With its marshes, beaches and touristy towns, the seacoast is a sight-seeing sanctuary in the summer. But as fall approaches, many by-the-sea residents are heading farther north to experience autumn in New England uniquely — by train.
“It’s certainly beautiful down there along the seacoast,” said Paul Giblin, director of marketing and business development at Hobo Railroad in Lincoln, N.H., and Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad in Meredith and Weirs Beach, N.H. “And many of the folks, they come up and see what most people see when they’re traveling — they see Franconia Notch, and you see some absolutely gorgeous views, but you also see the traffic. But when you’re traveling by train, you have no traffic and you’re not doing the driving, and there’s a lot of pluses to that.”
The Hobo and Winnipesaukee Scenic railroads have been hosting scenic train tours for more than 26 years, and this year, the railroads are offering four Foliage Train Tours to guests: an 80-minute round-trip Foliage Tour with views of the Pemigewasset River, a one- to two-hour round trip Foliage Tour that snakes around Lake Winnipesaukee, a Foliage Dinner Tour where guests can see the views while enjoying a turkey dinner, and a Fall Foliage Special Tour that features a stop at the Common Man Inn in Plymouth, N.H., for a hot lunch buffet.
“I think a lot of folks don’t know the rail that they’re traveling on has been around since the late 1800s, so this rail has a lot of history to it,” he said. “You can certainly jump in your car and drive around and enjoy the foliage, but there’s just something different about sitting back in your chair, looking out the windows and you hear the noise, the clickety clack of going off the rails. It’s pretty darn relaxing. You’re traveling like people used to travel years ago.”
Attracting guests from all over New England, Giblin said the Fall Foliage Tours appeal to those throughout the United States, as well as from other countries.
“We start getting calls from Texas and Oklahoma for people that want to come out here to experience this foliage, and so we get people from all over the country,” he said. “For many of them it’s pretty breathtaking because they’ve never seen anything like this. … They get to enjoy the scenic environment and take back a lifetime of memories once they leave.”
The widespread popularity results from the tours’ relaxing atmosphere and unique seasonal viewing opportunities, Giblin said.
“I’ve grown up in this area, and having traveled through the lakes region, you get used to looking at the same thing from the same view, but when you take the train, you’re seeing a lake from a different view that most people have never seen before,” he said. “All of a sudden you’re looking back where you’re normally drive, and you see hillsides full of colored leaves. And you’re criss-crossing rivers, going over waterfalls — it’s a totally different thing that you don’t usually get to see.”
The scenic fall tours appeal to all ages, and guests board the touring trains for many different reasons, Giblin said.
“It’s fun and enjoyable for all ages,” he said. “We see families with young kids, then you’ve got couples in their 20s and 30s that are looking to do something unique, something different, and enjoy some time together, and grandparents taking their kids and grandkids, talking about how they used to travel years ago.”
In addition to the four Fall Foliage Tour options, the Hobo and Winnipesaukee Scenic railroads will partake in the N.H. Railroad Days event on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, Giblin said, and guests will be able to experience both railroads for the price of one. You buy a ticket the first day, enjoy a train ride, and then the next day you bring the same ticket and ride the other railroad.
“We like to say we’re creating memories one ride at a time, and there’s no question that that happens,” he said. “These days everybody’s pretty buried in their schedules and rushing here and there, and managing a lot of stuff. When you get on the train, somehow you forget about all of that, and you just look out the window. It’s a totally different experience.”