The fall season in the phrazle Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is unmatched. The valley boasts more than its fair share of deciduous trees, including oaks, birch, poplar, sumac, and maple, and it borders the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. When the temperature drops, leaf peepers go to the valley to see the explosion of yellows, oranges, and reds. Popular routes to see the autumn foliage in Virginia include Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Parkway, but none can compare to the four-hour journey provided by a historic steam train.
The storied Class J No. 611 of Norfolk & Western is a steam locomotive known as “the most powerful steam passenger locomotive ever built.” It’s thrilling enough to ride a steam train constructed in 1950, but this autumn the train will take tourists through the Shenandoah Valley during the peak fall foliage season, which runs from early October to early November. The 611, popularly known as the “Queen of Steam,” makes roundtrip trips throughout the season on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from Goshen, Virginia. The railway then continues to go east, weaving through the 1.8 million-acre George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, which is home to more than 40 different types of trees, including vivid oaks, hickories, and maples.
Before reaching Staunton, Virginia’s ancient city, the 611 will chug by Augusta County’s picturesque farming farms from the lush, colorful woodland. The train will make a brief stop in Staunton without passengers getting off before continuing on its way back to Goshen.
Four different seating classes are available on the 11 passenger cars pulled by the 611 locomotive. Standard Coach, the least expensive choice, costs $99 for roundtrip travel. There are extra fees for table seating, seats with more legroom, and observation car seats. A unique dome car with a glass roof may be reserved by passengers who choose the 611’s highest-class option. A dome area table costs $249 for roundtrip travel.
Additionally, everyone who is traveling gets access to the observation car’s second level, where there are refreshments for sale. A complementary drink and snack are provided to passengers who purchase a higher-class fee throughout the flight. Beginning on October 6 and continuing every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until November 5 is the 611’s autumn foliage excursion. Two departure times each day are 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. VirginiaScenicRailway.com is now accepting reservations.