AIRY WONDER: Natural watery phenomena are regularly paired with seasons that best symbolize some of their most apparent properties. Rain and springtime are an old twosome -- April showers and so on and so on -- while winter and snow (and icicles and sleet and flakes and so on and so on) are a common duo. Summer? We'll say sweat is its frequent moisture-based feature, though lakes and creeks seem pretty darn summery, too. But what of fall? That's a little tougher. Sure there's rain, and sweat, and, on occasion, snow, but those gloamy early evenings and hue-tinged leaves speak of a much more romantic expression of water: steam. It's old-timey, and appears in films at their most heart-tuggy heights, like when people wave goodbye to each other train platforms. Oh, that's where you're apt to see steam these days, on platforms, though don't go looking for it in modern stations: Places like Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton rule the steam thing. And the nostalgia-sweet trackline pauses each autumn to bid autumn hello, yes, but to also celebrate steam, the airy substance often seen trailing above the Roaring Camp engines.
OCT. 4 AND 5: October's starting-out weekend gets harvest-y on the scarecrow-constructing, pumpkin patch-enjoying end of things, but steam'll be a superstar of the two-day festival, too. "Behold steam-powered line shafts, player pianos, letter-presses, printing presses, and more!" advises the Roaring Camp HQ. Given the rise (and rise and rise) of steampunkery as a lifestyle and creative aesthetic, and the return to some of the ye olde ways of doing things ("doing things"=homekeeping, gardening, beer-makery), pondering steam as a very solid subject matter, in a fun and kid-nice setting, is a fine way to spend a weekend afternoon. Riding a steam-puffing train? The icing on the cake, or, perhaps more fittingly, the toot out of a steam-powered whistle. Admission? It's free, while steam train rides are extra.