At one point in time, train rides were the fastest means of ground transportation. Needless to say, our methods of travel have advanced greatly. While trains do still have a place in our society, it’s nowhere near as popularly as they once were. Today they serve largely as freight transportation, a small portion of public transportation, but just as often, trains serve as novelty tourist attractions. It gives people a chance to live through an era they missed. Ohio is a great place to experience this.
The state has numerous scenic railway trips offered for tourists and locals throughout the beautiful Midwest by nonprofits and volunteer groups alike. Here’s our top five picks for the best scenic train rides to take in the Buckeye State.
1. Lebanon Mason and Monroe Railroad
The Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad or LM&M Railroad located north of Cincinnati, travels through Warren county in Southwestern Ohio. It follows the Turtle creek for the majority of the ride, while crossing 5 bridges. It departs from downtown Lebanon, hence the name. The trains travel a maximum of a 15 mile round trip. Passengers onboard are able to ride in the oldest operated locomotive of its kind in the United States, the GP7, NUMBER 55. Your trip includes a photo op with a legitimate train conductor, windows that open on the train for an open-air experience, and walkover style seating.
2. The Ohio Railway Museum
This organization is dedicated to the preservation and education of the railway systems. Located North of Columbus, in Worthington, this train station is a 3-in-1! It’s not only a train station and railroad, but also a railroad museum containing over 30 train history artifacts a century of rail history with streetcars, locomotives, and many more artifacts of the industry. They also have several special events such as seasonal and holiday rides, which you can find here.
3. Cincinnati Dinner Train
In true American style, this Ohio train station lets you eat while you are being entertained. The restored ’50s era dining cars take you on a three-hour journey over 25 miles or train track and serve you a full course meal. Talk about luxury! Passengers on this locomotive get to experience not only one, but two rail lines. One of which is the city’s first railroad, Oasis Line, which dates back to 1843. The Oasis Line and the surrounding areas are just the start of the fun on this historical, satiating train adventure. You can make reservations for the find dining experience on the Cincinnati Dinner Train website.
4. Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
This volunteer-run railway was originally founded as the Mineral Rail Road. The name changed three years later in 1867. From humble beginnings, this station fought to be apart of the rail network. Today, they’ve maintained a successful base of clients and steady volunteers. The open air cars travel a 145-year-old route showcasing the farmlands and the Hocking River Valley.
Other sights to see include the remaining active railroad industry in the area and the Nelsonville brick company. Each ride is two hours long round trip. Special occasion rides include the “Easter Bunny Train and Egg Hunt”, “Memorial Day Ride”, Labor Day, October Weekday Fall Foliage, and of course a New Year’s Eve train featuring fireworks. To join the fun, visit their website.
5. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Also referred to as the CVSR, The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad may be the most exciting experience of its kind. They specialize in a variety of excursions and rides, with an array of events including cocktails, murder mystery parties, wine tastings, dinners and even brunches through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, until early fall.
For the holiday season, their special events include the Polar Express ride and Santa Claus Express. If you love hot chocolate, Christmas cookies and wearing your pajamas in the name of Christmas spirit, these rides might just be up your alley! Throughout the year you can choose which trip and which places to visit and explore. From canal, public markets, Akron zoo, art museums to upscale or laidback family-friendly style eateries (your choosing), it’s a choose your location/adventure!
Another fun feature unique to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is the bike aboard or hike aboard option. This allows travelers to hike or bike the Ohio and Eerie Canal Towpath Trail one way and take the train in the other! There are multiple stations to catch the train, including Peninsula Depot and Rockside Station.
There is much to do on each of these rides, each offering an authentic and different experience. Get to ‘sploring Ohio today!