PITTSTON — Steam rises into the sky, the brakes come to a screeching halt and the sound of a locomotive engine echoes throughout the valley.
Volunteers say the sights and sounds of the annual Greater Pittston Charity Train Ride to Jim Thorpe is a memorable experience for the whole family to enjoy.
The train excursion will take place on Sunday, Sept. 13 and will depart from the corner of Stephenson and Brown streets in Duryea at 9 a.m. and will run through White Haven, Laura Run, Mountain Top, the Lehigh Gorge to downtown Jim Thorpe.
Gloria Blandina, director of the Care and Concern Free Health Clinic, said over 600 people partake in the event. The Care and Concern Free Health Clinic is one of three Pittston organizations that organize the annual train ride, along with the Pittston Memorial Library and the Greater Pittston YMCA.
She said the relaxing train ride can serve as a trip down memory lane for those in the area whose ancestors constructed the railroad and worked in the coal mines.
“It’s a really neat experience because the train takes you right back in time,” she said. “It’s kind of slow-moving compared to the highways and it’s narrated so someone is telling you where you are, that town’s history, how it developed and what made it popular.”
Blandina said there is much to do in Jim Thorpe, including shopping and dining, but one can also just sit and take in the scenery.
A new feature for this year is a van ride that, for $5, will take people to the Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall from noon to 3 p.m.
She said the reason for the van ride is for people to understand more about Jim Thorpe the person, as well as the borough that’s named after him. Thorpe was an accomplished athlete and Olympian from Oklahoma.
The memorial hall consists of statues, monuments and plaques with descriptions of Thorpe’s life until his death and placement of his body in the borough.
“He had a very, very difficult life and he was named the world’s greatest athlete by King Gustav V of Sweden,” said Blandina. “It just gives you a good sense of the ups and downs this man had to endure and how he just went through life and was grateful for the things he did achieve.”
Pittston Memorial Library board member Kelly Carroll said the idea for the train excursion began when she and her husband, state Rep. Mike Carroll, were sitting at home and heard a train coming through.
“We jumped in the car and we went up to where the train tracks were and there were all these people standing there,” she said. “We got out of the car and were watching and we saw the train going through coming from Tunkhannock to Jim Thorpe. We looked at it and thought we should do it.”
After calls were made to the Railroad Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad company that provides the transportation, Carroll said she and her husband did not just want the library to be involved with the event.
Blandina and Tina Fisher of the Greater Pittston YMCA also continue to help organize the train ride.
The three organizations split the profits made from the train ride evenly and the money will go towards anything those organizations may need.
With the Greater Pittston Charity Train Ride approaching, Blandina said she is looking forward to seeing the people both in Jim Thorpe and on the train ride.
Carroll said she has other plans.
“I like to go shopping,” she said with a laugh. “I visit the little shops and there’s a wine tasting place there. It’s a fun, relaxing afternoon.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher