The fall season in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is unmatched. The valley is rich in deciduous trees, including oaks, birches, poplars, sumacs and maples, and borders the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. When temperatures drop, leaf peepers are drawn to the valley to see the explosion of yellows, oranges and reds.
Popular routes to admire the fall foliage in Virginia include Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Parkway, but neither can compete with the four-hour ride on a historic steam train.
Norfolk & Western’s history-making Class J steam locomotive No. 611 is known as “the most powerful steam passenger locomotive ever built”This year, a 1950 steam locomotive will travel through the Shenandoah Valley during the peak blooming season of fall foliage from early October to early November.
The 611, affectionately known as the “Queen of Steam,” departs Goshen, Virginia, twice daily during the season on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. During the trip, the train crosses Goshen Pass, passes through downtown Lexington, Virginia, and travels through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, a vast wilderness that spans 1.8 million acres. This forest is home to a rich diversity of nature, including more than 40 species of trees, including sturdy oaks, hickories and maples.
Before reaching Staunton, the historic Virginia town, the 611 chugs through the lush, colorful forests of Augusta County, passing picturesque farms. Before heading back to Goshen, the train makes a brief stop in Staunton.
Four different seating classes are available on the 11 passenger cars pulled by locomotive 611. The standard car, the least expensive option, costs $99 round trip. Additional charges apply for table seats, seats with more legroom and seats in the observation car. A special dome car with a glass ceiling can be reserved by passengers who choose the highest class on the 611. A table in the dome area costs $249 round-trip.
In addition, all passengers will have access to the second level of the observation car, where concessions will be for sale. Passengers who pay for a higher class will receive a complimentary drink and snack throughout the trip.
The 611’s fall excursion begins Oct. 6 and continues every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Nov. 5. The two daily departure times are 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. VirginiaScenicRailway.com is taking reservations now