The summer season at Olde New England Tours has been a busy one, indeed. One of our most popular day trips by bus highlighted various modes of transportation … luxury motor coach, vintage train ride, river boat cruise. In fact it was so popular that we operated it twice, one in late July and again in early August, and they both sold out fast.

After an early departure from our office in Methuen, we made a morning rest stop along the Massachusetts Turnpike. From there we headed to our destination in Essex, Conn., which is about 170 miles from Methuen. We arrived at the historic Essex Valley Train Station, which has been serving passenger and freight trains in one form or another since 1870. In 1971, the station became the
home to the Essex Valley Railroad which has been a major tourist attraction in Connecticut ever since.

We arrived at the station at 11am in time for the 11:30am scheduled departure. We boarded the elegant Essex Clipper train and took our seats at the tables in our private dining car. The car is a beautifully restored 1920s-era Pullman. The Essex Clipper is pulled by a vintage diesel locomotive. Meals are prepared on board in the kitchen car. Our delicious three-course lunch was served by an attentive wait staff. The ambiance, service and cuisine are enhanced by the sightseeing train journey alongside the pristine Connecticut River Valley, designated as one of the last “great places on Earth” by the Nature Conservancy. Through the train windows we witnessed tidal wetlands, bountiful natural habitats for birds including cormorants, ducks, swans, egrets, blue heron, etc.
After our 90-minute dining car luncheon experience, the train stopped at Deep River Landing, where we disembarked from the train and boarded the dockside river boat Becky Thatcher for a 75-minute narrated cruise along the Connecticut River. Following the cruise, we got on another train, this time pulled by a steam locomotive, one of fewer than 200 still operating in the United States. Back at the station, we re-boarded our chartered bus for the ride back to Methuen.

Other recent one-day trips from Methuen took us to various sightseeing destinations and entertainment venues. Highlights included a performance by the talented Edwards Twins, celebrity impersonators at the beautiful Lake Pearl Banquet Hall in Wrentham.

Another featured a Lobster (or Haddock, or Prime Rib, or Pork Chop) Lunch in Rhode Island combined with a visit to the birthplace of artist Gilbert Stuart. He painted the portrait of George Washington that we see every day on the one-dollar bill. In the museum we toured the house where Stuart was born in 1755 and a gallery displaying his paintings. Also on the 23-acre site are an operational grist mill and the first American snuff mill which had been run by Gilbert’s father.

In mid-August we enjoyed a Lobster Lunch Cruise on Gloucester Harbor before traveling to Rockport for a shopping stop at quaint but bustling Bearskin Neck.

You are encouraged to check with us for information on upcoming excursions. We are confident that you will find some of them to be of interest to you.

Jim Keogh is president of Cosmopolitan Travel and Olde New England Tours, Methuen