This unassuming town in Pennsylvania's coal country bills itself as "the Christmas tree capital of the world." According to local lore, a group of enterprising Indiana County gentlemen were the first to grow Christmas trees as a crop back in 1918. The area still grows more than a million pines, firs and spruces commercially every year. But perhaps Indiana's most famous Christmas-related product is native son Jimmy Stewart, star of the iconic holiday film It's a Wonderful Life. Indiana holds an annual festival and parade in mid-November named after the film.
Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park offers excursions that transport you back in time and let you relive an era when steam-driven locomotives were an essential part of everyday life. Trips to Cass are filled with rich histories of the past, unparalleled views of a vast wilderness area, and close-up encounters with the sights and sounds of original steam-driven locomotives. The town of Cass remains relatively unchanged. The restored company houses add to the charm and atmosphere of the town. From the company store and museum to the train depot, you'll find an abundance of things to do prior to your departure on the historic Cass Railroad. The Cass Scenic Railroad is the same line built in 1901 to haul lumber to the mill in Cass. The locomotives are the same Shay locomotives used in Cass, and in the rain forests of British Columbia for more than a half-century. The passenger cars are old logging flat-cars refurbished and made into passenger cars. Once you board the train, the real excitement begins! The great pistons of the carefully restored Shay locomotive will start pulsing, driven by hundreds of pounds of steam pressure. The shaft begins turning, the wheels find traction, and the locomotive begins to move. With thick, black smoke belching from its stack, the train pulls away from the station, passing the old water tower from which the locomotive tanks are filled. As the train rounds the curve up Leatherbark Creek, you'll pass the Cass Shop, where the locomotives are serviced and repaired, and a graveyard of antiquated, but fascinating equipment on sidetracks. As the pressure builds, the locomotive is driven at full steam, and the laborious journey up the mountain toward the two switchbacks begin. The loud huff of the stack, the clanking of gears and pistons, the furious scream of the whistle at the crossings, and the ever present clackety-clack of the rails will indeed make you feel as if you have been transported back i