RVing the Rails – Excursion Trains in Alabama 159

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 Train on Tracks
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Today we will explore the most popular trains in Alabama:

North Alabama Railroad Museum

Excursion Trains in Alabama - North Alabama Railroad Entrance
Photo Credit: North Alabama Railroad Museum Facebook

The historic Huntsville Branch of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway is today’s right-of-way for the Mercury & Chase Railroad, run by the North Alabama Railroad Museum. This 10-mile journey starts at what was once the smallest union station in the United States, the Chase Depot.

After many runs, the engineers decided a locomotive at each end of the train would make the most sense for climbing hills to and from the depot, and today’s passengers can enjoy a trip through forests and along historical rails.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The railroad has several diesel locomotives, two stainless steel coaches, a dining car, a Pullman car, and a baggage car. They all travel on standard gauge rails.

Seating Options

All seats are assigned for each of the trains. Tickets can be purchased in advance online if desired.

Riding Options

Excursion Trains in Alabama - North Alabama Railroad Museum Depot
Photo Credit: North Alabama Railroad Museum Facebook

The Mercury & Chase Railroad has three routes that it runs, differing in length of trip.

  • Short trains run for approximately 35 minutes
  • Medium trains run for approximately 45 minutes
  • Regular trains run for approximately 1 hour

Specialty Trains

Excursion Trains in Alabama - North Alabama Railroad Diesel Engine
Photo Credit: Jeff Hunter (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • Peter Cottontail Train – Visit with Peter Cottontail on the train and collect a special Easter treat!
  • Pumpkin Pickin’ Train – Enjoy a leisurely ride to Normal, Alabama, where passengers will disembark to head for the pumpkin patch. Children can select their own pumpkin to take home with them.
  • North Star Limited – A special evening train ride with Santa includes personal time with Old Saint Nick, treats and a pajama party!

Length of Season

The Mercury & Chase Railroad operates from April through December. Please check the train schedule for specific excursions and times.

Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum

Excursion Trains in Alabama - Heart of Dixie Railroad Diesel Engine
Photo Credit: Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum Facebook

Leaving from Calera, Alabama, the Heart of Dixie Railroad runs on the historic tracks of the Louisville & Nashville Alabama Mineral Railroad, which was established in 1891.

Today’s excursion train takes passengers on an hour-long trip through the forested countryside near Birmingham before returning to Calera. The railroad also operates a steam engine on a short narrow gauge track.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Heart of Dixie Railroad operates with both steam and diesel locomotives. The steam engine runs on a 2-foot narrow gauge loop, and the diesel pulls excursion trains on standard gauge rails. Rolling stock consists of open, covered cars, several historic passenger coaches, a baggage car, a dining car, a club car, and a planetarium dome coach car.

Seating Options

Excursion Trains in Alabama - Heart of Dixie Railroad Christmas Train
Photo Credit: Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum Facebook

All seating is unassigned, with space available in several open window coaches and open covered cars.

Riding Options

The Calera & Shelby train rides run on Saturdays, but passengers have the option to upgrade their trip with:

  • Caboose Ride
  • Locomotive Ride

Both have very limited availability, so reservations are strongly suggested.

Specialty Trains

Excursion Trains in Alabama - Heart of Dixie Railroad Wild West Shootout
Photo Credit: Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum Facebook
  • Wild West Train –Keep an eye out for bandits and train thieves as the train makes its way through their territory!
  • Ozan Vineyard Train – Ride the rails to a local vineyard, where wine tasting is the number one activity of the day. Tour the winery, and enjoy a picnic lunch before returning to the depot.
  • Cottontail Express – Take the kids on the train to Peter Cottontail’s Meadow, where an Easter egg hunt gets underway, followed by games and activities.
  • Superhero Express – Dress as your favorite superhero, then ride the train with community heroes like local police officers, firefighters, military personnel and emergency medical technicians.

Length of Season

The Heart of Dixie Railroad runs two trains every Saturday between March and September, with specialty trains operating on specific dates, as well. Please check the train schedule to select your perfect excursion train!

Wales West Light Railway & RV Resort

Excursion Trains in Alabama - Wales West Light Rail
Photo Credit: Wales West Light Railway Facebook

Wales West is actually an RV Resort near the Gulf Coast of Alabama, with a swimming lake, indoor pool, and various activities. But the campground is centered around its Welsh narrow gauge railroad, a train that was designed with a smaller steam-powered engine and cars that could maneuver around remote parts of Wales (Hence, the name “Wales West”).

This Alabama campground makes great use of the “light” railway, creating several seasonal celebrations that utilize the train. The resort also has a mini-train, used as entertainment for children.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Wales West railway consists of an authentic steam-powered Welsh narrow gauge engine and several open covered cars. It is, in fact, the only one of its kind operating in the United States.

Seating Options

Passengers have open seating and can sit wherever they like on the light railway.

Riding Options

Excursion Trains in Alabama - Wales West Light Rail Halloween Train
Photo Credit: WalesWest.com

The Wales West Light Railway runs in one direction only, so rides are limited to the same destination, with hour-long excursions the norm. However, specialty trains usually stop at a destination for fun and entertainment, with rides lasting approximately one-and-one-half hours.

Specialty Trains

  • Cottontail Express – Take a steam train ride to see the Easter Bunny, hunt for eggs and enjoy refreshments!
  • Pumpkin Patch Express – A scary night train ride to the haunted barn and maze is just part of the fun on this excursion, where passengers also enjoy a hay-less hayride and picking their own pumpkin from the patch.
  • Arctic Express – Travel through a winter wonderland (with snow-making machines, if necessary!) to see Santa, receive a gift and take in the beauty of more than one million Christmas lights illuminating the forest and several displays.

Length of Season

Excursion Trains in Alabama - Wales West Light Railway
Photo Credit: Wales West Light Railway Facebook

Wales West is open year-round as an RV resort, and the trains run daily. Specialty trains operate on specific dates, so please check the schedule.


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 Alabama

Shelley Dennis Contributor
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

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