I remember as a kid, that moment every summer night — right after dinner -- the train in the distance would blow its long low whistle of approach.
A kind of universal call to adventure.
We’d leap onto our bikes and trikes and race to the end of the sidewalk, a gaggle of kids with half-eaten popsicles, craning our necks to be the first one to spot the train.
Don’t you love the sound of a distant whistle?
Maybe its because trains evoke a simpler era. A way of travel that seems both futuristic and nostalgic all at once.
Or maybe the rumble or pitch of the whistle taps into a longing for freedom, speaks to our inner-gypsy who’d love nothing better than to jump onboard and just see where it leads — while the world glides past like a scene from a movie.
Western North Carolina has a long, rich railroad history.
You might not know, but one of the best railroad museums in the country is located right outside of Asheville, in nearby Hendersonville.
The museum is operated and run by the Apple Valley Model Railroad Club. The clubhouse is in the original railroad depot built in 1902. Members work continually on their hobby, and the results are obvious in their precisely running engines and gorgeous scenery.
Every Saturday, members open their doors to the public.
My family loves to stop in to watch the trains, and listen in on the shop talk of the members. They’re always on hand to answer questions about the hobby, about train history in WNC, and show you what they’ve been up to. It’s interesting to watch them tinkering with the tracks and making small repairs to their layouts.
At one end of the clubhouse is a Thomas the Tank train that kids love, set up at kid-height for the little ones. In the summer, be sure not to miss the outdoor garden trains that wind past dense green herbs such as rosemary and thyme, perfectly scaled as miniature shrubbery.
So file it under Fun Things to Do In and Around Asheville. The club welcomes donations but there is no entry fee, so it’s a fun family date that doesn’t cost a thing, yet fuels the imagination for days to come.
It makes me feel like a kid again, listening to the soft, hypnotic chug-chug-chugging of the trains as wind their way through the beautiful WNC scenery that members have artfully constructed.
Now all I need is a popsicle.
Apple Valley Model Railroad Club