For the Love of Trains

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by Joe Hancock

About ninety miles north of Alachua straight up 121 is Folkston, Georgia – a very small, rural town that frankly, has very little to do. That is unless you love trains. In that case, Folkston is a dream come true. You see, every train entering Florida has to come through Folkston. At least sixty-five trains a day pass through this small town. The town acquired the nickname “The Folkston Funnel.” About every twenty to thirty minutes, a train passes through the two parallel tracks that run through the town. Being a Railfan (Meaning I am crazy about trains) I decided to visit with my son, Mason to check it out.

You see, every train entering Florida has to come through Folkston. At least sixty-five trains a day pass through this small town. The town acquired the nickname “The Folkston Funnel.” About every twenty to thirty minutes, a train passes through the two parallel tracks that run through the town. Being a Railfan (Meaning I am crazy about trains) I decided to visit with my son, Mason to check it out.

I discovered you could rent a caboose to stay in overnight right next to the railroad tracks! After our first exploratory trip and seeing how much Mason loved it, I knew it was time to book an overnight trip. I called Railside Lodging and booked the Ms. Chessie caboose. Grandpa, my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Summer, and three-and-a-half-year-old Mason, jumped in the car and headed north. We arrived Saturday morning and checked in at the Whistlin Dixie café, whose owners also own Railside Lodging. You need to eat here – this place is great, and they have a nice little shopping section as well.

After we got checked in and ordered lunch, the first train came through. Mason and Grandpa ran outside with excitement to see the train rumble through as I fed Summer (nothing distracts her from food!). After lunch, it was time to head over to Ms. Chessie. This was an actual caboose that was in service. The owners renovated it to sleep six people. It has two bunk beds, a pullout couch, a small kitchen with bar seating looking out the windows at the tracks, and a full bathroom. Once we were settled in, we went out on the deck and waited for more trains to come by. Within minutes they started coming. One after the other – freight trains, coal trains, auto trains, and passenger trains. Watching the excitement in my kids’ eyes every time we heard the whistle in the distance of another train coming was worth every penny. Cell coverage is not great, but Ms. Chessie does have Wi-Fi although the great thing about the laid-back nature of Folkston and trains is you spend time on the deck grilling out watching trains, talking about trains, playing with toy trains, walking around downtown, visiting the train museum, and just enjoying family time.

Not far from Folkston is the Okefenokee Swamp and St. Mary’s Railroad, both of which have great activities and fun things to see. So, if you get a little bored with the trains, you have some other things to do.

One thing to note is that some readers may be thinking at this point is, do the trains come by at night? The answer is, yes. So be ready. It is not quiet. From about 10 PM to 3 AM, we did not have many trains. But after 3 AM, they started coming. Both kids slept right through it, and so did I for the most part. A nice quiet night will not be the case when you stay here. But, that is not why you are here! It’s all about trains. You end up meeting people from all over the world who descend on this neat little train town to watch and talk about trains. So, if you’re looking for something different, Folkston may be the place for you.

railsidelodging.com
okefenokeeadventures.com
stmarysrailroad.com

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