Road Trip Guide: Strasburg Rail Road

Families can ride Thomas the Tank Engine, a full-sized operating steam locomotive, at Strasburg Rail Road.
Families can ride Thomas the Tank Engine, a full-sized operating steam locomotive, at Strasburg Rail Road. Photo provided

It’s easy to have a one-track mind if you’re a train buff visiting Strasburg.

The Lancaster County town features the Strasburg Rail Road, a privately owned excursion line in operation since 1832. Company Stationmaster Steve Barrall said the railroad, started as a tourist attraction in 1958, always has been run under the same name and charter.

“Because of that, we can claim we’re the oldest continuously operated short line in North America,” Barrall said.

Across state Route 741 from the railroad’s Victorian station lies the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, a treasure trove of historical locomotives and railroad memorabilia. Though a separate entity, the Strasburg Rail Road sells a combination ticket.

“That’s definitely a very popular option,” Barrall said.

But at the Strasburg Rail Road, visitors can do more than admire the engines and coaches. Several kinds of excursions take passengers along 41/2 miles of track through bucolic farmland and countryside on 45-minute round trips.

One of the most popular options is the “Day Out with Thomas” trip pulled by a fullsize steam version of the beloved Thomas the Tank Engine character.

Day passes include pump car, track car and miniature steam train rides, as well as other attractions. Rides are scheduled for June 14-22, Sept. 13-21 and Nov. 21-23.

Bigger train fans can enjoy a variety of themed excursions in addition to regular rides in coach, open air and first class accomodations. Dining cars serve lunch and dinner daily.

Among its special events, the railroad runs the “Great Train Robbery” train, the “Seafood Express,” the “Chocolate Express,” the “Steampunk unLimited,” an Oktoberfest train, a murder mystery train, and Easter Bunny and Christmas trains.

This year’s Great Train Robbery trains on July 26 and Oct. 19 will follow a Bonnie and Clyde theme.

On Oct. 12, Vintage Baseball Day will allow passengers to disembark at a field where four teams will play with 19th-century uniforms, equipment and rules. Spectators can bring lawn chairs and stay as long as they wish before returning to the station.

Reservations for special events and dining excursions are recommended. Complete event schedules and ticket prices are at www.strasburgrailroad.com.

In the neighborhood ...

•  The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania,


, displays more than 100 locomotives and cars from the 19th and 20th centuries, many of which have been restored to original appearances.

The museum, which contains the Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Collection, includes exhibits of railroad artifacts, photographs, art work and corporate railroad memorabilia. More discoveries await in the Railway Education Center.

•  On a different scale just down the road, the Choo Choo Barn-Traintown USA,


, presents a 1,700-square-foot model train layout with more than hand-built animated figures and vehicles. More than 22 trains wind their way through the display.

•  The National Toy Train Museum,


, designed to look like an old-fashioned station, offers a huge collection of model trains from the 1800s to the present, including five operating, interactive train layouts.

While you’re there ...

•  Cherry Crest Adventure Farm,


, offers a 5-acre corn maze billed as “the world’s largest interactive game.” The Strasburg Rail Road runs summer and fall trains to the farm.

•  Village Greens Miniature Golf,


, on 13 acres of countryside, gives visitors a choice of two courses: the Orange — with a covered bridge, cave and tobacco shed — and the Gold, which includes natural obstacles on a wooded hillside with falling waterways. Steve Barrall called it “arguably the nicest miniature golf course you’ll ever step on.”