7 Vintage Trains You Can Still Ride
7 Vintage Trains You Can Still Ride

Traveling by train was once the most common mode of transport — and for many people around the world, it still is. But today's high-speed railways don't offer the same relaxed and elegant experience that those golden-era trains did. Luckily, you can still catch a ride on a vintage train and travel back in time in an elegant, old-fashioned car while enjoying some spectacular views. Listen to the steam engine whistle on a relaxed trip that might include historic narration and musicians that roam through the cars.

From the scenic Southwest to the Rocky Mountains and New England, these are some of the best vintage trains you can still ride today.

Durango & Silverton Railroad Steam Train – Durango, Colorado

Historic steam engine train travels from Durango to Silverton through the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.
Credit: miroslav_1/ iStock

Located in the Old West town of Durango in southwestern Colorado, the historic Durango & Silverton Railroad steam train is one of the most popular vintage trips in the country. The railway, which has been in operation since 1882, travels roughly 50 miles, climbing nearly 3,000 feet to Silverton, nestled between the soaring jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains. The steam-operated and coal-fired train was built to handle the narrow mountain routes that reveal some of the most jaw-dropping scenery. Once you reach your destination, you can explore multiple historic sites, like the Old Hundred Gold Mine and the Mayflower Gold Mill National Historic Site, as well as have a drink in one of the charming saloons.

Grand Canyon Railway – Williams, Arizona

Grand canyon railway train at a station stop.
Credit: Ingus Kruklitis/ iStock

While the Grand Canyon is well worth a trip on its own, a day trip by historic train from the town of Williams is especially memorable. The Grand Canyon Railway has been bringing passengers on this majestic adventure since 1901. The trip includes travel on beautifully restored rail cars with entertainment provided by cowboy characters and musicians. Along the way, gaze out the terrain that changes from high desert to prairie and finally, pine. The schedule makes it easy for a return trip on the same day with plenty of time to marvel at the colors in the canyon from the South Rim.

Cass Scenic Railroad – Cass, West Virginia

Historic Cass Scenic Railroad train crossing in front of white building.
Credit: John Elk III via Getty Images

Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park preserves the legacy of the American locomotive. Here, visitors can take excursions on a steam-driven locomotive while uncovering the stories behind the area’s rich history. Marvel at awe-inspiring views, and enjoy the sights and sounds of this historic train, which was built in 1901. There are several routes to choose from, including a jaunt to Spruce, a historic logging town with ruins of shops, homes, mills, and interpretive signs that allow visitors to envision what it was like at its peak. The most popular journey ascends Bald Knob, which rises 4,842 feet as the highest summit in the Back Allegheny Mountains.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway - Blueridge, Georgia

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway train car.
Credit: Andre Jenny/ Alamy Stock Photo

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is one of the best ways to view the brilliant colors of fall, although it’s enjoyable in any season. The four-hour round-trip adventure follows the Toccoa River through the Chattahoochee National Forest in the North Georgia foothills of the Appalachians. It stops at the charming sister towns of McCaysville, Georgia, and Copperhill, Tennessee, and includes a two-hour layover for browsing the antique stores or enjoying lunch at one of the enticing cafes.

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad – Chama, New Mexico

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad steam train traveling through scenic landscape.
Credit: Different_Brian/ iStock

The highest steam railroad in the country at over 10,000 feet in elevation, and the longest at 64 miles, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad offers half- and full-day trips. It departs from Chama, New Mexico, traveling to Antonito, Colorado, providing magnificent views while clinging to a sheer rock face and edging narrow gorge ledges on its way to the summit. In the fall, the journey is accented by the vibrant golds of the aspen trees. The railroad is a National Historic Landmark and rides are available in coach cars, a historic parlor car, and an open-air gondola that’s ideal for spotting wildlife like elk, deer, and even bears. If it looks familiar, that’s probably because the railway has been featured in more than 20 films, including 1969’s Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.

Essex Steam Train, Essex, Connecticut

Black steam train leaving a station.
Credit: Art Phaneuf/ Alamy Stock Photo

The Essex Steam Train offers a historic ride on an authentic steam train through some of the most picturesque New England landscapes, including the region’s famous fall foliage. It travels 12 miles round-trip through the Connecticut River Valley bypassing wetlands and preserves, home to several species of birds. In late winter, bald eagles are sometimes spotted too. There are special outings for holidays like the St. Patrick’s Day Beer/Spirit Tasting & Dinner Train and options ideal for romance-seekers with chocolate and wine.

The 1880 Train - Hill City, South Dakota

The 1880 steam train passing in front of a tree.
Credit: Faina Gurevich/ iStock

The 1880 train is a vintage steam train that travels 20 miles between Hill City and Keystone in the scenic Black Hills of South Dakota. ItIt's the country’s oldest continuously operating standard gauge excursion train, and operates two steam and one diesel engine through the season, which runs between May and October. On the journey, passengers can enjoy the striking natural beauty of the area with its dense pines and sparkling lakes while listing to narration about the region and the railroad. There are special trains worth planning a trip around too, like the Mother’s Day Express, Oktoberfest Express, and Wine Express.

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