45 minutes. We got some great pictures but were turning into icicles. Finally we reboarded and resumed our journey.

The next bit of excitement was switching at the local yard. We got out to take some pictures in the blizzard but quickly got back on the train when the conductor allowed us to. The switching took a long time. We tried to stay warm as best we could.

Finally the snow let up but we still couldn't go too fast. We arrived at a bridge and everyone got off for a photo run by. Dave found a good spot, then dropped one of the camera lenses in the snow. Luckily we had another one to use. It was still quite cold but a little nicer without the snow. Dave got some nice shots.

On the way back to the station there was another run by scheduled in the middle of a farmer's field. The snow was knee deep so we decided to stay on the train as did a few other passengers.

We took the opportunity to crowd around the little coal stove. It was easy to stand around because we were in one of the cars that was unhooked from the train for this particular run by. We were getting slightly warm and chatting with our fellow frozen passengers. All of a sudden there was a bang and we all went flying down the aisle, almost landing on top of each other. The other half of the train had hooked up with us.

After that, it was a straight run home. What was supposed to be a 4 hour trip turned into a 7 hour trip due to the snow. When we arrived back at the station, we thanked the conductor and made our way as fast as we could to the car. It took almost the whole ride home, with the heat turned up full blast to defrost ourselves.

We have vowed to never go on this type of excursion again in the winter no matter how tempting. 


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