RVing the Rails – Excursion Trains in Massachusetts


Shelley Dennis

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Shelley Dennis is a travel photographer and writer who threw caution to the wind and gave up most of her belongings to travel the country in an RV. Her trusty sidekick for this lifetime adventure is her Golden Retriever, Sully. You can find them both at www.PhotoTrippingAmerica.com

Many times camping trips involve exploring new territory and discovering enticing attractions along the way. Passenger tour trains have that magnetic appeal for many RVers, providing a novel way to see hidden countryside not normally viewed from the road. Railroad passengers learn about local history, culture and the many colorful characters from the communities visited. Camping World wants to make sure you don’t miss the departing whistle, so we have created a series entitled RVing the Rails. You will find the most popular excursion trains to ride in each state, complete with any specialty trains they might offer.

Steam Locomotive on tracks
Photo Credit: Skeeze on Unsplash

Today we will explore the most popular trains in Massachusetts:

Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum

Berkshire Train with Diesel Engine
Photo Credit: BerkshireTrains.org

Being a descendant of the Berkshire Railroad has had its ups and downs for this excursion train. In 1842, the rails were run as part of the Housatonic and Berkshire Railroads and became quite popular with passengers vacationing in the area.

Today’s train line, the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum, has been cobbled together from abandoned tracks, with several entities refusing to lease the right-of-way to the railroad. Hence the reason this popular railway has moved on a couple of occasions. Now they have found a home between the communities of Adams and North Adams, providing a scenic 10 mile trip on historic rails that once connected the Berkshires with New York City.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Berkshire Scenic Railway has placed several diesel locomotives in service on the line, with standard gauge rails carrying enclosed motor cars and passenger coaches.

Seating Options

Berkshire Passenger Car
Photo Credit: BerkshireTrains.org

All seating on the train is unassigned general admission tickets, available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The railroad does suggest purchasing tickets in advance online, however, to assure a seat on the specific train you’ve chosen.

Riding Options

Train excursions are all round-trip affairs, so there are no one-way tickets or side trips available. The one-hour tour takes passengers through the beautiful rolling hills of the Berkshires.

Specialty Trains

Berkshire Train on Tracks
Photo Credit: BerkshireTrains.org
  • Cabaret Trains – Enjoy live music as you travel the countryside of Western Massachusetts. Passengers are encouraged to bring their own beverages and snacks onboard.
  • Tinseliner Trains – Take a trip back to the 1950s with a vintage Christmas train ride. Passengers stop at a tree lot to select the perfect Yuletide tree for pick up later, and Santa will join in the festivities.
  • Mistletoe & Martini Train – Live holiday music will accompany your Christmas train ride. Bring snacks and beverages along to make the season bright!

Length of Season

The Berkshire Scenic Railroad season runs from Memorial Day through October with weekend departures. Specialty trains have specific dates, so please check the train schedule for more information.

Cape Cod Central Railroad

Cape Cod Central Railroad
Photo Credit: CapeTrain.com

Continuing railroad history that dates back more than 170 years, the Cape Cod Central has big shoes to fill. Initially, trains ran to the Cape to provide freight service, but passengers were quick to discover the train as a relaxing way to travel to the beaches and communities of this vacationer’s paradise.

Today’s railway takes travelers through places not normally accessible by car, like saltwater marshes and cranberry bogs.  It’s no wonder that so many enjoy its excursion and dinner trains alike.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The railroad operates diesel locomotives, the very same engines that ran on these rails in the 1950s. The standard gauge track is perfectly suited to carry plush table cars, a glass dome car, lounge car, kitchen car and enclosed Pullman coaches.

Seating Options

Dining Car on Cape Cod Central Train
Photo Credit: CapeTrain.com

The Cape Cod Central Railroad has assigned seating tickets with classes as follows:

On Excursion Trains:

  • Standard Class – Passengers travel in double decker rail cars with seats arranged in rows.
  • First Class – Passengers ride at seated tables of four.
  • Diamond Class – Passengers travel in a glass-enclosed dome car, seated at tables of four.

On Dinner Trains:

  • Standard Class – Ticketed passengers enjoy a five-course meal, seated at a table of four in a passenger car.
  • First Class – Ticketed passengers partake of a five-course meal, seated at a table of four in the glass-enclosed dome car.
  • Diamond Class – Passengers are seated at a private table in a vintage club car while enjoying a five-course meal. One alcoholic beverage is included with the meal.

Riding Options

The railroad offers two types of rail adventures:

  • Excursion Trains –These narrated trains venture to the Cape Cod Canal, along the coast or stop for a tour of a glass factory.
  • Dinner Trains – Try a Sunday brunch, a weekday lunch or an exclusive dinner train to top off your visit to the Cape.

Specialty Trains

Cape Train Cross a Bridge
Photo Credit: CapeTrain.com
  • Rails & Ales Beer Tasting Train – Pair local brews with locally sourced appetizers for an evening adventure. Brewers are on hand to talk about their craft and answer any questions as you taste test several popular beers.
  • Gourmet Wine & Dinner Train – Revel in a five-course meal as you sip four sample wines from a local vineyard.
  • Christmas Train – Take the whole family on a holiday train to the North Pole, where Santa climbs on board to talk with children, hand out gifts and enjoy some Christmas fun.

Length of Season

The Cape Cod Central Railroad operates from May through October. Specialty trains are scheduled on specific dates, so please check the train calendar to see which excursion is right for you.

Lowell National Historical Park

Trolley Car at Lowell National Historical Park
Photo Credit: NPS

Historically trolley cars have been a part of Lowell since the surrounding mills began to attract workers. As the town grew outside of its boundaries, the new suburbs began to require transportation. So, in 1889 Lowell got its first electric streetcar and the lines continued to expand.

Once automobiles became popular, however, the need for trolleys dried up. When the Lowell National Historical Park was designated here, visitors required transportation around the park and into downtown Lowell, so trolley cars were put back into operation, rejuvenating the historic vehicles.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Lowell National Historical Park runs two open air electric trolley cars and one enclosed electric trolley car on the tracks of the old Boston Main Railroad. The cars are powered by overhead lines carrying 600 volts of electricity.

Seating Options

Park Ranger on Lowell National Historical Park Trolley Car
Photo Credit: NPS

There is no charge to ride the trolley, so all seating is open with no assigned seats. Passengers can get on or off the trolley at any of the designated stops.

Riding Options

Catch a trolley ride from the park into downtown Lowell, then ride it back to Lowell National Historical Park for more tours with a ranger, on a boat or through a mill. Passengers can catch a trolley throughout the park during their operating hours at no charge.

Specialty Trains

Trolley Car in Lowell National Historical Park
Photo Credit: NPS by Jim Higgins

The trolley itself is considered a specialty train and a part of transportation history. Most trolleys were utilized in medium-sized cities, where electric lines were readily available, and residents needed to travel greater distances than what had been done by walking in earlier years.

Length of Season

The trolleys at Lowell National Historical Park run from March through November, taking passengers to downtown Lowell and bringing them back to the national park.

Join the thousands of RVers that have a love affair with trains and ride the rails on your next camping trip.  Check out the other excursion trains available on a state-by-state basis in our series, RVing the Rails.

Excursion trains in Massachusetts

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