PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Go ahead. Rip a page out of the past. Walk among icons in the world of aviation, rail and autos – conveyances that made history or at least provided a ride for your grandparents. And all within a day or weekend trip from home. Welcome aboard.
Few people living today remember the runways and tower of a Naval Air Station near Wildwood at the Jersey shore. But it played a vital role in training American dive bomber pilots. More than 40 crashed while learning maneuvers that had them dive at a steep angle to plant bombs and torpedoes on moving targets. Today, the Cape May airport is operating on the site of the former air station and it hosts a museum containing more than two dozen vintage aircraft including the faithfully restored World War II Grumman Avenger. Kids can sit in cockpits, vets enjoy visiting an old G.I. canteen and the museum is building a unique Coast Guard exhibit. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $12, Children 12 and under: $10.
Heading to the Delaware shore points? Set a course for the Dover Air Force base and a unique museum that has gathered more than 30 aircraft from pre-WWII trainers to the giant “Galaxy” that moves armies and their gear. For me, the focal point is the beautifully restored “Flying Fortress” that blackened the skies over Hitler’s Germany, a C-54, the workhorse of the Berlin Air Lift and the C-47 that supplied the Chinese resistance during the Japanese occupation. Knowledgeable vets tell their tales with enthusiasm. Admission and parking are free. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There was a time that Philadelphia area folks traveled to their summer holiday destinations by rail. They took along steamer trunks that were carried in baggage cars. It was an airline experience on the rails. Few people owned automobiles. Today we have several rail lines, in our region, operated by volunteers and powered by vintage locomotives. They offer us a chance to ride and experience the carefree and scenic travel available to generations past. Climb on board in the heart of New Hope for a 45 minute journey along the Delaware River and through picturesque Bucks County countryside. Ride enclosed or open air cars and taste the flavor of travel in a less hurried time. Adult fares start at $21, with discounts for kids and seniors. Special event tours that include wine tastings are available. Navigate here for all the prices and schedules: https://www.newhoperailroad.com/traditionalexcursions/
Take a drive to Boyertown in nearby Berks County to climb aboard the Colebrookdale Railroad collection of vintage engines and cars. Then relax and marvel at the scenic passage along once busy tracks through countryside, woods, farm land and streams. The Fourth of July evening excursion will include a Pottstown stop for entertainment and a laser light show at Memorial Park. The traditional 2 hour tour is a leisurely run between the two towns in dining, open air or coach cars – even a posh coach that evokes the bygone days of Berks County Railroad barons who launched the once thriving Reading Railroad. Adult fares are $30 to $50, depending on the accommodations, with discounts for kids and seniors. And if you can score it, there’s one seat occasionally available in the locomotive at $175.
There was a time in the history of the “Horseless Carriage” that if it had wheels and an engine it was likely to have been built right here in Pennsylvania. They had names that have faded from memory like Duryea of Reading, Autocar of Ardmore, Daniels, Henry and Hill. You see them at the cavernous Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. These are one of a kind cars and last surviving examples of unique entries in Pennsylvania’s automotive history including cars that steered with a tiller. There are cars that looked like carriages, but without the horse. It’s a dynamic collection that includes early motorcycles and trucks. Since many early “Sunday Drives” ended at a diner, the museum includes a restored roadside diner and its identifying counter. Make it a combined Boyertown visit – see the cars and ride the rails. Museum Adult admission is $8 with discounts for seniors and Triple-A members. Kids 15 and under enter free. The museum operates from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., all week.
Other stops to time travel with planes, train and automobiles include the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum at the Reading Regional Airport, The Strasburg Railroad near Lancaster and the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia
Enjoy the ride!