Steam Locomotive

I love to travel, and steam train rides are one of my favorite things to do when I visit a new area. Unfortunately, I find that while there are lots of places to ride an authentic steam train, it's often an afterthought when folks suggest things to do in an area. Let's change that! These steam engines have a special place in my heart - as they do with millions of other guys and even some women too!

These locomotives are giant hulking marvels of engineering that represented the pinnacle of technology in their day but are still amazing to experience. In our age, where we covet silent, clean, smooth, and safe modes of transportation, these great mechanical beasts bring us back to a day when none of that was required - just getting the job done and opening up new opportunities to expand and profit. Additionally, I find that while many of these rail museums offer novelty rides such as "Thomas The Tank Engine" or "Polar Express" tours, simply riding the rails allows you to go places and see things that are otherwise inaccessible by car or foot. 

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Despite many of these antique steam trains nearing a century of use, we're lucky that so many of them still exist for us to enjoy today. Most of us even have a location to visit within an easy day trip or at worst a weekend getaway from where we live so they make an excellent excuse to get out of the house and do something new.

Like any rail museum or destination - please make sure to contact the location directly to confirm times, dates, prices, and status regarding what steam locomotives and rolling stock are available.

 

Camp 5 Museum and Lumberjack Steam Train

Take a journey back in time with the Camp 5 Museum to the late 1800's with this vintage steam engine (built in 1916). This 4-Spot engine is the only "Prairie Style" locomotive currently operating in the state of Wisconsin. In the late 1800's, this line served North Woods logging camps and that's where it takes you today on a journey of discovery to explore not just the train but also the logging camp itself. 

 

Steamtown National Historic Site

For a taste of America's railroading history, make sure to visit Steamtown, the former site of the DL&W Scranton Yards in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Visitors are welcome to take a ride on the Scranton Limited and enjoy a 30 minute trip around the rail yard, including a scenic view of the Lackawanna River. Alternatively, on select Sundays, you can board the Nay Aug Gorge Limited for a longer run, including a visit to the entrance of the Nay Aug Tunnel.

 

V&T Railway

Want to catch a nice, long ride in style? Check out the V&T Railway, located in Carson City, Nevada. Steam train rides are available from May to October, taking you between and around Carson City, Virginia City, and Gold Hill. Special feature rides are frequently available, such as the Dinner & Melodrama train where you can enjoy a meal and a show while you ride and the Toast of the Canyon Wine Tasting train.

 

Roaring Camp Railroads

Located in Felton, CA, these railways were once used to ferry lumber down from the mountains, but now you can ride the lines instead. With some of the oldest and most accurately-restored steam engines in the US, you'll get an authentic taste of the power behind these massive vehicles as you take in the majestic redwood forests and travel across the scenic beach boardwalks of Santa Cruz.

 

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

Colorado has numerous railways for tourists to enjoy and this one offers a spectacular journey through the Rocky Mountains on the longest steam-operated railroad in the U.S. These include the steam engines located on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in Antonito, the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad in Cripple Creek, the Georgetown Loop, and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad in Alamosa. Each of these routes provide a stunning look at the natural beauty of Colorado and a glimpse into the state's industrial past, and Colorado is in no short supply of first-class hotels and restaurants to relax at afterward.  (Colorado & New Mexico) - 

 

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train

Once used to haul silver and gold from the San Juan Mountains, the Durango & Silverton rail line now allows tourists to enjoy the scenic views of central Colorado. Journey along the Animas River, see the beautiful countryside, and catch a glimpse of Colorado's bountiful wildlife on a train ride from Durango to Silverton. If you're a real steam train fan, you can even ride inside the engine cab for an up-close opportunity to see how these powerful vehicles work firsthand.

 

More Colorado Steam Train Rides

Colorado is a special place for a lot of different reasons but among those is the rich history of preserving the heritage of steam trains that helped us conquor terrain that was too challenging for cars and foot. Here are a few other places in Colorado where you can ride steam trains through the rocky mountains and along scenic river valleys.

  1. Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad (Cripple Creek) - A scenic journey through the historic gold mining regions of Colorado, providing insights into the Gold Rush era with a four-mile round trip.
  2. Georgetown Loop Railroad (Georgetown) - Connects Georgetown and Silver Plume over an engineering marvel of a looped track, with high trestles and tight curves through the mountainous terrain.
  3. Rio Grande Scenic Railroad (Alamosa) - Offers spectacular scenic views, concert trips, and historical narratives through the southern Rocky Mountains, known as the "Railroad Above the Clouds."
  4. Leadville, Colorado & Southern Railroad (Leadville) - Takes a journey north along the old Denver, South Park & Pacific and Colorado & Southern lines to the Continental Divide, offering breathtaking panoramic views of Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert.
  5. Colorado Railroad Museum (Golden) - While not offering regular steam engine rides (they do have a diesel locomotive), this museum features special event days where steam train rides are available on their loop track around the museum grounds, providing a historical context and close-up experience with steam locomotives.
  6. Tiny Town Railroad (Morrison) - Although Tiny Town's locomotive is a miniature train, it IS steam-operated and coal fired. It offers a quaint ride perfect for families, winding through the miniature town and scenic surroundings.

These locations provide a mix of historical, scenic, and family-friendly steam train experiences across Colorado, each with its unique charm and appeal, so grab a seat and hang on ... it's going to be a fun ride but a bumpy one!

Illinois Railway Museum

Located in the city of Union and dedicated to showing the importance of trains during the growth of Chicago and of the nation, the Illinois Railway Museum is the largest of its kind in the entire United States. Steam train rides are available several days of the week from April through October, taking you around the museum's grounds and allowing you to observe its vast collection of railway artifacts and vintage equipment.

 

 

Strasburg Railroad

Located in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, this quaint rail line has been running steam engines along its 4.5 mile track since 1832, making it America's oldest continuously operating railroad. Offering scenic steam train rides through Pennsylvania's Amish Country it is a step back in time. Round-trip rides on the steam train through the scenic countryside are available nearly all year round, and several luxury cars are available for those looking to ride in the utmost comfort. Special events frequently happen, including wine and cheese Saturdays, vintage baseball days, staged train robberies, and even murder mysteries.

 

B&O Railroad Museum

The museum does not always offer offer steam train rides - but it's worth a visit if you love old trains anyhow! Please call the museum to confirm what trains are running. The birthplace of American railways is the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and this museum is even affiliated with the Smithsonian. The B&O Railroad Museum captures its historical significance in a whole load of fun and interesting ways. Enjoy the food and historical exhibits, see the many vintage steam engines, and while you're there, be sure to hop on the Mile One Express, a twenty minute round trip aboard a steam train around the very first commercial mile of tracks ever used in the United States.

 

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Once a bustling town built around a massive lumber milling complex, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is now a popular tourist destination in West Virginia and the perfect vacation spot for train lovers. Vintage steam engines transport passengers on long train rides along three separate routes, including visits to beautiful, untamed wilderness, tall mountains, and the ruins of the nearby logging town of Spruce.

 

Disneyland Railroad and Other Theme Parks

Yes, most of you have probably ridden this at least once, but no roundup of places to ride a steam train would be complete without including the Disneyland Railroad. Unlike other train rides on this list, this one will take you back in time ... all the way back to pre-history with the dinosaurs, as well as the American west (Adventure Land), and other parts of Disneyland. 

Disney World also operates steam locomotives. The ones at the Florida park though originally were originally built in the 1880s by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and operated on a narrow-gauge railroad in Mexico. 

Other amusement parks around the United States also offer scenic steam train rides for guests, these include:

 

The Mount Washington Cog Railway

If you want to see some incredible sights, consider taking a three-hour trip to the highest peak in New England on one of the Mount Washington Cog Railway's steam train tours. You'll have the chance to marvel at the only Cog railway in the eastern United States as you ride the world's oldest mountain climbing train and spend a full hour at the summit of Mount Washington, where you can enjoy the magnificent views, gourmet food, and many attractions on location.

 

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, located in Jamestown, California, near Sacramento, offers a six-mile roundtrip ride through the Sierra foothills. The railroad here is also know as "The Movie Railroad" since its locomotives and cars have appeared in more than 200 films, TV shows, and commercials.This includes Back to the Future Part III and Petticoat Junction. Other attractions here include an authentic railroad roundhouse, functioning blacksmithing area and belt-driven machine shop as well as related historic structures and Hollywood props.

 

Nevada Northern Railway

The Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Nevada is often referred to as one of the best preserved historic railways in North America. It has also served as a movie and music video site including Willy Nelson's "Once upon a Texas Train". The railway includes a 1910-era depot, tunnels, and cuts with operating steam and diesel locomotives, passenger equipment, wrecking cranes, boxcars, ore cars, tank cars, and even a rotary snowplow.

In addition to their standard 90-minute tour they also offer the Great Basin Star Train where you can head out way beyond most light pollution. This tour will include members of the National Park Service known as "Dark Rangers" with telescopes to help guests explore the night sky.

 

Other Awesome Steam Engine Train Rides:

Riding a coal-powered steam train offers a unique and nostalgic experience. Whether you wanting to ride the rails as part of a guys trip or a /father-and-son-trips, steam engines train rides offer a sense of nostalgia and visceral excitement that few other forms of transportation truly can. From the whistle to the clouds of steam and an occasional spark as you roll down the tracks, this is an experience that you just have to try more than once. Here’s a list of the top 20 places in the United States where you can enjoy this historic form of travel:

  1. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (Durango, Colorado) - Travels through breathtaking canyons in the remote wilderness of the San Juan National Forest.
  2. East Broad Top Railroad (Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania) - This historic narrow-gauge railroad offers a trip back in time through the rural Pennsylvania countryside.
  3. Nevada Northern Railway (Ely, Nevada) - Known as the best-preserved short-line in North America, offering several themed rides throughout the year.
  4. Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (Cumberland, Maryland) - Features a climb through the Allegheny Mountains with spectacular views and historical commentary.
  5. Chelatchie Prairie Railroad (Yacolt, Washington) - Provides a scenic journey through forests, across a trestle, and past a beautiful waterfall.
  6. Black Hills Central Railroad (Hill City, South Dakota) - This railroad is famous for its 1880 Train, a two-hour, round-trip ride through South Dakota's scenic Black Hills.
  7. Sumpter Valley Railroad (Baker City, Oregon) - A restored narrow-gauge train that offers a glimpse into the rich history of Oregon's gold mining region.
  8. Hesston Steam Museum (LaPorte, Indiana) - Not only a museum but also offers train rides on its extensive grounds featuring different gauge tracks.
  9. Northern Central Railway Of York (New Freedom, Pennsylvania) - Offers educational rides on a 1860s steam locomotive as well as a GP9 diesel engine that follow the same route that Abraham Lincoln took to deliver his Gettysburg Address.They offer a variety of historical programming where you can meet presidents and generals as well as experiencing a taste of the wild west while celebrating a rail road that literally helped build a nation and keep it together during the Civil War.
  10. Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad (Elbe, Washington) - Provides a ride through the forests and foothills south of Mount Rainier National Park.
  11. Essex Steam Train (Essex, Connecticut) - Offers rides through the picturesque Connecticut River Valley, including unique riverboat connections.
  12. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (Bryson City, North Carolina) - Features a variety of train excursions through the beautiful landscapes of North Carolina.
  13. Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad (Boone, Iowa) - Provides a variety of train rides, including themed events and dinner trains, through the scenic Des Moines River Valley.
  14. Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (New Haven, Indiana) - Offers occasional excursions and events featuring historic steam locomotives.

These places offer a ride and a deep dive into America's rich railway history, making them must-visit destinations for train enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Did we miss any places that deserve to be on this list of steam train rides in the United States?