Sunday, August 29, 2010

Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad

The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad runs 4 tourist trains departing from the former Western Maryland Railroad depot in Elkins West Virginia. The boy, his grandmother, aunt, and I traveled on the New Tygart Flyer today.

The route climbs through the Monongahela National Forest in the mountains and along the shallow Cheat River, passing through a tunnel, and by many campgrounds along the way.

For most of the route it follows the line of the former Coal and Iron Railroad that ran from Elkins to Durbin. An older man announced landmarks and told stories as we passed.

Lunch was served on board during the outbound trip: a buffet of potato chips, hamburger buns, cold cuts, pasta salad, and assorted drinks.

After an hour and a half of climbing, the train stopped and the two locomotives used a siding to move from the front to the rear of the train. Another fifteen minutes of climbing with the locomotives pushing, and the train stopped to offload passengers at a small shelter. A short walk downhill led to the High Falls of Cheat, a wide waterfall (the railroad's brochure tells me that it is 18' high, and 150' wide). The surrounding rocks there are slippery, as the boy discovered when he slipped, falling into a mud puddle. Not wanting my son to feel embarrassed for being the only one to slip and fall, I slipped and landed in the same mud puddle right after he did.

On the return trip downslope, we were treated to cookies and brownies.

The ride was fun. The train creeped up the slope on the outbound trip, but went faster on the return. The scenery was attractive mixing the natural with the historic. The food was nothing to get excited about, but we all appreciated being well-fed on a long trip over lunch time.

Elkins, West Virginia is a four hour drive from the Washington, D.C. area without traffic (which there won't be at 6 am on a Saturday when you leave to make it in time for an 11 am departure). The drive is very scenic through the mountains, and lots of fun if you enjoy winding mountain roads.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, August 27, 2010

LEGO Architecture

Exhibits at the National Building Museum seem to change frequently, which makes going there repeatedly worthwhile.

The boy and I enjoyed our June visit, and headed back there yesterday for the LEGO Architecture exhibit. This exhibit had an admission cost of $5/person, and admittance was timed. We arrived at 12:30, and immediately bought our tickets for the next available time: 2:00.

The wait gave us the opportunity to enjoy other features of the museum. The boy quickly made friends, and they got to work building an entryway sized arch out of large styrofoam blocks. I bought a cup of coffee from the Firehook Bakery kiosk, and enjoyed my lunch, and read some e-mails on my BlackBerry while seated against on of the large columns near the fountain in the center of the museum's atrium.

When it was time, we made our way up one of the sets of worn smooth brick staircases to a second floor exhibit space. The buildings on display are well-known landmarks. Mostly skyscrapers, and mostly from Chicago, hometown of the artist, architect Adam Tucker Reed.

I was struck by how Reed had mostly used very small LEGO bricks to build his very large models.

Beyond the exhibit space was a room with wide child height tables, and bins full of LEGO bricks. Inspired by what they had just seen. The kids got to work building towers. One particularly tall tower collapsed with a crash and the clatter of LEGOs bouncing every which way that momentarily silenced the room. The final room to the exhibit is a gift shop selling, much smaller, less detailed kits designed by Reed of a few of the buildings on display.

The LEGO Architecture exhibit will be at the National Building Museum through September 5.