RVing the Rails – Excursion Trains in Washington


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. And 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 Engine on the Rails
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Today we will explore the most popular trains in Washington:

Yakima Valley Trolleys

Yakima Valley Trolley
Photo Credit: YakimaValleyTrolleys.org

Operating on the original 1907 tracks of the Yakima Valley Transportation Company, the trolleys connect the towns of Yakima and Selah, Washington. The Union Pacific purchased the track, with plans to utilize the interurban cars as freight runners to their mainline.

But as personal automobiles became more popular, the need for streetcars waned, and the line was discontinued in 1947. By 1985 Union Pacific abandoned the line, donating the equipment to the city of Yakima. Today, the town has rejuvenated streetcar traffic, giving new generations insight into transportation innovations of the past.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Yakima Valley Trolleys run on overhead wire electrical lines by power provided from the original stone powerhouse and substation. Two streetcars travel the five miles from Yakima over the Naches River and through the Selah Gap before returning.

Seating Options

There is no assigned seating on the trolleys. All tickets are round-trip fares.

Riding Options

Yakima Valley Trolley parked
Photo Credit: Robert Ashworth (CC BY-SA 2.0)

There are two options for a trolley ride:

  • Selah Line – Transportation from Yakima to Selah and back is offered with this ticket.
  • Pine Street Line – Ride up and down Pine Street, hopping on and off the trolley at your leisure. The ticket is good for the entire day.

Specialty Trains

  • Halloween Trolley – A spooky trip on the Halloween Trolley will scare any ghost or goblin!
  • Trolley Mysteries – Take a mysterious trolley to the Yakima Valley Museum for an evening of wine and beer tastings, music and a silent auction.
  • Santa Claus Trolley – Don’t disappoint Old Saint Nick by missing his official ride for the season!

Length of Season

Yakima Valley Trolley
Photo Credit: Yakima Valley Trolleys Facebook

Running on weekends from Memorial Day through the end of September, the Yakima Valley Trolleys leave at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm.

Chehalis Centralia Railroad & Museum

Chehalis Centralia Railroad Steam Engine
Photo Credit: SteamTrainRide.com

Built along tracks from the original Puget Sound & Willapa Harbor Railway, this train was put together piece by piece. The inspiration for today’s railroad was a 1916 steam locomotive that had been in a Chehalis city park.

Restoration on the engine took two years, giving local volunteers time to find passenger cars and gain use of the old rails from Chehalis to just past Milburn for coach and dinner excursions.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Chehalis Centralia restored a steam engine that had been in a city park on display for thirty years, then added authentic 1920s passenger cars to run on standard gauge rails.

The train runs through hills and over wooden trestles along the Chehalis River for approximately 10 miles.

Seating Options

Seating on the regular trains is open, without assignment. Passengers are encouraged to explore any or all of the cars and can sit where they like.

Dinner trains have assigned seating at tables of four. The railroad also offers an upgrade ticket to ride in the cab of the locomotive with the train engineer.

Riding Options

View From Chehalis Centralia Railroad
Photo Credit: SteamTrainRide.com

The railway offers two round-trip rides through the farmland of the Chehalis Valley:

  • Coach Train Rides – Enjoy a slightly shorter excursion along the Chehalis River.
  • Dinner Train Rides – Four-course meals are served in a dining car as passengers enjoy the surrounding countryside.

Specialty Trains

  • Murder Mystery – Become a sleuth on this evening dinner train, solving a murder case while enjoy a hearty meal.
  • Sweetheart’s Train – Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic evening train ride through the Chehalis Valley while dining on a scrumptious four-course meal.
  • Eggspress Train – Bring your own Easter basket for a Spring train ride and egg hunt. A visit from the Easter Bunny is guaranteed!
  • Pumpkin Train – Enjoy an Autumn ride on the steam train to a pumpkin patch, where kids can select their own pumpkin for carving.
  • Polar Express – Take the kids on a magical train ride to the North Pole while the story of the Polar Express is read. All will enjoy hot cocoa and cookies as Santa visits with starry-eyed children.

Length of Season

Chehalis Centralia Railroad Depot
Photo Credit: SteamTrainRide.com

The railroad season runs on weekends from May through October, with both coach trains and dinner trains. Specialty trains run on specific dates throughout the year, so please check the calendar to schedule your excursion.

Chelatchie Prairie Railroad

Chelatchie Prairie Railroad
Photo Credit: Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Facebook

The rail lines in northern Clark County, Washington were first built in the 1880s but went through numerous ownership changes. From the Vancouver, Klickitat and Yakima Railroad to the Northern Pacific, today’s train had many names over the years, but initially was created to service the lumber industry.

Passengers caught a ride when they could find a seat in engine, caboose or on freight cars during the heydays of logging. But eventually the railroad became less and less important and parts of the line were abandoned. By 1998, a group of local volunteers began restoring the rails and equipment, and the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad began excursion service in 2001.

Railway and Locomotive Types

Diesel locomotives push (and pull) the train on standard gauge tracks from Yacolt to Lucia and back. The rolling stock consists of several cabooses, a Pullman car, and an open-air car. A steam locomotive is also utilized for special occasions and weekend traffic.

Seating Options

Logging Camp Along Chelatchie Prairie Railroad
Photo Credit: Public Domain

Open seating on the train gives all passengers the chance to enjoy enclosed coach travel as well as open-air cars on warm summer days.

Riding Options

The railroad offers two types of trips, both along the same tracks. They run on separate schedules, so be sure to check the train calendar to see which is available on your day of travel.

  • Diesel Trains
  • Steam Locomotive Trains

The schedule provides a nice selection of dinner and wine trains available, as well.

Specialty Trains

  • Robbery Train – Don’t bring too many valuables on the train, as thieves have been known to “hold up” the Iron Horse on some of its excursions.
  • Headless Horseman Train – Enjoy the spookiest of adventures as passengers travel the Chelatchie Prairie with a headless horseman.
  • Christmas Tree Special – Bring the family to ride the train to a Christmas tree farm, select the perfect evergreen and bring it back on the train!

Length of Season

Chelatchie Prairie Railroad on Trestle
Photo Credit: Chelatchie Prairie Railroad website

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad runs on weekends from May through December. Check the train schedule to find the excursion that best meets your needs.

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.

RVing the Rails - Excursion trains in Washington

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