Most scenic railroads for tourists in New York state are open from Memorial Day through Columbus Day on the weekends. Winters are harsh in New York, and many of the train tours have historic open railway cars.
Explore scenic train rides for leisurely sightseeing in six of the eleven regions of New York state. Railroads for tourists can be found in the Adirondacks and the Catskill Mountains, in Central New York, as well as in the Greater Niagara, Finger Lakes, and Capital-Saratoga regions of New York state.
Train Tours in the Adirondacks
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad offers lots of themed rail rides for adults and kids. This railroad is operated by the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society and has over 70 miles of track returned for use for passenger service.
The four main historic train depots for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad offers themed train tours such as clown rides, wine tasting train rides, beer tasting train rides, train rides with magic shows, the ’50s themed train rides, train robbery reenactments, Halloween, Christmas, and other holiday-themed train rides, and the popular Polar Express.
Especially popular in the Adirondacks is the Polar Express, a train ride with Santa where kids are encouraged to wear pajamas. The Polar Express departs from Utica’s Union Station and is a two-hour train ride for children during the Christmas season.
Scenic Train Rides in the Catskill Mountains of New York
There are two scenic train rides in the Catskills region in Delaware and Ulster Counties in New York state: the Delaware and Ulster Railroad and the Catskill Mountain Railroad.
The Delaware and Ulster Railroad only runs during the weekends in the summer and early fall (May 29 to Oct. 31). The scenic rail ride is a two-hour round trip from Arkville, NY to Roxbury, NY in an open railway car. There are a railroad museum exhibit and a little gift shop at the Arkville depot.
The Catskill Mountain Railroad offers scenic train rides through Kingston and also along the Esopus Creek. Visit the Empire State Railway Museum in the train depot in Phoenicia, NY.
Rail Rides and Rail Museums in New York’s Greater Niagara and Finger Lakes Regions
Train rides in the Finger Lakes region and the Greater Niagara region are fun excursions, especially during the fall foliage displays in New York. The Medina Railroad Museum holds historical importance in the region and holds enormous exhibits for train enthusiasts.
The Finger Lakes Railway offers several “fall foliage rail rides” in October, as well as wine and cheese and Halloween-themed train rides. While this railway is based out of Geneva, NY, each passenger excursion has a different boarding location. Check the Finger Lakes Railway website for times, prices, and boarding locations.
The Greater Niagara region hosts the Arcade and Attica Railroad which is based out of Arcade, NY. This railroad features both steam-powered locomotives as well as World War II-era diesel engine trains. The fall foliage tours are so popular, that the Arcade and Attica Railroad has an extended schedule just for sightseeing during the peak of autumn colors in the region.
The Medina Railroad Museum is located in Medina, NY in the Greater Niagara region of the state. This historically significant museum houses the largest freight depot museum exhibits in the U.S. The Medina Railroad also offers themed two-hour train ride excursions: winery, fall foliage, and Santa themes.
TrainTours in Central New York and Capital-Saratoga Regions
Batten Kill Rambler Scenic Train is in the Capital-Saratoga region of New York state, just north of Albany, NY. This is a 14-mile train ride that travels round trip from Salem, NY to Shushan, NY, and runs through the Battenkill Valley. There are two small museums to see: a covered bridge museum and a riverfront gorge museum.
The Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad was built in 1869. This railway is now run by the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society and does not run a regular schedule of train rides. Visitors and locals can charter a train to ride the “vintage rail cars and locomotives through the scenic wilderness of the upper Susquehanna River Valley.” (Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society website (lrhs.com), accessed September, 2010).
Train ride tourism in New York is very popular, but due to the extreme weather and snow, most railroads are closed after the month of October. The months of September and October are great for riding the scenic train tours for the best view of the famous fall foliage in the state of New York. Some of the railroads offer special Halloween-themed train rides in October as a final boost of business for the season
Sightseeing by taking scenic and historic train rides is a great way to visit New York. Scenic views are gorgeous in the summer and become spectacular in the fall when the autumn leaves turn brilliant colors and reach their peak.