RVing the Rails – Excursion Trains in Indiana 287

Metamora and Whitewater Valley Train

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 Engine on the tracks
Photo Credit: Skeeze on Unsplash

Today we will explore the most popular trains in Indiana:

French Lick Scenic Railway

French Lick Scenic Railway
Photo Credit: FrenchLickScenicRailway.org

Begun as the Indiana Railway Museum, today’s train runs on tracks once owned by the Southern Railway Company. The twenty-five miles of the French Lick Scenic Railway running from French Lick to Jasper is now a living history museum dedicated to railroad transportation. Passengers pass through the hills of southern Indiana and the Hoosier National Forest, enjoying rail travel as it was meant to be—relaxing transportation that celebrates the journey, not just the destination.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The railroad runs with a diesel electric engine on standard gauge tracks.  The rolling stock consists of glass-enclosed dome cars and enclosed coach passenger cars.

Seating Options

  • Dome Class – Passengers ride in the upper glass-enclosed dome car with tables of four and assigned seating. An assistant is on hand to help.
  • First Class – Passengers with first class tickets ride in the lower dome and 1710 cars, where padded seats and tables are provided. All first class seats are assigned.
  • Coach Class – Passengers with coach class tickets ride in enclosed cars with open general admission seating, available on a first-come, first serve basis.
French Lick Scenic Railway
Photo Credit: FrenchLickScenicRailway.org

Riding Options

Train excursions are all round-trip affairs, so there are no one-way tickets or side trips available.

Specialty Trains

Reservations are suggested for all specialty trains, as they tend to sell out.

  • Easter Bunny Express – Catch a ride from the French Lick Depot to the Easter Egg field, where children can hunt for eggs and take their picture with the Easter Bunny.
  • Wild West Hold Ups – Take a journey back to the Wild West as the French Lick Scenic Railway gets hit by robbers attempting to steal the payroll. Hide your valuables!
  • Dinosaur Adventure Train – Venture back to the Jurassic Era and learn about paleontology and natural science on the Dinosaur Train. Children can participate in a fossil dig and hold a live reptile.
  • Polar Express – Wear your pajamas and hop on board the Polar Express for a ride to the North Pole. Santa can’t wait to hear what you want for Christmas, and the elves and chefs will make sure all passengers are well-fed with cocoa and cookies!
Cowboy Train Robber
Photo Credit: FrenchLickScenicRailroad

Length of Season

The French Lick Scenic Railway season runs from March through October, with Polar Express trains running on weekends in November and December.  Check out their schedule here.

Whitewater Valley Railroad

Whitewater Valley Railroad
Photo Credit: WhitewaterValleyRR.org

Back in 1845 the state of Indiana built the Whitewater Canal for towing freight, but the waterway suffered from flooding and washouts.  So eventually the towpath along the canal was used to lay railroad tracks.  Today, the Whitewater Valley Railroad runs from Connersville to the restored canal town of Metamora, where passengers can explore a working grist mill, canal boats and the locks in a two-hour layover, before returning to Connersville.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The railroad operates with a diesel locomotive running on standard gauge track.  Enclosed passenger cars with windows provide a comfortable way to see the Whitewater Valley.

Seating Options

There are no assigned seats on the Whitewater Valley Railroad.  All cars are enclosed coaches with general admission tickets.

Metamora and Whitewater Valley Train
Photo Credit: WhitewaterValleyRR.org

Riding Options

The railroad offers two options for some interesting train travel:

  • Caboose Rental – Rent an entire caboose for up to 20 people and have it hooked to the train!
  • Metamora Shuttle – for those passengers who would like to travel two miles past the depot in Metamora, this shuttle train offers a short trip along the canal to see restored canal locks, canal boat docks and a working aquaduct.

For those wishing to travel one-way, tickets can be purchased from Connersville to Metamora.

Specialty Trains

  • Throttle Time – Become a train engineer on this special day, where guests will go through safety inspections, training and get 30 minutes of “throttle time” operating a diesel electric engine.
  • Ghost Train – Depart from Metamora Depot to hear stories of the train’s tragic past. A few ghastly apparitions may join you on the excursion.
  • Pumpkinliner – Take a train ride to the pumpkin patch, where hayrides and jack o’lanterns await!
  • Polar Express – Join in the holiday fun as the train visits the North Pole to pick up Santa. Kids will have an opportunity to tell him all about their Christmas wishes, and riders will enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, along with a reading of the beloved “Polar Express” story.
Whitewater Valley Caboose Train
Photo Credit: WhitewaterValleyRR.org

Length of Season

The Whitewater Valley Railroad operates from March through October with weekend train rides.  Specialty trains are scheduled on specific dates, so please check the train calendar to select your excursion.

Hoosier Valley Railroad

Hoosier Valley Railroad
Photo Credit: HoosierValley.org

Located at the confluence of four different historical railroads, the town of North Judson was a pretty busy place during railroad’s hey days.  With the Pennsylvania Railroad, the New York Central Railroad, the Erie Railroad, and Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad all fighting for attention, it was not unusual to see 125 trains pass through this rural community in one day!  Now the Hoosier Valley Railroad is carrying the torch, providing excursion trains and a museum to preserve railway history.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Hoosier Valley Railroad operates with a vintage diesel locomotive on standard gauge tracks.  Rolling stock includes various cabooses, an open air gondola car and climate controlled enclosed passenger coaches.

Seating Options

All seating is open with no assigned seats.  Seating on all cars is considered General Admission on a first come, first serve basis.

Passenger Car on Hoosier Valley Railroad
Photo Credit: HoosierValley.org

Riding Options

A 45 minute train ride from the depot in North Judson travels across the Kankakee River Bridge at English Lake, then back to the depot.  There are no one-way tickets, but passengers are assured they will see some lovely Indiana countryside.

Specialty Trains

  • Easter Train – Hop on the train for an excursion to an Easter egg hunt, where the Easter Bunny joins in on the fun.
  • Fall Harvest Train – Take a leisurely trip through the autumnal colors in the northern Indiana countryside.
  • Halloween Train – This twilight train that will entertain your trick-or-treaters.  Bring your costumed ghosts and goblins for a haunting good ride!
  • Santa Train – Don’t miss a ride on the rails with the Big Man himself!
Hoosier Valley Railroad Depot
Photo Credit: HoosierValley.org

Length of Season

The Hoosier Valley Railroad runs trains every Saturday from May through September.  Special event trains are scheduled on specific dates, so check the train schedule to find the excursion that suits you.

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 Indiana

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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