May 10 is National Train Day, celebrated country wide by special train fares, displays and events. Train rides are more fuel efficient than either planes or cars, as train travel allows passengers to reduce their carbon footprint while still getting to where they need to be. Domestically, trains carry more than 30 million people a year. Many riders are daily commuters, some are train enthusiasts and vacationers combining travel with a chance to see America up close.
To salute National Train Day, we’re taking a look at some of the great North American train rides that help travelers discover our glorious continent. All aboard!
1. Ethan Allen Express
The Ethan Allen Express, named for Revolutionary war hero Ethan Allen. will take you in scenic splendor from Rutland, VT, through Albany NY and down the Hudson River Valley to New York City. It’s particularly popular in the fall, when the leaves are at their colorful best.
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2. Cass Scenic Railroad
Travel thru the mountains of West Virginia in antique cars pulled by a refurbished steam locomotive. The rail line was originally built to bring logs to the lumber mills. Now it serves as a scenic reminder of travel the way it used to be. American Bald Eagles nest along the rail site and can be spotted from the cars.
3. Grand Canyon Railway
Leave from nearby Williams, Arizona and ride in splendidly restored rail cars first used in 1901. Crew members act as tour guides explaining the history of the railroad, discussing exploration of the Grand Canyon and offering tips for side trips in the National Park. You can also book accommodations and guided tours of the Canyon through the web site.
4. Virginia & Truckee Railroad
Experience the silver mines of the Old West aboard this historic rail line. Leaving from ore rich Carson City, Nevada you’ll travel through mining country and past long abandoned mines before ending up in Virginia City, Nevada. You’ll depart and return using the original depot from 1870. “Miners” are aboard each railcar to answer questions and identify points of interest.
5. California Zephyr
One of the longer train rides, the California Zephyr takes you cross country in luxurious comfort. You’ll leave Chicago and end the trip in San Francisco, traveling past the Grand Canyon and the Sierra Nevada range. Sure, you can travel the same route by plane in a little over 4 hours. But the California Zephyr experience includes 2 nights in a sleeper car and all meals. It’s worth every minute of your time.
6. Coastal Classic
Leave from Seward Alaska and travel north to Anchorage. Along with way you’ll see glaciers, wildlife and possibly the Northern Lights if you travel the right time of year. Trains travel daily in the summer but weekends only in the Winter.
7. Coast Starlight
Travel along the West Coast from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles aboard the Coast Starlight. You’ll travel over 1300 miles in just under 35 hours. Enjoy meals in the dining car before retiring to your sleeper berth as the train rocks you to sleep.
8. Chihuahua Pacific Railway
The trip begins in Los Mochis, Mexico and ends in the historic town of Chihuahua, Mexico, 6 hours from El Paso. Beginning with a landscape of coastline scrub, the train climbs up mountain passes, through tunnels and over heart-in-your-throat gorges.
9. The Adirondack
Travel through the beautiful Adirondack mountains between New York City and Montreal. Go up the Hudson River into the Adirondacks and through the National Park before ending your trip at Montreal’s historic city center. It’s 11 hours of lush landscape and comfortable viewing.
10. Rocky Mountaineer
From Vancouver to Calgary, British Columbia through the Canadian Rockies, this 2 day trip through some of Canada’s most spectacular scenery runs from late spring to early fall. For the best seats sit in the glass dome cars of the first car. Buy those seats early for the best view.
11. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Enjoy a five hour round tripto the Cascades Canyon and the Animas River. You’ll have stops for lunch and plenty of time to take photos. The train runs year round, with heated cars for passenger comfort.
12. Southwest Chief
If you long to see the heartland of America, this train is for you. From Chicago, head south through Missouri, Kansas and into the Southwest. Sleeping cars are available for this 42 hour trip that makes 31 stops on its way to Los Angeles.
13. Empire Builder
This is a slow, multi-day train ride from Chicago to Seattle. Nearly 500,000 people a year take the opportunity to view the scenic Northwest from their comfortable seats. Flexible booking allows for multi day stops at National Parks or major cities, as the train runs daily year round.
14. Amtrak Cascades
Travel through the Cascade Mountain range in luxurious comfort. From Eugene Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia you’ll see breathtaking vistas with every turn of the track. The tight mountain curves and sharp inclines keep down the speed so you can really enjoy the scenery.
15. Heber Valley Railroad
Popular with movie companies everywhere, the Heber Valley Railroad first served the numerous small communities in Utah. With it’s lovingly restored period rail cars and beautiful scenery the valley and it’s railroad have starred in many a western.