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Historic Trains to Ride with Kids

by Barbara Rogers

Oct 25, 2022

© Chris Kelleher | Dreamstime.com


What kid doesn’t love a train ride? Perk up your family travels with one of these excursions on vintage steam trains, complete with all the chug-chug and toot-toot any kid could ask for.


The Wilmington & Western Railroad travels at a leisurely pace through the wooded landscapes of Delaware’s Red Clay Valley, northwest of Wilmington. The rail line has operated since 1872, when it was built to carry products of valley mills to the port of Wilmington. You’ll pass through nature reserves and small towns, see one of the state’s three covered bridges and cross a rare iron bridge. You can even charter a trip in the train’s red caboose for your child’s birthday party.


The Missionary Ridge Local is a 65-minute excursion on the Tennessee Valley Railroad, traveling from Grand Junction to East Chattanooga. The train crosses four bridges and passes through a horseshoe-shaped tunnel built before the Civil War. You’ll also stop to see a demonstration of the historic turntable that turns trains around.


In Connecticut, combine a vintage steam train ride with a riverboat cruise by traveling through idyllic New England towns on an Essex Steam Train & Riverboat excursion. You’ll have a choice of vintage rail cars, including the luxurious Pullman, as the train travels along the valley and through tidal wetlands where you can spot swans, blue heron, egrets and red-winged blackbirds — or, in winter, bald eagles.


For a longer trip through spectacular mountain scenery, ride in a steam train that’s also a National Historic Landmark. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the longest and highest authentic steam railroad in North America. The train steams its way between Colorado and New Mexico, crossing the state borders 11 times. In its 65-mile journey, the train travels along canyons, through tunnels and a rocky gorge, and across the 137-foot Cascade Trestle. As the train goes through forests and across high plains, kids may spot antelope fox, elk, deer or bear.


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