RVing the Rails – Excursion Trains in Pennsylvania 265

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 Pennsylvania:

Tioga Central Railroad

Tioga Central Railroad Diesel Engine
Photo Credit: TiogaCentral.com

Running on tracks that date back to 1840, the Tioga Central Railroad has an intriguing history. The original railway connected Corning, New York to the coal mines in Atrium. It ran through today’s departure point at Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, carrying both passengers and freight. As parts of the line were abandoned, it was feared that railroading history would die, as well.

But by 1994 the rails between Wellsboro and Corning were targeted to run an excursion train, preserving a piece of Tioga County’s past. Today the railroad showcases the forest and wetlands of the region, traveling from the depot to Hammond Lake.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Tioga Central uses a diesel engine pulling cars on standard gauge tracks. The rolling stock includes a dining car with full kitchen, club car, coach and open cars, as well as table car. The dining car is climate controlled.

Seating Options

Tioga Central Railroad Dining Car
Photo Credit: TiogaCentral.com

All seating during the Lakeshore Express and Sunset Express train rides is open and unassigned. However, dinner tickets have assigned table seating. Passengers are welcome to walk through the cars, and restrooms are available onboard.

Riding Options

Passengers can purchase round trip only tickets online or in person. Travel is from Wellsboro to Lake Hammond and back, a two-hour ride. The evening trains on Friday and Saturday offer an option to sit in the dining car and enjoy a catered meal as part of the ticket price. Other travelers that choose to bypass the dining option have open seating in the other railcars.

Specialty Trains

Tioga Central Railroad Before Run
Photo Credit: Jss5104 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Tioga Central Railroad considers each of its “regular” trains a special event. Running weekends, the railway offers a Friday evening excursion with or without a catered meal. The Sunset Dinner Train and the Sunset Express are the same trips, on the same train but in different cars with different amenities.

Saturdays a Lake Express Train is added to the lineup, leaving the depot in Wellsboro at noon.  The Sunset Train is offered on Saturday evenings, as well.

Length of Season

Capturing the attention of summer vacationers and autumn leaf peepers has determined the train’s schedule. It provides Friday and Saturday evening trains and Saturday noon trips every weekend from June through October.

Strasburg Railroad

Strasburg Railroad
Photo Credit: StrasburgRailroad.com

It could be difficult to live up to the expectations that come with being the oldest chartered train in the country, but the Strasburg Railroad has no problems doing so. Begun in 1832, the rail line was originally used to transport freight from the Pennsylvania Railroad hub, but after World War II, the railroads waned with the improvement of the highway system.

Abandonment of the lines in Lancaster County was not to be, however, as the idea of a tourist train was suggested. So in 1958, 24 people purchased the rail line and the Strasburg Railroad became one of the biggest tourist draws for the region.

Railway and Locomotive Types

The Strasburg Railroad has five authentic steam locomotives working on standard gauge rails to pull restored lounge cars, coach and passenger cars, as well as dining and open rail cars through the Amish country of Pennsylvania on a 45-minute tour.

Seating Options

Strasburg Railroad Dining Car
Photo Credit: StrasburgRailroad.com

The railroad has assigned seating tickets for dinner cars only. All other cars have open, unassigned seats. There are, however, two separate classes of service, so there is no movement of passengers between cars during the excursion:

  • President’s Class – Passengers ride in the luxurious air-conditioned President’s Lounge car.
  • First Class – Passengers enjoy the journey in the air-conditioned lounge or parlor cars.
  • Coach Class – Passengers have their choice of a windowed coach car or an open gondola.

Riding Options

Strasburg Railroad Full and Pint Size
Photo Credit: StrasburgRailroad.com

Tickets on the Strasburg Railroad are all round-trip. However, riders can choose to disembark at two different groves along the journey for picnics and children’s playtime. Since trains run on the hour from 11:00am to 4:00pm during high season, the riders can hop onboard a later train for the return to the depot.

Passengers have the opportunity to purchase some extra experiences before or after their rides:

  • Shop Tour – See how these historic railcars are restored and repaired in a behind-the-scenes tour.
  • Hostling Tour – A morning exploration of the feed and caring of Strasburg’s five steam locomotives.

Specialty Trains

  • Easter Bunny Train – Hop on this seasonal train for a trip that’s sure to be egg-cellent.
  • Day Out with Thomas – Tiny train lovers will enjoy a ride with Thomas The Tank Engine, with play available on cranky cars, in the Imagination Station and during storytime!

Length of Season

The Strasburg Railroad is only closed for the month of January. May through August the regular train runs seven days a week. During the slower seasons of winter and fall, weekend departures occur five times a day, with three daily departures on weekdays. Take a look at the schedule to plan your visit.

Colebrookdale Railroad

Colebrookdale Railroad
Photo Credit: ColebrookdaleRailroad.com

Running through the Schuylkill Valley in eastern Pennsylvania, one might never realize the Colebrookdale Railroad has a storied past. The tracks were laid by returning Civil War soldiers over 150 years ago, and the railway ran past a gristmill and the first iron works and blast furnace ever built in Pennsylvania.

Today the train runs from Boyertown to Pottstown, connecting passengers with the countryside known as the Secret Valley, a region admired for its natural beauty and history.

Railway and Locomotive Types

Running a diesel locomotive on standard gauge rails, the Colebrookdale Railroad runs dining cars, deluxe coaches, parlor cars and a garden café car as its rolling stock. Passengers will enjoy a two-hour excursion through the Secret Valley in these meticulously restored cars.

Seating Options

Colebrookdale Railroad Dining Car
Photo Credit: ColebrookdaleRailroad.com

Passengers have their choice of cars and service when it comes to the train cars, as all seats are assigned by car:

  • First Class Service – Riders enjoy the journey in a nicely-appointed parlor car, complete with a baby grand piano!
  • Dining Service – Many of the trains offer meals in the dining car and the garden café car. There are a wide variety of menus offered, and some are also available on specialty trains.  Check the train schedule to see if your date of travel has this option.
  • Deluxe Coach Service – Passengers will travel in coach cars or an open gondola car.

Riding Options

The Colebrookdale Railroad departs from Boyertown and travels almost nine miles through the Secret Valley, returning by the same track. They do offer special runs by the Brill Motorcar (also known as “Doodlebug” during the zoo trains) on one-hour departure schedules.

Passengers can also purchase a seat in the locomotive to watch the inner workings of the Iron Horse on most rides.

Specialty Trains

Colebrookdale Depot
Photo Credit: ColebrookdaleRailroad.com
  • Pumpkin Patch Excursion – Take the Brill Motorcar to Frog Hollow Farm for a day of pumpkin patch fun. The motorcar will shuttle passengers all day long, so stay and enjoy decorating your pumpkin, drinking cider and indulging in snacks.
  • Autumn Splendor Fall Foliage Train – Enjoy the colors of Autumn on a tour of the Secret Valley. A scrumptious brunch is offered to dining car patrons.
  • Zoo Train – Take the Doodlebug to Frog Hollow Farm for a children’s petting zoo. It’s sure to be a fun and furry experience!
  • Zombie Hunter Train – Blast zombies with provided “blaster packs” to rid the railroad of the pesky monsters at a stop along the way. Those not wishing to participate can become spectators to the zombie annihilation from the train!

Length of Season

The Colebrookdale Railroad season runs from March through mid-November, with specialty trains departing on specific dates throughout the year. Please check the train schedule to make your 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 pennsylvania

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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