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Vintage Railway Experiences and Attractions in the US

In a past era, travel by rail was one of the most luxurious and adventurous ways to travel across the miles. While train travel may never be what it once was, there are some amazing vintage railway experiences and attractions scattered across the United States. Once-famous train cars have been converted into spaces for scenic tours, cozy dining, and hiking destinations. Place one of these railway experiences and attractions on your next travel itinerary.

Verde Valley Railroad

Clarksdale, AZ

Jerome Arizona: Historic Jerome Grand Hotel and Verde Valley.
Jerome Arizona: Historic Jerome Grand Hotel and Verde Valley.

Take this southwest passenger train and travel back in time to some of Arizona’s most beautiful backcountry and red rock canyons. You won’t see this landscape except by rail, and tourists love the original train car seating, panoramic windows, and classic furnishings. This four-hour tour is perfect for adults and children alike and begins with refreshing beverage and a light snack. The train host describes famous Arizona landmarks and offers some musical interludes. An outdoor car is easily accessible at any time, weather permitting. The Verde Valley Railroad is only a half-hour drive from beautiful Sedona—and the perfect getaway to enhance your vacation and create a travel memory.

Grand Canyon Railway

Williams, AZ

The train to the Grand Canyon waiting at Williams Station, Arizona illuminated by a fiery sunset sky.
The train to the Grand Canyon waiting at Williams Station, Arizona illuminated by a fiery sunset sky.

The vintage Grand Canyon Railway system originated in 1901 and still runs today to transport tourists from Williams, Arizona, to the gorgeous South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This 65-mile trip includes views of one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States. Site narration with music is  offered by some of the park’s most knowledgeable hosts. This two-hour railway experience includes a car class of choice, from luxurious to casual. There is plenty of wildlife, scenic views, and some package deals for the whole family. The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is nearby and there are also a number of attractions and activities in Williams, Arizona, to add to your travel itinerary.

Virginia and Truckee Railroad

Virginia City, NV

Virginia and Truckee Railroad, Nevada
Virginia and Truckee Railroad, Nevada

Select from various types of railway experiences at the Virginia and Truckee Railroad located in the eccentric Virginia City. Enhance your vacation with a steam train ride or a diesel train ride, and plan on a special experience if you make your travel reservations around a holiday. There are two routes to choose from—Virginia City to Gold Hill (only 35 minutes) and Carson City to Virginia City (all-day adventure). Both tours include some fascinating history, exciting tunnels and a number of mining sites for viewing. Get off the train for three hours at Virginia City and take in some original boutiques, saloons, restaurants and museums. This railway experience has something for everyone.

Donner Summit Train Tunnels

Soda Springs, CA

old train tunnels nicknamed "China Wall" on Schallenberger Ridge near Donner Lake Truckee, Nevada county, California.
Old train tunnels nicknamed “China Wall” on Schallenberger Ridge near Donner Lake Truckee, Nevada county, California.

While this adventure does not include a luxurious Southern Pacific train coach, the history and the visual experience of the Donner Summit Train Tunnels are fascinating. If you want to get serious, this attraction may require some hiking gear and a day’s refreshment. Take a historical journey on foot through abandoned trail tunnels located on Donner Summit. The journey might also include a scenic view of the old Lincoln Highway, the historic Donner Summit bridge, and the beautiful Donner Lake. Travel during vacation season (after mid May), bring a flashlight, and prepare for cooler interior temperatures. It’s an outdoor vacation adventure for explorers.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango, CO

Durango, Colorado, USA: Tourists inside the historic steam engine train from Durango to Silverton in Colorado.
Durango, Colorado, USA: Tourists inside the historic steam engine train from Durango to Silverton in Colorado.

Those who long to travel back in time on their next family vacation will enjoy a 3-1/2 hour adventure aboard the Durango Train. This vintage coach car offers a coal-fired and steam-powered ride from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that begins in Durango and travels to Silverton, Colorado, and back. More frequently used by miners and frontier travelers, the Durango Train originated in 1882. Guests will take in beautiful scenes along the stunning Animas River where only a rail line can generally navigate. Plan for some steep mountainside curves and fascinating rock formations along the way. Tourists will not be disappointed in the now-and-then echoing of the steam whistle.

Ohio Railcar Dining

Cincinnati, Bellville, Toledo, Peninsula, and Columbus

NEW HOPE, PA- View of the New Hope and Ivyland rail road, a heritage train line for visitors going on touristic excursions in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
NEW HOPE, PA- View of the New Hope and Ivyland rail road, a heritage train line for visitors going on touristic excursions in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Everyone loves trains, and Ohio is known for some fine railcar dining sites vacationers and tourists won’t want to miss. The Cincinnati Dinner Train offers a 3-hour scenic train ride and a dining vintage railway experiences to remember. The Buckeye Express Diner is nothing fancy but a lot of fun for the whole family to enjoy. The Old Spaghetti House is a nationwide favorite—especially aboard a railcar in Toledo along with several other Ohio railcar locations. For a little more adventure, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad features brunch, cocktails, or a murder mystery dinner along with seasonal scenic train rides through Cuyohoga Valley National Park. For your special occasion, rent The Depot Events Center train car in Columbus. This is certain to please the guests of honor and the guests alike!

Let us know if you knew the vintage railway experiences or if you were completely surprised with this list.