Full steam ahead: New train guide hits all the stops

Can't get enough trains? With the foldable illustrated map, Rail USA: Museums and Trips, Eastern States, rail buffs have a guide of everything train from museums, steam train rides and historic sites to trolley rides, scenic railroads and train exhibits at their fingertips— more than 300 of them on the East Coast alone.

Written by former Charlottesville resident Eric Riback, the map began as a manifestation of his own fascination. “I’ve always had an interest in railroads,” says Riback, author of the guide and president of Bella Terra Publishing, who now lives in the Hudson Valley in New York. “I grew up in New York and rode the subways— that's how you got around— but by the time I was a teenager my friend and I just liked to ride trains for the interest of it.

"There was some mild prankish behavior," Riback laughs. "My friend had a telephone, one of the old black ones, and he had it rigged so he could make it ring. This was 30 years before cell phones and he would pull it out of his rucksack and then hand it to someone on the train, saying, 'It's for you.'"

Riback lived in Charlottesville for 10 years before moving out to Denver to work for National Geographic. When he and his wife and business partner, Bella Stander, decided to strike out on their own, they moved back to New York where they have resided for almost three years.

"We bought a company that published maps and guides to lighthouses," Riback says. "And when we finished adding to and improving that line, railroads just seemed like a good next subject."

The guide not only includes information and phone numbers for all of the stops, but a detailed map marked with the points of interest to allow for easy travel planning.

“What I wanted to do was assemble the most comprehensive and most up to date listing out there,” Riback says.

From Maine to Florida, the map includes 334 sites and 16 watercolor paintings of different trains and locations. Originally, Riback intended to make a map for the whole country, but when he realized how many rail attractions existed on the East Coast alone, he decided to break the map into three different guides.

“The central states and western states maps will be out by the spring of next year,” he says. 

The maps are available online and through special order at any bookstore, but they are also available at select museums. Jane Riley, the buyer for the Manassas Museum store Echoes, who stocks the maps in her store can't say enough good things about it. 

"My husband happens to be a rail and civil war buff and I had him look at [the map] before I ordered it for the store, and he thinks it's just invaluable for rail enthusiasts," Riley says."It's really well done, nice quality, great information. I imagine we'll be reordering."

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