RVing the Rails – Excursion Trains in New Hampshire 3656

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 Train
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Today we will explore the most popular trains in New Hampshire:

Café Lafayette Dinner Train

Excursion Trains in New Hampshire - Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train
Photo Credit: NHDinnerTrain.com

Get transported back in time when rail travel was celebrated, and elegant meals onboard were commonplace…well, almost! The Café Lafayette Dinner Train leaves a stunningly restored depot in Woodstock to escort passengers through a bit of the White Mountains in the late afternoon.

Along the way, five courses of exquisitely prepared food are served, with ambiance provided by Frank Sinatra drifting through the speakers and luggage racks filled with antique suitcases. It is a perfectly romantic way to spend an evening in New Hampshire!

Railway and Locomotive Types

The railroad runs with a diesel locomotive on standard gauge tracks. The rolling stock consists of a 1952 dome dining car, a 1954 dining car, along with a Pullman and an Army kitchen car.

Seating Options

Excursion Trains in New Hampshire - Cafe Lafayette Dining Car
Photo Credit: NHDinnerTrain.com

All seats are assigned for table dining, meaning most are 4 person tables. There is a historian on board to share the history of the area and the railroad, and passengers can tour the other cars and talk with the chef at the end of the trip.

Riding Options

There are two classes of service available, dependent upon railcar choice:

  • Main Level Dining – Dinner is served in a passenger dining car.
  • Dome Level Dining – Dinner is served in the upper-level dome car.

Both levels offer the same choice of meals and meticulously attentive service.

Specialty Trains

Excursion Trains in New Hampshire - Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train
Photo Credit: NHDinnerTrain.com

The Café Lafayette is a specialty train on its own. Passengers are treated to a two-hour train ride through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, during which an elegant five-course meal is served. It doesn’t get more “special” than that!

Length of Season

The Café Lafayette Dinner Train runs from mid-May through October, with departures Thursday through Sunday, depending upon the season. Please check the train schedule for specific dates.

Conway Scenic Railroad

Excursion Trains in New Hampshire - Conway Scenic Railroad
Photo Credit: ConwayScenic.com

With the Portsmouth, Great Falls & Conway Railroad that was built in 1872, a need for a depot arose. Conway was a summer resort, so architects put great effort into designing a showcase, and the Victorian stylings of the new depot were an immediate hit.

Passenger service along the line was stellar for more than 90 years, with many riding snow trains to the ski mountains in the region. But automobile travel slowed the need for train service, and the railroad abandoned the line in 1972.

Two years later several local businessmen founded the Conway Scenic Railway, introducing excursion train service to the Mount Washington Valley, and the railway’s growth has been steady ever since!

Railway and Locomotive Types

The railroad operates one steam locomotive (the only coal-fired standard gauge engine in New Hampshire) and several diesel engines. Rolling stock consists of several commuter and first-class coaches, a dome car, open cars, and even an 1898 Pullman open-deck observation car.

Seating Options

Excursion Trains in New Hampshire - Conway Scenic Railroad Depot
Photo Credit: ConwayScenic.com

The Conway Scenic Railroad offers assigned seating on all of its trains. In some instances, dinner can also be included with ticket prices:

  • Premium Dome Seating – Enjoy the best view in the house, sitting in the upper level of the dome car.
  • Premium Screen Room Seating – Sit in lounge chairs with television screens in the lower level of the dome car.
  • First-Class Seating – Take in the scenery from padded, individual seats in an enclosed passenger car.
  • Coach Seating – Seats are bench-style in an enclosed passenger coach.

Riding Options

The railroad operates two different round-trip trains from their North Conway Village depot:

  • Notch Train – A scenic tour of Crawford Notch, with bluffs, trestles, mountain vistas, and steep ravines constitutes this six-hour ride. All classes of service are available for this excursion.
  • Valley Trains – These trains stay in the valley, with views of woodlands and a river crossing. There are two routes available: Conway Excursion is a short one hour ride around the valley. Bartlett Excursion is one hour and 45 minutes long.

Specialty Trains

Excursion Trains in New Hampshire - Conway Scenic Railroad Steam Engine
Photo Credit: ConwayScenic.com
  • Johnny Appleseed Express – Take the Valley Train to a local orchard, where apple picking is an Autumn tradition.
  • Murder Mystery Train – Enjoy dinner theater while solving a crime involving an 80s rock band. Become a “groupie” on this three-hour tour!
  • Santa’s Holiday Express – Take a ride with Santa and his helpers on this train, where goodies abound and kids can grab Old Saint Nick’s ear to tell him about their Christmas wishes.

Length of Season

Valley trains run from mid-April through December, and Notch trains ride the rails from mid-June through October. Specialty trains have separate dates, so it’s a good idea to check the train schedule for specific times.

Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad

Excursion Trains in New Hampshire - Hobo Railroad
Photo Credit: Jyothis (CC BY 3.0)

As part of the Boston & Maine Railroad, the tracks for what is today called the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad were laid back in 1849. The lake whose shores it follows was considered remote back then, but with the growth of tourism, the train has found lasting popularity.

The railroad has two lines that it operates in the region: the one around Lake Winnipesaukee, and one that departs from Lincoln, called the Hobo Railroad.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The trains are driven by diesel locomotives on standard gauge lines, with a variety of passenger coaches and dining cars.

Seating Options

Excursion Trains in New Hampshire - Scenic Railroad
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Passengers have an option to purchase First Class or Coach seating on the train ride, with assigned seats in each car.

Riding Options

The Hobo Railroad and the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad are round-trip excursions. Passengers have the opportunity to purchase snacks and refreshments while on the train.

Specialty Trains

Excursion Trains in New Hampshire - Hobo Railroad and Depot
Photo Credit: Robert Linsdell (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • Santa Express – Sit back and enjoy a one-and-one-half hour holiday train with your complimentary cocoa and cookies. Children can write letters to Santa, who appears to collect them and distribute gifts along the way.
  • Rail & Sail – Leaving from the Meredith Station, passengers ride the train to Lake Winnipesaukee for a two-and-one-half hour cruise, before returning to Meredith.

Length of Season

The Hobo Train runs from Memorial Day weekend through December. Please check the train schedule to make your travel plans.

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 New Hampshire

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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