Train Excursion to the Great Pumpkin Festival
A long-standing tradition from the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, the fall foliage ride has something for everyone – extensive travel time (about 2 hours each way) in vintage rail coaches for train buffs, sandwiched around 3 ½ hours for shopping and lunch during the annual Great Pumpkin Festival in charming Putnam, CT.
The train meanders along a picturesque stretch of Southern New England countryside, with views and several crossings of the Blackstone River, following one of the old passenger routes of the Providence & Worcester train line, now used only – and actively – by freight trains. Some of the train cars – including an operating café/dining car – are the same as when the line was abandoned by Amtrak in the 1970s; three other coaches – handsomely painted in P&W’s orange and black motif, are of an earlier era. The most charming is arguably the Pullman-built observation car at the end of the train – half-sleeper, half lounge, with some art deco features and a galley kitchen that still remain from the days when it ferried railroad big-wigs along the route. The train is hauled by diesel power, and none of the cars are in their original pristine condition, but all exude a genuine charm which can be missing from more touristy experiences.
When the train arrives at the charming Putnam station, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the town’s annual Great Pumpkin Festival. You disembark into a craft fair and a pretty downtown area, filled with restaurants, antique shops, and a festive atmosphere. If you want a break from shopping and eating, there are bands to entertain adults and a large play area for the kids.
The trip takes an entire day, departing Woonsocket at 9 AM and returning around 4:30 in the afternoon. It’s extremely popular, so act fast, or note it for next year; tickets are either premium seating ($72 adults; $40 children) or first class ($62 and $40). Speaking of popular, Blackstone Valley also runs popular Polar Express rides for families on winter weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s not too early to plan!