Tourist railroads you must visit out west include scenic excursions heading into the Alaskan wilderness, a top-tier museum, and everything in between. From Trains Magazine’s Tourist Trains Guidebook, here’s our list of tourist railroads, museums, and displays to experience in the region.
Tourist Railroads and Museums out West
Alaska Railroad – 411 West 1st Avenue, Anchorage
The Alaska Railroad has connected the state’s seaports and inland communities since 1923. The rugged terrain the railroad traverses today serves as the backdrop to the railroad’s popular passenger excursions. Different services are offered between Fairbanks and Seward with favorites including the Anchorage-Fairbanks Denali Star and the Anchorage-Seward Coastal Classic. The railroad partners with the major cruise lines, resulting in extended packages in addition to the trips.
White Pass & Yukon Route – 201 2nd Avenue, Skagway
A little town with a big draw in cruise ship tourism, Skagway is home to North America’s longest-operating narrow-gauge railroad. The White Pass and Yukon Route’s 67.5 miles is a scenic plethora of mountains, rivers, and lakes. The first 20 miles alone is where the drama of mountain railroading shines as the train climbs 2,865 feet in elevation at a 3.9% grade. When one of the railroad’s historic steam locomotives is on the point, it’s a show-stopping performance!
California State Railroad Museum – 125 I Street, Sacramento
The high-quality facility alone makes the California State Railroad Museum a premier museum in the United States. The displays and exhibits are set up for visitors to explore the amazing history and legacy of railroading in the Golden State. For an operational experience, step outside to the museum’s reconstructed Central Pacific freight depot for a short train ride along the Sacramento River.
Kauai Plantation Railway – 3-2087 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue
Constructed nearly 100 years ago, this 3-foot-gauge railway was the very first on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The line today takes passengers through 100 acres of the island’s rich plantation. The aroma of pineapple, banana, papaya, coffee, tropical flowers, and hardwood trees fill the air during the 40-minute excursion. If you plan to visit on either a Tuesday or Friday, take advantage of the evening train and luau package with an added Hawaiian feast and entertainment.
Mount Hood Railroad – 110 Railroad Street, Hood River
Choose from either 60- or 90-minute excursions as you depart downtown Hood River and head into the orchards and vineyards. The scenic beauty stretches from the Columbia River Gorge to Mount Hood, but views of the tallest peak in Oregon are a highlight during the trip. Railbike excursions are also offered on select days for those yearning for an adventure at their own speed.
Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad – 306 American Avenue, Garibaldi
With views of the Pacific Ocean along the Tillamook Bay shores, they don’t call this operation the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad for nothing! Historic steam and vintage diesel locomotives pull a consist of coach and open-air cars from Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach. Diesel-powered dinner trains head further up the coast to Wheeler on select evenings. Word of advice when planning to ride either train: Make sure you reserve seating on the left side.
Chelatchie Prairie Railroad – 207 Railroad Avenue, Yacolt
A high trestle over the Lewis River and a 330-foot tunnel both headline the 9-mile Chelatchie Prairie Railroad. Caboose, open-air cars, and heavyweight coaches are normally pulled by a 1940-built Alco diesel locomotive over the scenic line. For those hoping to add some steam into the mix, be on the lookout for the return of 2-8-2T No. 10 to service in the future. The Christmas Train and Tree experience is a unique holiday excursion on the railroad. Ride the train to Moulton, where you’ll meet Santa Claus and pick out a tree for the return trip to Yacolt.
Northwest Railway Museum – 38625 Southeast King Street (Snoqualmie Depot); 9312 Stone Quarry Rd (Railway History Campus)
The museum’s Railway History Campus and Train Shed Exhibit Hall are home to the largest collection in the Pacific Northwest. Over 70 pieces of equipment reside at the facility south of Snoqualmie, including a rare chapel car and a 1926-built, 2-6-6-2 steam locomotive. In the heart of downtown Snoqualmie is the museum’s 1890 depot. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Queen Anne-style structure is the boarding site for steam- and diesel-powered excursions to North Bend and Snoqualmie Falls.
Other railroad sites in the West to consider across
During your visit to the Western United States, consider also visiting these railroad sites:
- Knott’s Berry Farm Calico Railroad — Buena Park
- Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site — Bishop
- Napa Valley Wine Train — Napa
- Niles Canyon Railway — Sunol
- Pacific Southwest Railway Museum — Campo
- RailGiants Train Museum — Pomona
- Railtown 1897 State Historic Park — Jamestown
- Roaring Camp Railroads — Felton
- Sacramento River Fox Train — West Sacramento
- San Francisco Municipal Railway — San Francisco
- Skunk Train — Fort Bragg
- Southern California Railway Museum — Perris
- Travel Town Museum — Los Angeles
- Western Pacific Railroad Museum — Portola
- Western Railway Museum — Suisun City
- Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad — Fish Camp
- Laupahoehoe Train Museum – 6-2377 Mamalahoa Highway, Laupahoehoe
- Hawaiian Railway Society – 91-1001 Renton Road, Ewa Beach
- Canby Depot Museum – Canby
- Eagle Cap Excursion Train – Elgin
- Oregon Electric Railway Museum – Brooks
- Oregon Rail Heritage Center – Portland
- Sumpter Valley Railroad – Sumpter and Baker City
- Willamette Shore Trolley – Oswego
- Cashmere Museum & Pioneer Village – Cashmere
- Chehalis-Centralia Railroad – Chehalis
- Dayton Historic Depot – Dayton
- Issaquah Depot Museum and Trolley – Issaquah
- Lake Whatcom Railway – Sedro-Woodley
- Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad – Elbe
- Northern Pacific Railway Museum – Toppenish
- Ritzville Railroad Depot Museum – Ritzville
- Yakima Valley Trolleys – Yakima