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Column: Travel for the sake of travel

Named after a small town between Augusta and Atlanta on the old Georgia Railroad, the Dearing is a 1925 Pullman railroad car. It is an appropriate name for our vintage railroad car since my husband’s grandfather was the station agent at Dearing and we wanted to pay tribute to him and the history of the Georgia Railroad.

Nelson and I rescued the car from certain death in a scrap yard in 2006. For the next six years, we poured money and love into the car to bring her up to Amtrak passenger car requirements — allowing us to travel on the rear of regularly scheduled Amtrak trains.

Few people realize that privately owned railroad cars are routinely traveling across the county for business and pleasure. In addition to ones owned by freight railroads, there are about 250 vintage cars now in service. They provide views of America that can only be seen by rail.

This is travel for the sake of travel — not merely to reach a destination. The cars, known as private varnish, for their highly varnished wooden walls, are both historic and luxurious. Most have spacious staterooms and comfortable lounges. Gourmet meals, prepared by private chefs, are served on fine china and linen.

Borden Black

Borden Black joins All On Georgia-Muscogee after spending spent more than 20 years as a broadcast journalist — most of it as a television news director.

She led all three local television newsrooms and was also a reporter and anchor. She received an Emmy and an Associated Press President’s Award for lifetime achievement.

Leaving broadcasting, Borden opened her own public relations and writing/video production firm. She wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years.

In 2006, she and her husband Nelson bought and restored the Dearing, a 1925 heavyweight railroad car. After extensive renovation it hit the rails in 2012. Borden spent four years as Executive Director of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners and her husband serves on the council of the National Association of Rail Passengers.

They have lived in Columbus for 40 years and are graduates of the University of Alabama.

The Dearing has covered more than 60,000 miles since she hit the rails in 2012. We have traveled from Maine to Miami and Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. We have seen majestic mountains, raging whitewater, vibrant cities and quaint small towns.
We have experienced nature from our open-air platform and seen the backyards of America. It is hard to paint a picture in words of the beautiful rolling country sides and expanses of wilderness still undisturbed by cell towers and roads. It takes your breath away.

The Dearing — a nicely restored Pullman — is one of nearly 250 privately-owned rail cars now traveling across America.

The scenery on several of those trips will never be forgotten … crossing the eastern continental divide on the way to Asheville, NC, … parking on a dock in the Gulf of Mexico, riding along the California Coast from Napa to St. Luis Obispo and passing through the Hoosick tunnel — one of the longest on the east coast.
Cities where we park and tour are just as memorable. Our favorite is Washington, D.C. We stay on the car in Union Station just blocks from the National Mall and Smithsonian Museums. In New Orleans, the station is a short trolley ride to Bourbon Street and we park next to the river in Chicago.
The highlight is sitting on the platform feeling the rocking of the car on the rails, the clickity clack of the wheels, wind in your hair and the smell of brakes. As you pass crossings, drivers in the stopped cars wave. No one waves at airplanes.

Talented chefs serve beautiful gourmet meals while click-clacking down the rails.

It’s not all about the view. We have hosted fascinating passengers from all walks of life. After spending several days with them in an 85- foot-long, 10-foot-wide space we have become fast friends.
We still have miles and miles to go. Before the year ends, the Dearing will take a car load of passengers to Burlington, VT, stopping in Albany, Utica and Saratoga Springs.
One of my favorite trips occurs in October. The 51st New River Train will take leaf peepers from Huntington to Hinton, WV for two weekends. A special train of 30 private cars from all over the country will wind its way through the New River Gorge — a voyage that can only be made by train or raft.
In November, the Dearing will make an overnight trip to Chicago for the National Association of Railroad Passengers convention. Finally, what has become an annual tradition, we will take passengers to New Orleans between Christmas and New Year’s.
In addition to a special restaurant week in the Crescent City, there is the experience of traveling the causeway, feeling like you are floating over Lake Ponchartrain. Join me here and I will take you on these adventures; sharing impressions of the passengers and crew and the challenges that always occur with a 90-year-old piece of history.
Welcome aboard.
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