Blue Ridge Steamers
Twenty minutes south of Roanoke, a small group of enthusiasts gathers to pursue their lifelong passions for railroads.
The Blue Ridge Live Steamers club has a 4000-foot track winding around a large yard, where members and guests ride in specially designed cars pulled by exquisite replica locomotives.
“The sport of outdoor miniature trains is called ‘live steam railroading’,” says devotee James Hughes. “but steam engines are rare now. They’re finicky and costly.”
Most locomotives are now gas-hydraulic, typically 10 feet long. Costs start at $10,000 and the sky’s the limit.
A northern California native, Hughes works for Norfolk Southern, maintaining rails. So this is both profession and hobby. “It’s all about trains,” he says. “I eat it up!”