My daughter recently announced, “I'm so glad I didn't grow up in the 1990's,” as if it were the Stone Age. Having grown up earlier than that, I had to smile at her perspective.
A trip on the Heber Valley Railroad, known to longtime locals as the Heber Creeper, takes passengers even farther back in time. The station has a historic look and feel, the train cars – and possibly their upholstery – are original, and there is no air conditioning or Wi-Fi. It's an excursion to a different time, when people opened the windows on a summer day and multi-tasking meant enjoying a conversation while admiring the scenery outside.
Some things on the Heber Valley Railroad have been updated. There is a tiny bathroom with modern plumbing on the train. My three-year-old nephew thought that was pretty exciting and he used it several times. The prices at the snack bar are up-to-date as well. We gave our children a $2 budget, which allowed them to buy one drink, popcorn, or candy bar, with a little change to spare.
We rode the Deer Creek Express with my husband's extended family. My children loved sharing seats and exploring the train cars with their cousins. Unlike those of us who really did grow up in the “Dark Ages”, they have no idea what it is like to ride anywhere without a seat belt, so roaming the cars on a moving train was a novel and memorable experience.
Black Jack Raven and the Soldier Hollow Gang robbed the train not long into our journey. They were not real robbers, of course, but entertainers who added excitement to the trip. They are more silly than scary, though one toddler in our car would disagree. Later, a young fiddler walked the aisles playing old tunes like “Turkey in the Straw.” I was impressed that she could walk and play so well in the rocking train car.
The Deer Creek Express is a two-hour ride to and from Deer Creek Reservoir. Choose seats on the far side of the car. The best scenery, including Deer Creek Reservoir, is on that side. The train cars are not all the same. We found after we had settled our large group that the car on the other side of the snack car had a little more legroom and few passengers. Some of us found our way there by the end of the trip.
The scenery includes farm country, mountain vistas and lovely Deer Creek Reservoir. It was peaceful and beautiful, though not especially dramatic. The biggest moment of the trip was sighting a moose standing calmly alongside the water. We saw a deer as well. My father-in-law showed us a spot where he used to go fishing.
The Deer Creek Express runs Tuesday-Saturday, early June to mid-October. It also runs on selected dates in November and December. Adult tickets are $24. Tickets for children, ages 3-12, cost $14. Group discounts are available.
The Deer Creek Express is just one of 16 itineraries offered by the Heber Valley Railroad. Some of the trains are seasonal, such as the Pumpkin Patch, Haunted Canyon or North Pole Express. Others include dinner and entertainment. Adventure seekers may want to try Reins ‘n Trains or Raft ‘n Rails. When Thomas comes to town, the Heber Valley Railroad is the place to find him. The scenic Deer Valley Express or the Provo Canyon Limited are the best bet for budget-conscious families.
Stop for burgers and shakes at Dairy Keen at 199 S. Main Street in Heber City after a ride on Heber Valley Railroad. This train-themed restaurant is delicious, inexpensive and fun for families.
My modern daughter loved her trip on the Heber Valley Railroad. She didn't notice that it was nostalgic and old-fashioned. Whether old-fashioned or new, fun is still fun.