October 10, 2021
The Strasburg Railroad is America’s oldest continuously operating railroad and an incredible must-see rail road experience that’s authentically Lancaster!
It’s an AMAZING experience to ride an authentic full steam train and traverse the Amish countryside. Lancaster County PA is beautiful, particularly our farmlands… you’ll want to have your camera ready and fully charged! If you’re leaning toward a railroad ride, we really encourage you to hop aboard. And, well, if you love trains this cannot be missed!
Start at the Strasburg Railroad Station. There you’ll get to see engines and rail cars – like larger than life up close. The Strasburg Rail Road is a real, operating steam railroad. The main difference between this railroad and other modern railroads is that Strasburg Rail Road trains are pulled by humongous steam locomotives while passengers ride in restored, turn-of-the-century wooden rail cars. Come marvel at the past and ride in a historic train! While here, you’ll also learn about the impact that the railroad industry has had on our nation. Also, down the block from the railroad is the Choo Choo Barn, an epic 1700-sq ft model railroad. It consists of over 150 hand-built animated figures and vehicles and 22 operating trains. After, cross the street and you’ll also have the opportunity to explore the separate Strasburg Railroad Museum. The museum is very popular for its interactive activities. For example, adults and children can pretend to shovel coal into a mock locomotive firebox or have a hand at a link-and-pin coupler and flip panels where you can explore life in a typical “railroad town” in Pennsylvania, circa 1915. The museum is also home to a Train Yard, incredibly popular among train afficionados.
The Strasburg Railroad has been luring travelers to Pennsylvania Dutch Country since 1832. It was first incorporated under the presidential candidacy of Andrew Jackson, and over the next 100 years, the Strasburg Rail Road became an integral part of the transportation network across the state. Passenger travel lessened with the invention of the electric trolley in 1901, but the need to transport freight during World War I and World War II kept the railroad running. In 1958, 24 stockholders purchased the Strasburg Rail Road for $18,000 from the Homsher Estate, though the railroad was inoperable at this point because of the bad condition of the tracks.
After some repairs and locomotive purchases, the Strasburg Rail Road celebrated its 150th birthday in 1982. In 2000, Engine 31 recreated its first run and became an educational monument. Then, in 2011, the Strasburg Rail Road received a state historical market from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Its impact on the railroad industry and innovation in heritage tourism still continues today!
There are two options for riding the regular excursion train: coach car and open-air car. Both options last 45-minutes in length and go 4.5 miles east and 4.5 miles returning west on the same track alongside a beautiful farming landscape. The standard coaches are beautifully restored in authentic Victorian style. A potbelly stove heats the trains on chilly days. During warmer weather, open the windows for fresh air. From April through November, you may also tour the scenic surroundings on an open-air car, which offers a wide-open view of the countryside and neighboring Amish farms. In years past there were various options in terms of railroad passes. At present, you can purchase an annual pass at the Strasburg Rail Road, which includes: unlimited rides aboard the Coach class accommodations on regular train rides; upgrade to higher-fare cars; unlimited rides aboard the Crank Car and Pint-Sized Pufferbelly; and exclusive discounts on special event trains. If you purchase an annual pass you will receive a discount code that’s exclusive to you. In this way, you may secure rides aboard the rail road and apply your discount code at check out to reserve complimentary tickets, or to purchase discounted upgraded tickets. Check the website at other times for seasonal passes too.
In addition to this, the railroad also offers theme trips, like the Santa Christmas Trolley that includes a photo opp with Santa Claus; the Christmas Tree Train, where you may choose a pre-cut Frasier Fir tree, then get it delivered back to the station; as well as wine and cheese train rides, Easter Bunny rides, Escape the Room rides, and many others – including the beloved Day Out with Thomas, aka Strasburg Railroad Thomas, where Thomas the Tank Engine — the famous steam train from the Island of Sodor — will pull your 45-minute excursion ride through Lancaster County countryside.
For details on these train rides and for the Strasburg Railroad schedule, visit www.strasburgrailroad.com.
You don’t have to take a ride to enjoy the Strasburg Rail Road and what it has to offer. The station has dining, shopping, touring, and more! Enjoy food at Cafe 1832, a trackside farm-to-table cafe. The menu includes freshly made burgers, grilled chicken, salads, and hand-dipped ice cream for dessert. There are three stores at the station, including two gift shops and one toy store. Pick out a souvenir to keep as a lasting memory of your visit to the Strasburg Rail Road or find something to bring back to family or friends back home. The kids will love the toy store, which includes books, apparel, and a favorite- wooden railways! If you do choose to ride the train and want to incorporate a picnic between May and October, let the conductor know and you may exit at Leaman Place or Groff’s Grove. You’ll need to plan on staying at the grove for 90-minutes until the next train arrives to bring you back to the station.
If you’ve worked up an appetite during your trip, you have a few great options:
After a day learning about the history of the Strasburg Rail Road and exploring the station, come back to the Historic Smithton Inn for a good night’s sleep. You’d be surprised how a ride aboard a locomotive will wear you out. You will be so excited to see all the passing sights and sounds! After a relaxing sleep at Historic Smithton, wake up to a delicious breakfast that will rejuvenate before another day in Lancaster County. For more to do in the area, download our free vacation guide!
We love talking with guests about the Strasburg Railroad! Let us know if there are any other questions we can answer!