Once when my kids were little, we decided to take a trip to visit grandparents in Florida. Instead of flying or driving, though, we took the train so the boys could experience this unique adventure before trains met the fate of the horse-drawn carriage. A decade later, folks in this area can still be part of this classic bit of Americana on the James River Rambler.
For the 10th year, the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society hosts this popular passenger excursion along the 16-mile course of the locally owned short line Buckingham Branch Railroad. For only three dates in May and early June, folks get to ride this line with a choice of either a one-hour short tour from Dillwyn to Johnson and back, or a three-hour round trip all the way to New Canton.
Originating at the picturesque Dillwyn train station, this springtime jaunt traverses rolling hills and deep forests on its way through the heart of the heart of Virginia. The three-hour trip ends with a breathtaking view from a bridge over the James River.
The five-car train features passenger cars from the 1920’s and open-air sightseeing cars pulled by a diesel locomotive from the 1950’s. A vintage caboose is included for the nostalgia of it, and a commissary car serves up sandwiches, snacks, and drinks along with the requisite touristy bits and pieces. Picnic baskets are welcome.
If there’s one problem it’s that these trips are very popular, generally selling out well in advance. My advice to weekend wanderers interested in the James River Rambler is: don’t wait. Call now to reserve your seat.
The James River Rambler rides on May 11 with the short trip to Johnson at 9:30am and 11:30am, and the longer trip to New Canton leaving at 1:30pm. The longer trip only is offered on May 18 and June 1 leaving at 9:30am or 1:15pm. Fares to Johnson and back are $10 for adults, $6 for children ages 2-12. The New Canton trip costs $20 for adults, $10 for children. Kids under 2 who do not occupy a seat ride free. To purchase tickets with a credit card, call 1-800-451-6318. Phones are staffed from 10am-4pm on Saturdays, 1-4pm on Sundays, and 7-9:30pm on Mondays. Tickets are also available at the Old Dominion Railway Museum, 102 Hull St. in Richmond.