5 Great Resources & Experiences For Railway Enthusiasts

The railroads have long captured the popular imagination. Today, the train offers a romantic and nostalgic vision of travel for those more accustomed to airplanes and buses. With the breadth and intensity of enthusiasm that railroads attract, a number of experiences are available for train buffs across the United States. In no particular order, this list highlights some of them.

The #1 entry is the Strasburg Rail Road, stationed in Pennsylvania in Lancaster County. Train enthusiasts can purchase tickets to travel for 45-minutes on the locomotive, which was built in 1832 and is the United States' oldest continuously operating short line railroad. The train tour takes riders through some of the Dutch Countryside, with a stop in the town of Paradise. The Lee E. Brenner Dining Car is available to rent for private parties and corporate events.

There are a few themed train rides, such as the "Day Out with Thomas," which is intended for children and based on the well-known cartoon tank engine. Adults might opt for the "Wine and Cheese" journey, which includes seats in the First Class Parlor Car and a selection of beverages and snacks. Fans of the Strasburg can purchase railway-themed souvenirs, such as postcards, books, t-shirts, and hats.

At #2, we have Spike 150, an initiative of Utah's Transcontinental Railroad 150th Celebration Commission. It aims to inspire, educate, and reflect on this critical moment in train history. It has been featured in various media outlets like the New York Times and the Standard-Examiner of Ogden.

The organization's site features numerous resources for those wishing to learn more about the Transcontinental Railroad, such as videos with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Jon Meacham and Utah Poet Laureate Paisley Rekdal.

For #3, we present the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, located in the eponymous Connecticut town. Riders can enjoy a 12-mile locomotive journey that begins at a historic railway station and includes a cruise along the Connecticut River once riders get to Deep River Landing. On the boat, guests will be able to see various landmarks, including Gillette Castle, Goodspeed Opera House, and the Haddam Swing Bridge.

Visitors less interested in the train journey can opt for a 2-hour sunset cruise if desired. In addition, rail-bikes are available to rent for a 4-mile round trip adventure along the Connecticut River. Each month, the Essex Steam Train offers a locomotive expedition that includes a four-course meal served in restored Pullman diner cars from the 1920s.

Coming in at #4 we have the Washington D.C. Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. This nonprofit's mission is to bring together like-minded individuals who enjoy practicing the craft of railfanning. It hosts monthly meetings and many activities, including trips on rail cars, such as the Collinsville Inn, a sleeper unit, and the Dover Harbor.

The Dover Harbor can be chartered for private use; travelers can visit over 500 destinations on the Amtrak system in the United States and Canada. Each year, the Historical Society organizes RailCamp, a week-long overnight camp for high-school students interested in railroads and rail history, preservation, and safety.

Last but not least, we present #5, the Skunk Train. It transports passengers through the Redwood Forest of Mendocino County in California, with departures from Fort Bragg and Willits. The Wolf Tree Turn tour travels for two hours round trip and journeys through the Noyo River Canyon. The railway offers seasonal rides, such as "Pumpkin Express" during autumn and "Magical Christmas," which runs in December.

One can book the Skunk Train for private events, such as field trips, weddings, or family reunions. It has a full-service bar on board, and Northspur Station is an outdoor facility available for a variety of functions. Fans of the locomotive can purchase many souvenirs, including t-shirts, posters, and hats.