Story Land
July 14, 2014

copyright Jay Ducharme 2014

Story Land, in Glen, New Hampshire, was new to us.  Even though it was technically in our neck of the woods, it was nearly five hours away.  So we set aside a few days to visit this quaint family park.  It opened in 1954, around the time of many other storybook-themed parks across the U.S.  The park was purchased by Pennsylvania's Kennywood shortly after that park had also purchased Connecticut's Lake Compounce.  All of those parks were then purchased by Parque Reunidos of Spain.  Story Land wouldn't normally have drawn us that far from home, except that this year the park opened its first wooden roller coaster, Roar-O-Saurus.  It was built by the Gravity Group, the same company responsible for Quassy's wonderful Wooden Warrior.

The long drive was punctuated by heavy rainfall.  We finally arrived in the spectacular White Mountain region of New Hampshire.  The park wasn't far from Mount Washington and its famous cog railway.  In fact, the entire region seemed to have a fascination with rail travel.  There were also lots of ski shops and antique stores throughout the small towns along the way.

We checked in to our room at the quaint Swisse Chalet Inn, a little hotel just off of the main route.  Obviously aimed at skiers and built long ago, the building exteriors were charming and ornately themed to Switzerland.  The room was cozy, with a king-size bed occupying most of it, and best of all it was really quiet.  Fortunately there was free WiFi, since we had no cell phone reception.  We were tired and hungry after the long drive.  Just up the road from us was a restaurant that was heavily advertised on nearby billboards, Tuckermans, and we headed there.  It was actually an inn that also had a popular restaurant.  A large deer head graced the foyer.  It was rustic and had a sports bar at one end.  Karen ordered a grilled salmon salad and I had wasabi salmon.  It was delicious and a perfect way to end the tiring day.

The next morning brought mild temperatures and bright sunny skies.  Story Land opened at 9:30, and there was a railroad-themed restaurant Karen had found online, Glen Junction, that she wanted to visit for breakfast.  So we set out a bit early to explore the surrounding communities, driving south along Route 302.  We stopped at a scenic overlook that was across the street from a little shopping plaza.  The view was serene and majestic, with row after row of craggy mountain peaks towering back far into the distance.

From there we continued south and entered the town of North Conway.  It was a picture-postcard New England town with lots of little shops lining the downtown area.  There was also the North Conway Scenic Railway with its beautifully restored station.   We could have taken its four hour rail trip through the White Mountains, but it wasn't something we had that much time for.  We drove back into Glen and pulled into the Glen Junction restaurant.  The facade featured a protruding steam locomotive.  There were just a few cars in the parking lot when we arrived, but judging from the vast interior they obviously did a big business.  We were seated quickly in a booth and our friendly waitress brought us our drinks in canning jars.  The restaurant was divided into three sections, plus an upstairs area.  In the lower areas, O guage model railroads affixed to the walls up near the ceiling circled the rooms.  Karen ordered a lobster omelet; I got blueberry pancakes and home fries.  The food arrived quickly.  My food was very good; the pancakes were old-fashioned griddle style, very thin and slightly crispy on the outside.  Karen, on the other hand, found that the combination of lobster, cheddar cheese and eggs didn't quite mesh.

From there we drove just up the road to the entrance of Story Land.  It was 9:00, and already about a dozen people were standing in line at the ticket booth wating for it to open.  I'm glad there were people ahead of us, because other than a small sign it was difficult to tell where the entrance actually was.  The narrow parking lot abutted a row of whimsical and colorful buildings based on classic children's stories.  One building was for season pass holders.  The main entrance was through the door to the crooked man's house.  Within fifteen minutes, the parking lot had filled and the line of families stretched off into the distance.  There were lots of grandparents with grandkids and parents with strollers.  There was another parking lot across the highway, and the park had built a tunnel (much like Kennywood's) for people to cross safely to the entrance.  That was a considerate thing to do, and must have been an expensive undertaking.  Three performers costumed as Mother Goose, Pinocchio and Little Bo Peep emerged and mingled with the crowd, talking with children and waving to guests entering the park.

At last, the doors opened and we paid the $30.99 entry fee.  We walked onto a sort of courtyard area.  It was ringed by colorful concession buildings.  Directly in front of us was a sort of large totem pole with some of the park's mascots carved into it.  The park layout was a bit convoluted, with winding paths leading every which way.  While it was still early, we decided to head for Roar-O-Saurus, which was located at the extreme back of the park.  We picked a path to the left and began walking.  Season passholders had gotten in early and were already milling about and on some of the rides.  As might be expected from being in the White Mountains, the park was very hilly.  The first attraction we encountered was Dr. Geyser's Remarkable Raft Ride, a sprawling and fancifully themed family raft ride.  Its design was interesting, with a trough constructed of high and very thin concrete walls.  Nearby was the Mini-Geysers, a small children's sprayground.  Next to that was the Bamboo Chutes, a cleverly-named flume ride with Chinese theming.  Between all the major rides were various kiddie rides.  Further along the path was Ocean's of Fun, the park's large water play area.  At its center was a structure that looked like a thin volcano.  Every few minutes it would shoot water high into the air.  The largest object there was a giant octopus with its arms wrapped around a submarine.  Kids could enter the submarine and from its control room "pilot" water cannons on the top.  There were a few other coral-like structures in the area that spouted water.  But that was it.

In a small ravine next to Ocean's of Fun were a few dinosaurs.  That meant Roar-O-Saurus couldn't have been far away.  But the only thing visible was the tightly curved lift hill, surprising for a supposedly major ride in such a small park.  And we couldn't hear the train roaring past.  As Karen and I approached the queue line, an attendant there was droning on rapidly about the rules.  He mentioned that no cameras, cell phones, jewelry, hats, etc... were allowed on the ride.  Karen asked about fanny packs.  "No fanny packs!" he said emphatically.  How about if it were strapped to her waist, she asked.  "No fanny packs!" he repeated.  I wondered if he barked his spiel non-stop throughout the day.  We were two of just four people approaching the queue; no one else was around.  As we walked between the black chainlink fences that formed the queue, we were right next to the ride as it blasted by us with a surprising amount of speed.  We rounded a corner toward the station and got a clear look at the inside of the lift hill.  It seemed squished, as if the turn was too tight.

When we arrived at the station there were three people ahead of us waiting for the front seat.  I was glad to see that we could choose which seat we wanted.  There was a woman behind the controls training a new kid.  There were also two other attendants.  The short six-car Timberliner train, with a dinosaur head attached to the front, rolled into the station and the woman began barking at the guests to move along in the line to make room for other guests coming in (even though there weren't many).  The attendant we saw at the front of the queue line was now in the station continuing his spiel about what not to bring on the ride.  Curiously, he did say that you could wear glasses.  The next train left the station and within a minute was back.  It was a pretty short ride.  Karen gave our hats and her fanny pack to one of the attendants and we sat down in the comfortable train.  The attendant on my side told me that he could hold my cell phone.  "What cell phone?" I asked.  I had zipped it up in my fanny pack when I reached the station.  The woman chastised him for not noticing I had a zippered fanny pack.  I pulled the curved thickly padded lap bar gently against my waist.  Then the attendant jammed the bar down hard into my gut, literally knocking the wind out of me.  I could barely breathe.  I urgently asked him to release it.  He called out to the woman and she told her trainee which button to push.  I was able to lift the bar and breathe again.  Once more, I pulled it gently over my waist.  And, to my shock, once more the attendant jammed it back into my gut.  And once more they had to release it.  I told the attendant, "Just let me adjust it to where it's comfortable."  And once again I pulled it closed.  I'm not sure what the park told those attendants, but he once again tried to staple me into the train.  This time I held onto the lap bar so he couldn't push it so hard.  It was a losing battle.  Karen asked if I was okay.  At least I could breathe.

We rolled out of the station and engaged the lift hill with a violent jerk (and I don't mean the attendant).  The chain pulled us swiftly to the top of the forty foot rise.  At the top, the track turned left 180 degrees.  It looked impossibly tight, but the train obediently rolled along.  The first drop was unexpectedly steep.  Then we shot up a camelback hill and my gut was shoved hard into the lap bar.  We flew around another tight curve, into a tunnel and then over one painful bunny hop after another.  We circled around the lift hill and then hit bunny hops all the way back to the station.  I never thought I'd be so glad that a coaster ride was so short.  The park advertised 12 airtime hills on the coaster.  The problem was that the attendants left no room to get any air.  I was really surprised at how intense this coaster was, especially in what was ostensibly a children's park.  Karen had a little more breathing room than I did, but ended up hurting her back.  I think I would have really enjoyed the ride if the attendants hadn't been so overzealous with the restraints.  Maybe the ride would have been more tolerable if the lift height was only thirty feet.   But I'll probably never find out.  It just seemed like too much coaster packed into too small a space.  As we exited, there was a wide deck-like area just past the station with a nice view of the ride.  I stopped to take a picture, but the woman yelled to me, "You can't stop there!  Keep moving!"  The whole reason we made the trip to Story Land turned out to be a big disappointment.

We followed a path uphill and to the left of Roar-O-Saurus.  There was a large barn-like structure there.  In front of it was a rather dour-looking animatronic daisy talking in a low monotone about a great farm show that played in the barn.  It didn't exactly pique our interest.  Next to that was a "rocking tub" ride themed to a barn and Henrietta's Eggs-tarordinary Tractor Ride.   That area made for a sort of mini themed area.  It happened to be next to a dinosaur-themed area.  Which happened to be next to a sea-themed area.  None of it made much sense.  But for children it probably didn't matter.  There were also numerous tents placed around the park with misters inside them.  It was a sort of concentrated way to cool off on a hot day.

Next, we wandered down toward the center of the park.  We passed one of the most impressive windmills I've ever seen, a large metal sculpture of a boy riding a penny farthing bicycle.  Around the corner from that was an area filled with Egyptian artifacts in front of an Egyptian temple.  It was Splash Battle, a sort of ride/game.  Three Egyptian-themed boats floated along the edge of a big holding tank.  Each boat could hold several passengers and had five water cannons pointing outwards.  There were also water cannons along the outside of the ride.  So unlike other tank battle games where the passengers shot at each other, here the passengers shot at non-riders.  Everybody could get wet, whether they rode or not.  Karen took the opportunity to wage war on a few boats and ending up completely drenched and laughing.

Karen spotted another ride tucked away in a corner to the left of Splash Battle.  It was Slipshod Safari, a jungle tour with Tom the driver piloting a tractor that pulled an animal cage and some passenger cars.  The cage was a nice touch: kids could sit in it and get to experience what it was like to be an animal in a circus. It also made the trip seem more dangerous than it really was.  The ride was silly, a throwback to the benign 1950s Disney-inspired jungle cruises that once could be found at parks across the U.S., filled with lame jokes and animatronic animals that would delight most children.

From there we followed a path to the left that took us past the Sandwich Oasis, an elaborate eatery with a Turkish theme.  Also nearby was an interesting clock tower with happy cartoon children from many nations revolving around it.  We followed a narrow sloping path alongside the track for the Polar Coaster, a steel family roller coaster that was cleverly built into a natural steep slope so that the track was never more than a few feet off the ground for most of its undulating course.  We continued along the path and it took us by an older gentleman costumed as if he lived in the Alps.  He was supposed to be Heidi's grandfather.  He seemed lonely there on his stool, sitting next to his little cottage.  We chatted with him for a while, making pleasant small talk.  Unlike similar characters at Pennsylvania's Idlewild Park (another Parque Reunidos property), none of the performers we met at Story Land seemed too concerned about staying in character.  Karen paused there to have her picture taken with a cartoon goat.  Nearby was the Cuckoo Clockenspiel, a teacup ride with some of the most amazing theming I've ever seen on a standard flat ride.  The building was made to look like a German cuckoo clock and the teacups were similar to the figures that emerge at the top of a clock and circle it every hour.  That alone was impressive, but the interior of the building was absolutely amazing.  It consisted of dozens of large and small wooden gears, all intermeshed and turning.  Behind a fence were three old bearded animatronic figures who appeared to be "running" the ride.  It was enchanting to watch, and was one of the details that made Story Land a cut above a typical children's park.

I should also mention the background music in the park.  It was hard to describe, as if children's nursery rhymes were filtered through Brian Eno.  The music, for the most part, changed to fit the different areas of the park.  Near the Bamboo Chutes, the music was somewhat Chinese.  Around the Splash Battle ride, the music made you feel like you were in Egypt.  At the Cuckoo Clockenspiel, it sounded somewhat German.  It was another nice detail and helped to give a bit more coherence to each section.  The music wasn't necessarily recognizeable, like the typical nursery rhyme songs played at many other children's parks.  But it set the appropriate mood.

All along the sloping path where we walked were miniature buildings, kid-sized versions of real homes, that reminded us a lot of New York's old Storytown U.S.A.  Many of the buildings had wonderfully-detailed interiors.  The one that Karen found the most compelling was a serene chapel.  Next to it was a sign that extolled visitors to "open your heart, to see the world simply and to look at the grandeur of the universe with freshness and the excitement of youth."  The inside of the chapel was peaceful, lit by sconces and ornate stained glass windows.  Even children, when they entered, were silent.

We walked from there over to the Friends Around the World train station and waited for the Huff Puff & Whistle Railroad.  In addition to that clock we saw earlier, there were lots of images in this area that showed children from many nations.  There was also a highly detailed mural on the back wall of the Whistle Stop Ice Cream concession that depicted the train piloted by the park's founders, Bob and Ruth Morrell, surrounded by many of the park's storybook characters.  The train itself was a standard Chance C.P. Huntington model that many parks have.  (The conductor even referred to himself as "Chance the Engineer".)  The journey was enjoyable, giving us a good idea of the layout of the other areas in the park we hadn't yet seen.  There were two other stops along the train made: one next to Oceans of Fun and the other at the front of the park.

After that, it was about noon and we were starting to feel hungry.  Since our train ride ended at Food Fair, we decided to inspect its offerings.  To our delight, there were many vegetarian offerings, from the fairly standard cheese pizzas to salads, macaroni and cheese and even veggie burgers.  The eatery was set up cafeteria-style.  Hardly any food had been placed under the warmers.  Signs at the counter said to ask for any food that you didn't see available.  So Karen and I each ordered a small dish of mac & cheese.  She got a salad and  I also ordered a veggie burger at a separate counter.  As with many other parks, the cafeteria was staffed with international students.  When I asked for my veggie burger, the two guys behind the counter looked puzzled at first and then one of them said, "Oh!  Veggie burger?  Five minute."  I said that was fine.  While I was there, a nearby cooler had small bowls of cole slaw, so I took one of those as well.

Ten minutes passed.  The guys were cooking a lot of regular hamburgs, but I didn't see them even attempt to prepare a veggie burger.  I was about to say something when a girl entered from an outside door at the back of the building.  She had a tray with four veggie burgers on it and dropped it in front of the two guys, who had just placed another hamburg on a bun.  One of the guys took the hamburg off and dropped one of the veggie burgers on it instead and handed it to me.  I didn't bother complaining.  The meal (with drinks) came to about $28, not exactly a bargain but normal for most amusement parks.  We headed for the shade of the nearby World Pavilion, got some condiments and sat down.   I took a bite of the macaroni and cheese.  It was hot enough, but had a grainy texture.  And even though it appeared to be loaded with cheese, it was mostly flavorless.  I took a bite of the veggie burger, and that was pretty good, but lukewarm.  I sampled the cole slaw and immediately spit it out.  It had an odd slimy texture and tasted terrible.  Karen tried it and agreed that it wasn't very good.  I finished the veggie burger, didn't touch the slaw and ate just a little more of the mac & cheese.  Karen finished her salad.  So much for that meal.

We dumped the rest of our meal in the trash and followed a winding path next to Sandwich Oasis.  Far in the distance on a hill, we could see a castle and Karen was curious about it.  The path led us into a Mexican-themed area, a sort of mini boom town.  It directly abutted a set of white fairy-tale castle structures.  Either one would have been fine by itself, but the two areas right next to each other didn't quite mesh.  The main attraction in that area was the Los Bravados Mining Company, which resembled a western version of the crooked man's house.  The entrance advertised "guided tours".  A girl stood at the entrance with a Mexican shawl.  She asked if we wanted a tour.  Karen wasn't a big fan of walk-thru fun houses and asked what was inside.  It became clear that the attraction was similar to Confusion Hill at Idlewild, with lots of tilted rooms and illusions.  Karen decided to brave it anyway.  The first room we were taken to was nearly identical to the one in Confusion Hill.  Even the storyline was similar.  Instead of a house being crooked because of a dynamite blast, this one was crooked because of quicksand.  The room had a table that appeared to be lower on the left than on the right, and a chair that looked level but with unevenly sawed-off legs.  The girl explained that the former resident did this as the house sank into the quicksand.  She had a soda bottle and placed it on the left end of the table, and it appeared to roll uphill.  Then we were taken through a series of twisting cave-like structures with a few silly stunts.  The girl for the most part spoke so quickly that it was nearly impossible to understand what she was saying.  It also didn't help that she lacked enthusiasm for her task, just running through the motions.  At one point she had to deliver a tongue-twister.  She tried three times and finally simply gave up.  That kind of behavior made the entire experience seem sort of half-hearted.  With the right tour guide, Los Bravados could have been a really fun attraction.

There wasn't much else in that area.  Senor Muncheros, a Mexican eatery, offered an attractive shady trellised area.  We continued on in the direction of the castle.  To the left was a large pond, and on the bank were two boat rides.  One was a pirate ship; the other was a magnificent swan boat.  We opted for the swan.

About that time I began to feel strange.  I became cold and clammy and felt nauseous.  I was hoping it was just too much sun or too much walking.  But I knew what the real cause probably was: our lunch.  We sat down in the large boat.  Karen started to feel a little off-balance as well.  On this ride we were told that we'd be heading to the island of butterflies, which was having a problem.  We were looking for Prince Charming along the way.  The boat came to a drawbridge.  To pass under it, everyone had to shout the magic words, "Open Sesame".  The bridge then obediently opened, with toy soldiers blowing trumpets, stationed on parapets at either side of the water.  We then spotted the island.  The flowers and butterflies were all black-and-white.  We had to find Prince Charming and say more magic words.  And of course, we did and all was right with the world.

We arrived back at the dock and I was sweating profusely.  Karen really wanted to see Cinderella's castle, so we walked over the bridge leading us there.  On the side of the bridge opposite the pond was a smaller pond containing small electric swan boats that children could pilot.  The castle looked as you would expect a typical storybook castle to look, complete with leaning towers.  But the inside was quite stately, with crystal chandeliers and a throne where children could sit.  From the courtyard, there was a wide view of the kingdom below, just as you would expect a king or queen to have.

By that point, I really wasn't feeling that good.  Karen was faring better, but still not as good as when we arrived.  We decided to make our way back toward the entrance.  We passed the carousel, and it was one of the most unusual ones I'd seen.  Instead of a pole, the horses were mounted to the deck on a spring-loaded rocking-horse mechanism.  It was similar to a miniature version of the Cedar Downs at Cedar Point.  We continued walking and entered the actual storybook section of the park where there were many of the old familiar animal characters, including the three billy goats gruff, the three little pigs (with their houses of straw, sticks and brick) and Goosey Gander.  Nearby was the spider from Little Miss Muffet.  It would slowly drop down on its web to terrify children.  Further down the path was the obligatory little red schoolhouse that almost every children's park has.  Inside this one was a fiberglass teacher that bore an uncanny resemblance to  Ronald Reagan.

To the left of the schoolhouse was the Little Dreamers Play Area, a small playground.  One of the more interesting things it offered was a big keyboard that was connected to a set of hanging chimes.  However, there wasn't much hope of kids being able to play anything coherent; the notes on the keyboard didn't match the chimes that were sounded.  In fact, some of the notes seemed completely random.  But for the target audience of four- or five-year-olds, it probably didn't matter.

To the right of the schoolhouse was another play area, the Grandfather Tree, and it seemed to be really popular.  It was a climbing structure designed like a big tree.  There were slides on either end.  And the thick branches held creatures that kids could trigger, such as a large butterfly flapping its wings or a woodpecker tapping on a branch.  We stopped to chat with the Old Woman in the Shoe next door.  Then we moved on back toward the park entrance.  We decided to try one more ride while we were there -- the antique cars.  Story Land had a high-tech version.  The autos looked like the typical antique cars, but they were all electric and had proximity sensors on the front and back.  That meant there was no way they could bump into each other (a common problem on most antique car rides).  It also meant that the operators weren't breathing carbon monoxide all day.  And because of the proximity sensors there were only two operators needed, rather than the usual four.  This ride had the longest line we had seen all day.  Within about fifteen minutes we were seated, with Karen driving.  The course wasn't especially long, but it did feature a lot of curious scenery, including a big squirrel and a tall Uncle Sam statue with spinning arms.  And something else we couldn't miss was a big billboard advertising another Parque Reunidos property, Lake Compounce.

Probably the most interesting feature of the ride was a unique gimmick.  As you left the station, a sign featuring the park's mascot (Humpty Dumpty with, inexplicably, a full head of hair) suggested that kids could get their Story Land driver's license.  That was an extra $10 and could be obtained at the little Town Hall building nearby, which was fronted by an animatronic grandma and grandpa in a Model T.  I thought the price was a bit steep, but there seemed to be a steady stream of customers.

By that point I was wiped out and still feeling terrible.  We headed into the air-conditioned Yum-Yum Junction gift shop, which was also the park exit.  I bought a t-shirt and some magnets.  Karen bought a stuffed toy of the park mascot for her granddaughter.  And at about 2:00, our day at Story Land came to an end.  I wished we could have stayed longer, and if it hadn't been for that lunch we might have been able to.  There were still areas of the park we hadn't explored.  It was hard to believe that Story Land encompassed just 35 acres.  It seemed much larger.  Overall, we did like the park.  It offered true family experiences that the young and old alike could have together.  It's too bad that I was disappointed in Roar-O-Saurus.  I probably would have enjoyed it more if it weren't for the attendant who stapled me in.  That seemed to be the area where the park needed the most improvement: so many of the younger employees seemed to have little interest in their job.  They weren't rude, but they seemed preoccupied and not really interested in the guests.  The older employees, on the other hand. seemed to be having more fun than we were.  Karen wanted to return in a few years when our grandchildren were the right age.  Maybe then we'd see the real magic of the park.  We'll just keep the kids away from the cole slaw.

We drove back to our hotel.  I collapsed on the bed and slept for over an hour.  When I awoke, I felt a bit better.  It was 3:30 and still sunny out.  There was one nearby attraction I was determined to see.  Literally around the corner from our hotel was Hartmann's Model Railroad Museum.  We had to pass up similar attractions on many of our other trips simply because there wasn't enough time.  But we had an hour-and-a-half before Hartmann's closed.  So we drove over to it.

The exterior didn't look like much: two long but non-descript Butler buildings set back from the highway.  When we pulled into the parking lot, we wondered if we were at the right place.  Karen noticed a sign directing us around the side of the building where we parked.  There we saw a small O-gauge set.  Behind it was the station for a rideable miniature railway.  But all was quiet.  There didn't seem to be anyone around.  We spotted the museum entrance nearby and walked in.  Two friendly men behind the counter welcomed us.  One was wearing a conductor's cap.  It was Roger Hartmann, the man who built the entire complex.  We paid the modest entrance fee, and he invited us to explore the area and told us about his collection.  He wasn't concerned about authenticity; he enjoyed whimsy.  The museum was comprised of what he and his wife had collected over the years.

The building was vast, about 30,000 square feet of cabinets and railroad layout of all different gauges.  A big red button on the side of each layout would start one or two engines, usually at a ridiculously fast speed, and it would run for a few minutes before shutting off.  Curiously, most of the layouts had just an engine running with no cars attached to it.  But there were a lot of them.  Some had beautifully detailed landscaping.  Others replicated city blocks.  Many made no pretentions to be realistic.  Hartmann often included scenery pieces and figures that were completely out of place, but planted there as sort of "easter eggs" for kids to find.

There were row after row of glass cabinets displaying rolling stock from many different manufacturers all over the world.   There were a few displays of Lionel and Atlas cars, plus some impressive custom-built models.  But because Hartmann was from Switzerland, much of his collection was from Marklin.  His collection wasn't restricted to trains, though.  He also had a large collection of model airplanes suspended from the ceiling.   There was an entire cabinet devoted to Coca-Cola memorabilia.  And there was even a scale reproduction of the battle of Helm's Deep from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

Karen went back to the counter and asked if we could get a ride on the train.  The men explained that because of local laws, they couldn't sell us tickets.  But if we went over to the Hobby Shop and each bought a souvenir, they could give us a "free" ride.  So we visited the other building, which was just as big as the museum and filled with every imaginable model railroad accessory.  Curiously, they wouldn't take credit cards; you had to pay either with cash or check.  Given that many of the items in the Hobby Shop cost hundreds of dollars, I wondered if they sold much.  They did have a nice t-shirt, so I got one for myself and one for my uncle (who got me into model railroading).  I also bought a magnet.  And Karen bough some ornament display stands.  With our goods in hand, we walked outside for our complimentary ride.

I talked with Hartmann about his railroad.  He built it himself, even the train.  He had the trucks custom-fabricated in New Hampshire.  He built the track himself from two strips of angle iron butted together.  In order to form the curves, he had to send sections off to Maine where the track was heated and then bent into shape.  The motor was basically a lawnmower engine that he would pull-start.  He would sit in the front seat of the first car and control the throttle, which was on the back of the engine.  The cars were narrow, but had thickly padded seats (basically a narrow box running the length of the car) and were comfortable.  Hartmann started the engine, removed the block from the track and edged the train forward.  I was surprised at how smooth the ride was, much smoother than most miniature railways I had ridden.  The course meandered around the back of the museum, curved around a shady grove of pine trees and then ran straight alongside the highway.  He had placed various homemade objects along the route: mostly plywood cut-outs, silhouettes of chickens, squirrels and bears.  There were also a few large three-dimensional structures.  As we passed under a small sort of covered bridge structure, Hartmann pointed out a bird that had made a nest there and would always fly away as the train passed, wait a minute and then return to the nest.  The remainder of the course curved around by the entrance and headed back to the station.  It was a delightful ride.  We thanked him, said our goodbyes and headed back to our car.  I was really glad we stopped there.

After that, Karen wanted some supper.  My stomach was still a bit uneasy, but I thought I could handle some ice cream.  So we drove to that little plaza we saw the evening we arrived, next to the scenic overlook.  There was a country store there, so Karen and I checked it out.  It was basically a combination of a convenience store and a flea market.  The plaza also had a Subway shop, and Karen got herself a veggie grinder.  I was feeling a little more hungry, so I got a Flatizza, a sort of mini flatbread cheese pizza.  Next to Subway was Trail's End, an ice cream shop.  I got a small dish of their pecan pie ice cream, which was absolutely delicious.  Karen got a dish of chocolate chip.  It was a nice way to end a long day.

Karen longed for the ocean, so the next morning we packed up and set off for Ogunquit, Maine, where we had stayed a few years before.  The weather didn't seem to be cooperating, though.  The two hour drive east was punctuated by torrential downpours.  We arrived in Wells and stopped for breakfast at the famous Congdon's Donuts.  Karen ordered scrambled eggs, a honey dip donut and a Boston creme donut.  I got (surprise!) blueberry pancakes and home fries.  It was all delicious, and made up for Karen's disappointing lobster omelet.

We arrived at Ogunquit Beach about 9:00.  The sun had come out, but the beach was mostly empty.  The tide was the lowest we'd ever seen it.  We strolled along the hard-packed sand.  We passed about a half-dozen jellyfish that had washed ashore.  After about an hour, thick clouds swallowed up the sun and a dense fog began rolling in from the ocean.  We went back to the parking lot and hopped aboard one of the Ogunquit trollies, thinking it to be a tour of the town.  Instead we discovered it was simply a bus system to transport hotel residents to the beach.  We rode the trolley into Wells, where we had just come from, and back to the beach.  By that time it had begun to rain.  The beach was becoming hidden in fog.  Karen didn't want to leave, but reluctantly we called it a day and left just before heavier rains began to fall.

This trip was a nice change of pace.  The initial drive up to Story Land was exhausting.  But other than that, we had a good time even though the park didn't turn out the way we imagined.  But if we had stayed later at Story Land, we probably wouldn't have visited Hartmann's, which was a real treat.  With another grandkid on the way, I suspect it won't be too long before we return to the White Mountains.

Return to Karen and Jay's Excursions