2022 Scenic Rail Guide

Magazine Features, Rail Travel

Group Guide to Scenic Rail

Is your group looking to enjoy a relaxing, scenic ride through the many different landscapes our country has to offer? If so, the 2022 Scenic Rail Guide has you covered. Each of these railways will take your group on a journey unlike any they have experienced before. Groups can enjoy the country’s beauty through one of its oldest, and most relaxing, modes of transportation.

Alaska Railroad

Anchorage, Alaska

Create unforgettable client experiences by booking your next group with the Alaska Railroad. With customizable rail packages, travelers can connect Alaska’s glacially carved coastline to the wildness of the Interior, stopping in popular Railroad destinations including Seward, Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks.

By traveling aboard the railroad, visitors can cover over 400 miles of Alaska in the comfort of a railcar, enjoying dining and drinks while seeing dramatic Alaska landscapes out of expansive windows.

Whether traveling in a group, as a family, or solo, the Alaska Railroad does the driving so passengers can relax, enjoy and connect with those around them. It’s a unique opportunity to make in-state travel between destinations a highlight of the itinerary.

The Alaska Railroad offers two classes of passenger service: Adventure Class offers comfortable seating and large picture windows, while premium GoldStar Service class features glass-dome railcars as well as access to an exclusive outdoor viewing platform, ideal for photographers. Onboard dining is available – meals are included for GoldStar guests – and knowledgeable onboard guides are available to share the stories behind the sights. Customizable travel products allow for flexibility with your groups: book a single day of rail travel, or a multi-day rail travel package inclusive of train tickets, lodging, and guided excursions. With add-on activities like river rafting, flightseeing and bear viewing that are easy to book directly via the Alaska Railroad there’s a trip for every type of traveler.

And, while creating unforgettable experiences for your clients on the Alaska Railroad, there’s something for you, too – you’ll earn commissions on rail, lodging and activities.

Alaska is big, with endless opportunities for fun and adventure. Create the journey your clients want, and one they’ll never forget, on the Alaska Railroad.

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Big South Fork Scenic Railway

Stearns, Kentucky

Tucked away in the mountains of Stearns, Kentucky, Big South Fork Scenic Railway takes passengers on a seven-mile round trip on historic tracks to Barthell Coal Camp, the site of Stearns Coal and Lumber Company’s first mining operation. Experience the beauty and charm of the Appalachian Mountains while riding a classic train. Big South Fork Scenic Railway offers many unique excursions throughout the year. Seasonal adventures include Murder Mystery, Fall Color Run, Polar Express and more.

At the turn of the 20th century, the town of Stearns was erected and served as a logging and mining hub. Subsequently, the Stearns Coal & Lumber Company was formed and quickly joined the kings of transportation building the famed Kentucky & Tennessee Railway. Stretching more than 25 miles to the Big South Fork River valley, it operated 12 steam locomotives in its heyday.

During the early days of transportation, travelers and goods like coal and timber were transported from one place to another by railroad. After decades of serving communities along the famed rail line, the K&T ceased passenger services in the 1950s. In 1982, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway formed, and coal mining operations ultimately shut down in 1987.

Today, these iron horses serve as tourist attractions taking visitors on scenic rides to unique layover destinations. Thanks to the dedication of preservationists and volunteers, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway keeps transportation history alive for visitors of all ages.

Take a trip through lush countryside to the once-thriving industrial Barthell Coal Camp, the first of 18 mining camps along the K&T. This round-trip adventure on 7-miles of vintage trackage delivers you to the reconstructed mining camp where original mine entrances still stand as doorways to the past.

Pack a camera and take advantage of the magnificent natural beauty as the train passes roaring mountain streams, picturesque vistas and descends into gorges. Whether your wanderlust takes you during the warm lush spring and summer months, or the dazzling fall foliage season, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway is an adventure for everyone’s bucket list.

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Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum

Versailles, Kentucky

The Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum offers a picturesque 11-mile, a 90-minute train excursion through the rolling central Kentucky countryside past thoroughbred horse farms to the Kentucky River. Air-conditioned first-class cars and exciting open-air cars are available. In addition to train rides every Saturday, the museum maintains an outdoor collection of historic railroad locomotives and railcars and an indoor museum of railroad artifacts. The museum, model train layouts, and gift shop are open noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

In addition to the regular Saturday train ride, Bluegrass also offers special train rides including the Easter Bunny Train. The Saturday before Easter the Easter Bunny is invited to ride the train. Everyone takes turn getting bunny hugs and handshakes as the train ride down the tracks in early spring, allowing guests to savor the fresh green leaves and lovely flowers blooming. This ride is a treat for children and adults.

Bluegrass also helps families celebrate Mothers’ and Father’s Day by running a special train the Saturday before mom and dad’s holiday. On their respective Saturday, the Parent of the Day receives half off the price of a regular ticket when accompanied by one or more of their children. Bring your mom (or mom-to-be) in May and your dad in June and treat them to a special afternoon filled with incredible early summer scenery including horses grazing in fields.

Bluegrass also presents special living history events to honor those who served in World War II and the Civil War.  Weekday chartered train rides for groups are also offered.

There are multiple ways to enjoy the train, including first-class seating, where guests can ride in air-conditioned comfort on plush reclining seats and the new hobo class, which allows guests to ride in the open air on a World War II vintage flat car directly behind the locomotive. This gives a new way and exciting way to see and hear how the train engine operates.

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Kentucky Railway Museum

New Haven, Kentucky

It’s always fun to step back in time, and when you visit the Kentucky Railway Museum, that’s exactly what you get to do. The museum, which originated in Louisville, Kentucky in 1954, is one of three tourist railroads in Kentucky. The museum moved to its current home in New Haven, Kentucky in 1990. “So much of our history is being erased from our nation,” said Lynn Kustes, marketing manager. “We’re trying to preserve a small piece of that history.”

Many families visit the museum and take a train excursion – especially grandparents who bring their grandkids to let them see and feel that piece of history they experienced during their youth.

Each year they welcome thousands of tourists to the museum to enjoy one of the train rides, visit and stroll through the museum or attend a special event. One of their most popular monthly rides is The Great Train Robbery, during which “robbers” on horseback stop the train to collect loot from passengers, which is then donated to the WHAS Crusade for Children. Because this is such a popular event, each year they collect several thousand dollars for the organization. In some years they have donated as much as $7,000 to the cause.

In addition, they offer lots of seasonal rides. For instance, the Autumn Express invites folks to welcome the crisper season with fun activities and pumpkin picking. They also have the Fall Break Express, and the Annual Car, Truck, Motorcycle & Tractor Show, an event that through the years has grown from 20 cars to over 400.

A new October event they added last year, called Whistles, Witches and Wine, became wildly popular, selling out every night.

The train runs throughout the month of December on select dates for the Santa trains. Passengers get to visit with St. Nick, enjoy cookies and hot chocolate and children can participate in themed holiday activities. It’s a sellout event so purchasing tickets early is highly encouraged.

Celebrating 31 years in New Haven, the Kentucky Railway Museum gives visitors a chance to climb aboard a vintage train for a ride through the L&N’s Historic Lebanon Branch.

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Whitewater Valley Railroad

Connersville, Indiana

The Whitewater Valley Railroad in eastern Indiana will take you back in time on a train full of vintage machinery and locomotive nostalgia. Sit back, relax and enjoy several excursions Whitewater Valley Railroad offers from April through December. How about a wild west train adventure or festive holiday-themed trip?

On the Valley Flyer excursion, meander through the scenic Hoosier countryside, over train trestles, and along the Whitewater River and restored canal on a 20-mile round-trip from Connersville to the historic village of Metamora. Discover the old-fashioned canal town where the original tow-path used for horse-drawn canal boats was transformed into the Whitewater Valley Railroad.

During the two-hour layover in Metamora, visit the oldest working water-powered grist mill in the country and observe a horse-drawn canal boat replica. See the historic Duck Creek Aqueduct, the only remaining wood-covered aqueduct in the United States, and grab a souvenir from one of the local artisans housed in original 19th-century buildings.

During the holidays, seasonal train excursions are a memorable way to celebrate with loved ones. In springtime, grab your Easter basket and hop aboard the Easter Bunny Express. Travel to the Bunny Patch and help the Easter Bunny find the Golden Egg.

For a magical Christmas experience, visit Santa Clause at the North Pole on The Polar Express™ Train Ride, a re-creation of the beloved children’s classic. Sip hot chocolate and nibble on tasty treats made by dancing chefs and listen to the tale of The Polar Express read aloud. Meet Santa and his elves, receive a special Christmas gift and spend one-on-one time with the jolly man himself.

Feel the seat rumble underneath you as the Whitewater Valley Railroad chugs along on a memorable journey. Plan your next adventure on the heritage railroad that offers one-of-a-kind views of Indiana’s beautiful natural landscape.

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