This is the most famous cave in the Shenandoah Valley. Guided tours depart regularly all day. The rock formations are some of the most impressive that I've ever seen.
Of particular interest is the Stalacpipe Organ. Using the cavern itself to produce music, this is the world's largest musical instrument. It was invented in 1954 by Leland W. Sprinkle. A scientist and mathematician at the Pentagon, Sprinkle spend three years designing and building this remarkable work.
On the way out, you can toss a few coins into the Wishing Well. All of the money goes to charities, which are listed on a sign.
Tours begin daily at 9:00 am. Last tour time depends on the season. Check the website.
I was a bit surprised to see a maze in quite many popular tourist places in the USA - for example in Williamsburg, Virginia. The function of these places is surely to attract kids and seeing kids running and shouting like crazy it worked quite efficient :-).
The trees of Thuja occidendalis (called American Arborvitae in the USA) creating a one-half mile pathway of puzzlement look interesting. But I didn't spend $6 (children 6-12 years old $5) to enter the Luray maze. It's an attraction for kids or for more kiddy by heart adults than me. Aditionally a few mazes I've seen in Europe were always free of charge. So, I probably think the same about paying for entering a maze in the USA as US visitors about restroom fee in Europe (I don't like it, too).
I've read at place that the Luray Garden Maze is one of the largest mazes in the Mid-Atlantic states. Well, after a few days travels Virginia became for me a Southern state (except vinicities of Washington, DC in northern Virginia) not a Mid-Atlantic one. I simply started to recognize local culture not only the location.
The Luray Caverns advertise as a home to the world's largest musical instrument - the Great Stalacpipe Organ. It's a keyboard instrument that works by tapping stalactites of varying sizes with rubber-tipped mallets which are attached to solenoids in order to produce tones. It was invented by Virginian mathematician and electronic scientist at the Pentagon in 1954.
Well, despite the proud writing "Man's genius and the hand of God are in perfect harmony" the instrument itself is a kind of tourist trap but its location in Luray Caverns definetely isn't. Today, the organ is played by activating an automated system which works similar to a child's music box - I've heard it and it was nothing special. The instrument could also play manually from the console but it didn't. Instead I've found recordings of the organ on CDs available in caverns gift shop.
My ticket to Luray Caverns (it cost $19) included self-guided tour to the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum located in relatively small, seperate building. To my surprise there are over 100 cars, carriages and coaches dating back to 1725 in the museum. It's a real paradise for every fan of old cars. Let me introduce some highlights of the museum in the next pictures and tips:
Pictures 1 and 3:
This small, well preserved, bright yellow car was made in Manchester, England by Speedwell Motor Car Company in 1903. The company existed until 1908. Keep in mind that long before globalisation there were over 1000 British Motor Manufacturers who were in business between 1894 and 1960, including 135 operating in 1903.
The displayed Speedwell 1903 has an 1-cylinder, water-cooled, gasoline engine of 6 horse power. Its driver's compartment is so small that a grown man of today can't get his knees under the steering wheel. The car, made almost entirely of French components, was advertised as "the most powerful, the most flexible, the most silent, the fastest on hills."
Spider Surrey carriage (1900)
Benz from 1892 is one of the oldest automobiles on display in the USA and top highlight of the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum. It was one of the very first cars produced in any quantity for resale. It has single cylinder, water-cooled, gasoline engine of 5 horse power and referring to the information given in the museum the automobile is still in operating condition. Well, I would rather call this early automobile a horseless or engine-powered carriage. Did you know that drivers of that vehicle had to stop at every pharmacy on the way to buy gasoline which was available only from pharmacies that sold it as a cleaning product, and they didn't stock it in large quantities.
These cars were manufactured in Mannheim, Germany by Benz & Company Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, usually referred to as Benz & Cie. In the beginning it was a bicycle repair shop. Then they produced industrial machines and gas engines, finally automobiles. It was the largest automobile company in the world with 572 units produced in 1899.
The first ever "automobile fueled by gas" - a three-wheeler - was created by Karl Benz in 1985 and patented in 1986, six years before the car displayed in Luray was produced. American Henry Ford had an engine running by 1893 but it was 1896 before he built his first car. Well, Americans were focused on steam powered cars; the early ones looked like miniature locomotives. However in 1888 William Steinway, owner of Steinway & Sons piano factory, made a deal with Karl Benz and founded the Daimler Motor Company which by 1891 produced petrol engines in a plant in Hartford, Connecticut.
Orient Auto from 1903 is the oldest American car on display in the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum. This unique automobile was built almost entirely of hickory wood in the Waltham Manufacturing Company in Massachussets (museum now). It was the first car owned by Ralph De Palma, the famous race driver. These cars were used for postal delivery. Single cylinder, air-cooled, 4 horse power gasoline engine needed a lot of fuel: gas consumption was 35 miles per gallon.
Look at French Peugeot Touring manufactured in Paris in 1896 (picture 3-5). The best seen feature of this car is a single and large lamp put assymetrically on a front bumper. The passangers on front benches were seated back to the front. This car could move at very high speed for that time: 20 mph. It has the first Peugeot engine: 2-cylinder, water cooled, gasoline engine of 4 hour power as well as 4 gear manual transmission. Very unusual feature of this vehicle is the crossbar, two-handled steering mechanism in place of either tiller or wheel.
Parisien industrialist Armand Peugeot produced bicycles in the beginning (till 1926). The first Peugeot automobile (a three-wheeled steam-powered car) was produced in 1889, the first petrol-fueled Peugeot (four-wheeled) automobile from 1890 was powered by a Daimler engine. First Peugeot fuel engines were manufactured in 1896.
Oldsmobile Curved Dash Runabout from 1904 was the first US mass-produced automobile manufactured by the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan, a company founded by Ransom E. Olds in 1897 which for some time became top US car producer. General Motors purchased the company in 1908.
The car on display in Luray still looks like a carriage. It's powered by a single-cylinder fuel engine of 7 horse power. The top speed of this car was 18.6 mph (30 km/h). It's interesting that the first speedometer to be offered on a car is on an Oldsmobile.
Look also at unusual three-wheeler - Riley Tri-Car - manufactured in Coventry, England in 1905. Riley was a British automobile and bicycle manufacturer from 1890 (later British Leyland, now the trademark is owned by BMW). The three-wheeler was a taxi-like vehicle powered by 2 cylinder, 6 horse power engine. It had to be difficult for a driver to see when he was going with a passanger seated in front of him.
I liked especially bright red Buick Roadster from 1907, the sporty little car, the "grandfather" of a long and very successful line of automobiles. I noted exposed gas tank and the lack of a windshield. The automobile was powered by 2-cylinder 10 horse power engine.
The Buick Motor Company was founded in 1903 by the Scottish-American David Dunbar Buick (who invented the overhead valve engine on which the company's success was based) in Flint, Michigan. Buick soon became the largest car maker in America and was the parent company of General Motors, new mega-corporation founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1908. With the production of over 9 mln cars (2005) GM is the world's largest automaker.
Cadillac Touring from 1904 according to the information given at the museum can quickly be converted into a two-place roadster by loosening four bolts and completely removing the rear entrance. It was powered by single cylinder 10 horse power engine and cost "only" $900.00.
Cadillac has always been a prestige and luxary automobile. Like in Europe Rolls-Royce, in the USA the name Cadillac became a synonym for "high quality", used in such phrases as "the Cadillac of clocks."
The Cadillac Automobile Company, part of General Motors, was founded and completed the first car in 1902: practically identical to the famous 1903 Ford Model A. The company was named after the 17th century French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, founder of Detroit, Michigan in 1701.
Heavy Knox Touring from 1903 was probably the most luxary and expenive car of that year. Well, it cost $2000 but could seat up to 7 persons including a driver. Theair-cooled single-cylinder engine, situated at the center of the car, produced 8 hp (6 kW).
Knox Automobile Company was a manufacturer of automobiles in Springfield, Massachusetts between 1900 and 1914. Well, their cars were too expensive to survive on the borning automobile market. The company made farm tractors until 1924.
1903 WINTON ROADSTER
This beautiful car powered by 2 cylinder, 20 horse power engine was one of the first automobiles which didn't look like a carriage. It can be quickly and easily converted from a rear-entrance touring to a snappy two-place roadster. This was also one of the earliest cars to be equipped with wheel steering and single-tube pneumatic tires. In 1903 Winton roadster made the first successful automobile drive across the United States from San Francisco to New York.
The Winton Motor Carriage Company of Cleveland, Ohio - established in 1897 by Scottish immigrant, Alexander Winton - was a pioneer United States automobile manufacturer and the first American company to sell a motor car (until 1924).
1909 MIDDLEBY ROADSTER
It's likely the car displayed in Luray is the only Middleby still in existence. This snappy little roadster was found in the Town of Luray, Virginia. It had belonged to Mr. H.J. Studebaker, former freight agent for the N. & W. Railroad. It's equipped with large air-cooled fan, wooden frame and original white rubber tires. It has 4-cylinder engine of 20 horse power placed in the front that was not yet common that time.
1908 DELAUNAY BELLEVILLE TOWN CAR
This luxary car with mahogany coach work, leather three stage fenders and original upholstery was custom-made for the Baron Rosenkratz and has travelled well over 300,000 miles.
Automobiles Delaunay-Belleville - established in 1903 - was a French luxury automobile manufacturer from St. Denis sur Seine, France. Their cars were most prestiogious in the world and favourite automobiles of Russian Tsar Nicholas II.
1914 LOCOMOBILE MODEL 48
This speedy car was definetely designated for real (and rich) guys. Its powerful 6-cylinder, 49 horse power engine made the automobile very fast: it could drive up to 70 mph (112 km/h). The reserve water tanks, exposed gas tank, machine hammered dash panel and monocle windshield are well seen feautures of this beautiful car. Hmm... it cost $5,100 - a lot that time.
The Locomobile Company of America based in Bridgeport, Connecticut always built some of the finest automobiles. It was considered by many the "American Rolls-Royce" in standard. A Locomobile was the first United States-built car to win an international motor race, taking the Vanderbilt Cup in Long Island, NY in 1908.
1910 MAXWELL ROADSTER
This beautiful red car for 2 persons was very popular in its era and became one of the base cars in the formation of huge Chrysler Corporation in 1925. It has no windshield and 2 cylinder, 14 horse power engine. The automobile produced by the Maxwell-Briscoe Company of Tarrytown, New York cost only $850. It is perhaps most famous as the vehicle driven by comedian Jack Benny on his radio and television programs.
1910 BUICK MODEL 10
This is the famous "Little White Buick" which brought Buick Motor Company into its first big production levels. Note inclusion of oil lamps, tail lights, head lights, gas generator and a horn as standard equipment. It has 4 cylinder engine of 22 horse power. The car - produced in Flint, Michigan - cost $1,750, over twice more than Maxwell.
FORD MODEL T (1915)
This is the car that literally put America on wheels. The first Model T was produced at the Piquette Plant in Detoit, Michigan in 1908. 1915 was the year that Ford produced its one-millionth vehicle. Through mass-production methods, Henry Ford developed one of the first well engineered, rugged; yet, precise-made, dependable and first of all cheap autos.
That one on display in Luray cost only $800 in 1915. Its distinguishing features include a metal cowl replacing the cherry wood dash, a louvered hood, and discontinuing of the speedometer. The four-cylinder motor is placed in the front and powers the rear wheels. The 20 horsepower engine was capable of carrying the vehicle to a top speed of around 45 mph (72.4 km/h). The engine started by a hand crank located at the front of the vehicle. The crank was very difficult to operate and has been the cause of many broken arms.
1911 HUPMOBILE PHAETON
The Hupmobile was an automobile built from 1909 through 1940 by the Hupp Motor Company of Detroit, Michigan. This beautiful roadster of unusual body design and sporty apperance was advertised as the little car that was constructed better than the larger ones. It cost only $750.00 and was a very good seller.
These two cars displayed in the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum look similar at first sight but the second one is powered by a steam engine.
1912 METZ MODEL 22
The Metz displayed in Luray has a friction-type drive that is a steel disc rotating in one plane drives a fiber disc operating in a plane 90 degrees to it. The engine turns the steel disc, and the fiber disc turns the drive wheel. Pay attention to the Mother-in-law seat in rear. The automobile has 4-cylinder, 22 horse power engine.
Metz Company produced cars and motorcycles in Waltham, Massachusetts from 1898 until 1922, reaching 1,000 cars per month in the best 1912.
1913 STANLEY MODEL 66
This car is unique as it has an aluminium body, handmade. It's readily detachable exposing wooden frame. The Stanley is powered by 10 horse power steam engine. The boiler is wrapped with sturdy piano wire to prevent injury in case of a boiler explosion.
The Stanley Motor Carriage Company produced steam cars from 1897 until 1927. During the mid to late 1910s steamers were replaced by internal combustion engines. That time the fuel efficiency and power delivery of internal combustion engines improved dramatically and the usage of an electric starter rather than a crank start which was notorious for injury to its operators also led to the rise of the gas-powered automobile which eventually was much cheaper. A 1924 Stanley 740D sedan cost $3950, compared to a few hundred dollars for a Ford Model T of the same period.
Both Ford trucks displayed in the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum are equipped with 4-cylinder, 22 horse power Ford engine.
1912 FORD TRUCK MODEL T C-CAB DELIVERY
This beautiful, extremely rare today, truck was produced from 1908 until 1927.
1914 FORD MODEL T MILK WAGON
The writing on the white body - an exact duplicate of the original - advertises milk produced by Shanandoah Valley Dairy in Winchester. Referring to the advertisement the bottle of milk cost only 5 cents that time, the whole car cost 20,000 bottles of milk ($1000). This was the last year Ford produced gas lamps for its cars. The delivery truck reputedly gave 200 miles' service on 10 gallons of gas.
1915 DODGE ROADSTER
Refereing to information given in the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum this black car is extremely rare as Dodge produced very few roadsters. This particular model was popular with doctors of the period. Well, I can agree, the car looks great and serious. The automobile cost $785. It's powered by 4-cylinder and 35 horse power engine. A novel feature is the combined generator and started driven by silent chain. It was the first car to have an all-steel body.
The Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicle Company was established by Dodge brothers in Detroit, Michigan in 1914. The Chrysler Corporation acquired the Dodge company in 1928. In 1998, Dodge, along with all other Chrysler subsidiaries merged with Daimler-Benz. Thus Dodge is part of DaimlerChrysler AG, based in Stuttgart, Germany.
1915 CHEVROLET 490 TOURING
I've got to know that this model has began great competition between Ford and Chevrolet that has lasted through the years. Louis Chevrolet had produced automobiles for several years before this model, but they all had been of a "custom" high-priced quality. 490 Touring price of $490 was to compete with Ford's Model T at $495. The four-cylinder motor is placed in the front and powers the rear wheels. The 19 (Ford T - 20) horsepower engine was capable of carrying the vehicle to a top speed of around 50 mph = 80 km/h (Ford T: 45 mph = 72.4 km/h.)
The Chevrolet Motor Car Company was co-founded by Swiss-born racecar driver Louis Chevrolet and founder of General Motors William C. Durant in 1911 to compete with the Ford Model T. Chevrolet (colloquially Chevy) is the top selling GM marque. In the North American market in 2005, Chevrolet outsold its main American rival, Ford, for the first time in 19 years, making it once again the top-selling marque in the United States.