Road Trippin': Boone on rails

Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad crossing Bass Point Creek. Photo courtesy: Travis Stevenson GM, Boone and Scenic Valley RR

In a big way the story of the railroads is the story of Iowa.

“A lot of towns in Iowa are separated by about 12 miles because originally that's how long it took for water stops for steam engines,” says Mike Wendel, director of the James H. Andrew Railroad Museum and History Center in Boone.

Since the early 80’s they have worked to preserve and promote this history.

The museum is filled with original exhibits and artifacts from railroading’s hay-day that will take you a trip through time.

“They can take it from the beginning of Iowa railroading through the steam years, through the inter-urban trolley years, and also up through the streamliner years,” says Wendel.

After walking through the detailed displays you step out on the platform and jump on board the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad.

The 11-mile line is the last remaining piece of a track that ran to Fort Dodge.

“The great thing about a working railroad like this with a lot of engines and equipment is that a lot of folks haven't seen this type of stuff before,” Wendel says.

A group of area businessmen and donors raised $50,000 to buy the rail line and give people a totally unique experience.

“If a person has any interest in railroads this is the place to come you get a chance to see this vintage equipment in a working environment in a beautiful setting with the Des Moines River,” says Wendel.

The high point for many is the bass point bridge standing 156 feet tall and offering incredible views of the Des Moines River Valley.

“Through the river valley when they're looking off the high bridge there's a lot of ooos and awws there I tell ya,” says Loel Diersen, a longtime volunteer at the railroad.

Even though you won’t travel far you’ll spend about an hour and forty-five minutes on board.

“Our speed limit is 14 miles an hour, this engine is capable, or at least it was at one time capable of going 110 miles an hour,” says Diersen, who adds that they don’t get it up to high speed anymore.

The leisurely pace lets you enjoy everything from an afternoon ride to an evening out on the dinner train.

“They have their choice of different rides here and it's a really good way for folks to get a real taste of what different types of railroading was here,” says Wendel.

Even though your ride takes you right back to the start this train trip is all for the fun in it.

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