Riding the rails

Messenger photos by Theresa Hennis
The Ohio Rail Experience’s Rocket Train pulls into South Charleston’s historic DT&I train depot on May 25. People lined up for rides to and from Jeffersonville aboard the train’s old-fashioned passenger cars.

(Posted May 30, 2019)

By Theresa Hennis, Staff Writer

On May 25, the Rocket Train pulled into South Charleston’s historic Detroit Toledo and Ironton Railroad (DT&I) Depot to give passengers a scenic ride from South Charleston to Jeffersonville and back.

If you’ve never heard the haunting sound of a train whistling as it approaches a depot or heard the clickety-clack of wheels on the tracks, you’re in luck.

Sue Mattinson, president of the South Charleston Heritage Commission, stands at the original ticket window of the historic DT&I train depot.

The Ohio Rail Experience (ORE) is a chance to ride the rails and be part of a historic and once integral mode of transportation throughout the United States.

The ORE is a part of Cincinnati Scenic Railway (CSR). A nonprofit organization, CSR operates the Lebanon Mason Monroe (LM&M) Railroad in Lebanon, Ohio.

ORE partners with local historical societies to educate and entertain the public about vintage trains. They reached out to the South Charleston Heritage Commission last year to ask if they would host train rides. The first rides took place in October 2018. Last weekend’s rides, offered at three different times to the same destination, were ORE’s second visit to South Charleston.

Sue Mattinson, president of the Heritage Commission, said, “One of the reasons ORE contacted us is because of our restored depot, which adds to the experience for their passengers. A lot of train enthusiasts pass through here.”

Ben Hindt (standing), a passenger conductor with the Ohio Rail Experience, punches tickets for passengers Phyllis Bageant (left) and Ed and Deb Straley (right), all of Springfield.

The depot was built in approximately 1879. Use of the depot ended in the mid-1960s, after which it stood abandoned for approximately 40 years until the Heritage Commission restored it in the early 2000s.

David and Bonnie Bingman of South Charleston were among the passengers on one of the South Charleston-Jeffersonville rides on May 25.

“Riding a train like this is not something you get to do very often. You see sights you might not ever see in a car,” David said.

The train’s coaches are unique. They include a restored 1930s Lackawanna Car with open-air windows and traditional “walk-over” seating where the backs of the seats are hinged so they can be arranged to face either way. The other coaches include a Deluxe Milwaukee Road 3200 Car with reclining seats and large picture windows, the Open Air Bar Car featuring the Queen City Tavern, and the Deluxe Class Car 664, a long-distance car.

Dave Moran, a passenger conductor with the Ohio Rail Experience, punches a passenger’s ticket aboard the Rocket Train.

The conductor and chief mechanical officer on The Rocket, Scott Jarrett, said, “The sights, the smells, and the sounds you get on this train are special and not something you’ll get on Amtrak.”

Visit ohiorailexperience.com to see upcoming ride locations and to buy tickets.

(See more photos below)

The restored DT&I train depot in South Charleston
Train conductor Scott Jarrett waves to onlookers after returning to the South Chaleston depot from Jeffersonville.
Passengers board the Rocket Train for a round trip excursion between South Charleston and Jeffersonville.
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