Are you looking for a low-key way to enjoy autumn’s vibrant colors and get a gorgeous view of fall foliage in Pennsylvania? Think about taking a fall train ride to enjoy the spectacular color-changing leaves.
Pennsylvania’s rail lines played an enormous part in the history of the state, dating back to the early 1800s, long before the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. Trains were part of the drive of the nation into a new frontier. Railroads in the keystone state have a rich past, phenomenal scenery, and today provide a calming and stress-free ride for the mature traveler to enjoy.
Train travel is slow travel, giving you time to relax, look out the window, and enjoy the spectacular view. There is no better time for a train ride than in the fall, when mother nature puts on a magnificent show with the foliage changing to vivid colors that stand out against the blue sky backdrop.
Let’s look at a few scenic train rides that provide stunning leaf-peeping opportunities.
1. East Broad Top Railroad (EBT)
Considered by The Smithsonian to be one of the best-preserved examples of 19th-century railroad and industrial complexes in the U.S., the East Broad Top Railroad (EBT) is tucked away in rural Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania. The EBT is a 150-year-old narrow-gauge line that runs through rolling hills, forests, pristine farmland, and endless mountains with steam engines and comfortable vintage passenger cars.
One-hour train rides in enclosed or open-air passenger cars, or even a genuine caboose, over a 9-mile round-trip from their historic station to Colgate Grove and back is available year-round. Fall foliage excursions and special events are a great way to enjoy the fall season.
2. Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
Located in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway offers tours on a vintage steam coach built in the early 1900s. The train carries tourists across the Lehigh River over wonderful antique bridges, then into the Glen Onoko Falls nature preserve, where they can see the many waterfalls and beautiful scenery along the way, before routing to Lehigh Gorge State Park, which features amazing wildlife, mountains, beautiful scenery, and high cliffs. Local historians narrate the ride during the trip, educating the riders on the area’s history, the railway, and the Lehigh Gorge.
This ride is breathtaking in the fall when the leaves take on a colorful glow.
3. The New Hope Railroad
Neighboring Philadelphia is New Hope, Pennsylvania, home to The New Hope Railroad. This fun and exciting railway is located along the popular Delaware River, which visitors can explore and learn about during train rides. The antique trains run on historic tracks built-in 1891 by the North-East Pennsylvania Railroad.
Visitors will enjoy the story of the railway’s history, the beautiful scenery, and the life of early Americans during the steam engine era from an area expert. The train passes through scenic countryside and historic sites in Bucks County in a beautifully restored railroad car. The one and a half hour trip takes you on a 14-mile excursion over new and old bridges, along a network of streams, and through the valley surrounding the town of New Hope, Pennsylvania.
They have many special occasion rides in the fall, “No Hope After Dark” Halloween Festival, a 2-hour Fall Excursion, and Speakeasy Excursions.
4. Oil Creek And Titusville Railroad
This antique railway, called the OC&T, offers passengers and tourists the opportunity to ride some very old trains, learn about the famous past of Oil Creek Valley’s events and people, and adventure out into the countryside to explore beautiful views and historical landmarks in and around Titusville, Pennsylvania’s main train station and town. The train ride takes around three hours.
The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad hosts fall foliage tours every year, and the leaves along the hills are magnificent. Their fall rides run until the middle of October.If you want to make it an overnight “train” trip, you can book a room at the Caboose Motel. You can sleep in a caboose and then enjoy the morning trains as they leave the station.
5. Northern Central Railway
When you board the William H. Simpson No. 17 steam locomotive, which is a complete reproduction of the train that carried President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg to deliver his famous speech, you are plunged into history. The Northern Central Railway has three different excursions to choose from, and all are round trips.
They also have a large variety of special events such as the “Wine and Cheese Express” and “PA Cowboy Weekend.”
6. Strasburg Rail Road
Still holding the record as the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere, the Strasburg Rail Road dates back to 1832. Riding the trains in Strasburg are just about as close as anyone can come to walking back into the early 1800s for a train ride. There are five steam engines and 19 passenger cars on the Strasburg line, including the first-class car, the dining car, and the President’s Car. The view is phenomenal from all the different cars.
You get to ride the train to Paradise, Pennsylvania, and back on the same track. You will enjoy the Amish countryside, and while it is a beautiful ride any time of year, the colors of the fall foliage just add to the splendor.
Sleep in a caboose at the Red Caboose Motel near the Strasburg Rail Road to keep the “train” experience going. The train runs right past the motel.
Strasburg Rail Road provided free admission to enjoy their activities. The Red Caboose Motel provided free lodging. All opinions remain my own.
7. Hawk Mountain Line
There is much more to this railroad than just a train and some tracks. The station is an all-volunteer operation. It is often referred to as the WK&S, short for Wanamaker, Kempton, and Southern. The Hawk Mountain Line takes you through some beautiful countryside to enjoy the rolling hills and farmland, the vividly colored leaves, while you just sit back and relax because of its rural location. After your train ride, you can enjoy the gift shop, concession stands, and a small museum full of old railroad equipment and objects dating back to the early 1800s.
The Hawk Mountain Line runs from early May through the first weekend in November.
8. Stourbridge Line
The Delaware Lackawaxen and Stourbridge Railroad Company, known as DL&S, offers seasonal excursions from Honesdale, Pennsylvania, on the Stourbridge Line. Tourists learn the history of the old trains as they ride through the picturesque scenery of the Gorge and Valley of the Lackawaxen River, heading to Lackawaxen and back on more than 25 miles of track. They offer a variety of excursions and special events.
The region’s experts and volunteers are always willing to share the past of the railroad and the city of Honesdale, and the details of how the trains were used to construct the city.
9. West Chester Railroad
The West Chester Railroad Heritage Association runs the 150-year-old railroad for tourists to enjoy. Located in West Chester, this historical railroad runs along the beautiful Chester Creek and continues to Glen Mills, where it doubles back to complete a 90-minute train trip. West Chester Station (formerly Market Street Station) is the main loading hub for this antique train.
10. Everett Railroad Company
Steam-powered trains may be an ancient transportation mode, but they are very much alive at the Everett Railroad Company. In addition to the trains, the Everett railyard offers all sorts of great activities, including viewing artifacts from the steam engine era. They provide excursions from one small town to another, and people get to enjoy the fall foliage during autumn.
The railroad started as a freight company in 1860 but has provided many tourism opportunities since then. The Everett Railroad Company trains operate from Hollidaysburg, Brookes Mills, and Roaring Springs. Tickets are easy to reserve. Train rides are available any time of the year, but rides during leaf-peeping season provide a spectacular view.
11. Middletown And Hummelstown Railroad
Visitors embark on the main tour on the Middletown and Hummelstown Railroad. In Middletown, Pennsylvania, passengers can then board the Delaware, a 1920s vintage train, the Lackawant, or the Western. After boarding the train at the station, built in 1891, the entire journey along 11 miles of track passes Swatara Creek and several miles of beautiful countryside. It is narrated by a historian who presents the history of the railway and its trains, as well as the history of the city.
12. Amtrak Pennsylvanian
Amtrak trains run all over the nation, but the Pennsylvanian Train that runs between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh covers some of the most scenic territory you will ever view. To top it off, you get to enjoy some fantastic sights and history. You will travel by train around the famous Horseshoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Horseshoe Curve was an international feat when built. It was known as one of the eight engineering marvels of the world.
When traveling in the fall, you will also enjoy the Allegheny Mountains decked out in mother nature’s color palette. Plus, you will see Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle, the place where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers converge.
Riding an excursion train should be on your Pennsylvania fall bucket-list. In addition to providing an insight into the past, Pennsylvania’s historic railroads offer a rare opportunity to see the magic of fall while riding aboard a piece of American history.