Last updated: February 16. 2013 5:51PM - 1562 Views

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Maybe you like trains, or downtown Jim Thorpe, or you want to support three Pittston-area charities.

Whatever your motivation, if you sign up for a Sept. 9 railroad excursion from Duryea to the historic Carbon County town, you'll pass miles of impressive scenery on the 116-mile round trip, which meanders through Lehigh Gorge State Park.

"It's one of the prettiest stretches on our railroad, with mountains, trees and the (Lehigh) river," said Laura Kennedy, director of the passenger department for the Reading and Northern Railroad.

When the train reaches Jim Thorpe, participants will have several hours to explore the borough, which features plenty of Victorian architecture, a historic mansion and a historic jail. There's a museum with information on the life of the famous American Indian athlete Jim Thorpe, who excelled at the 1912 summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, and there are many restaurants and shops.

"There's a purse shop there that I just love," said Cathy Rusnok of Port Griffith, a retired teacher who has taken two previous train excursions to the town. "If you go up Race Street, you'll find a church with Tiffany windows that's just spectacular, and a place that sells homemade pickles and salsa.

"It's like stepping back in time," she said.

Part of the old-style charm of the fourth-annual Greater Pittston Charity Train Ride is the chance to ride in 1920s-era train cars, pulled by a diesel locomotive.

"It's very relaxing," said Gloria Blandina, one of the organizers, who expects 450 people will sign up for the trip.

While they're in Jim Thorpe, she said, passengers might opt for a ride on rented bicycles (a few miles pedaling, and they'd be back in the gorge), or simply explore the town on foot.

The Harry Packer Mansion, which boasts a fascinating old player piano and many antiques, and the former Carbon County Jail, rumored to be haunted, are both scheduled to be open for tours that day.

The train excursion costs $65, and proceeds will benefit the Pittston Memorial Library, the Greater Pittston YMCA and the Care and Concern Free Health Clinic, which operates out of the former Seton Catholic High School.

The need for the charities "has really mushroomed," said Dr. John Callahan, who tends patients every Wednesday evening at the free clinic. In four years, operating just one night a week, he said, "We've seen over 5,000 patients."

Admitting he's a train buff, Callahan said he has found past excursions to Jim Thorpe delightful.

"People knew the train was coming," he said, "and they'd come out and wave as it went by."


What: Greater Pittston Charity Train Ride rail excursion from Duryea to Jim Thorpe

When: Departs 9 a.m. Sept. 9 from Duryea and returns approximately 6:45 that evening

Benefits: Greater Pittston YMCA, Pittston Memorial Library and Care and Concern Free Health Clinic.

Info: Gloria at 570-693-0766 or Tina at 570-407-0579.

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