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If you love a good bourbon, horse racing, culture, or even trains and are planning to visit Kentucky soon, these highly recommended Train Rides in KY will surely fulfill your cravings.
Kentucky is not just about the world-famous Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC); it is also home to an extensive network of historical railroads.
Many organizations are restoring these railroads to preserve this portion of history and make people aware of it.
From scenic train rides and dining cars traversing through picturesque valleys and forests to train rides hosting various special events, they will provide you with an experience you can find nowhere else!
Best Train Rides in KY
1. R.J.Corman’s My Old Kentucky Dinner Train-Bardstown
R.J. Corman’s My Old Kentucky Dinner Train began its operations in 1988. Since then, it has left many of its guests mesmerized by its service and experiences.
The train uses a restored model of a dining car from the 1940s. The 37-mile-long train excursion covers almost all historical importance points between Bardstown and Limestone Springs.
You can glimpse Bernheim Forest and the distilleries of the world-famous bourbon whiskey producer Jim Beam.
It is not just known for serving fine gourmet cuisines but also for special excursions, one of them being the Murder Mystery Train, where a theatrical group puts up an interactive murder mystery show to add zest to your journey.
The North Pole Express, Valentine’s Day Train, and Bourbon Excursion are other special excursions.
2. Big South Fork Scenic Railway, Stearns
If you want to feel nature, you must give Big South Fork Scenic Railway a shot. Even though cars are enclosed, feel free to get into the ‘open-air’ train cars and explore more of the Appalachian Mountains.
This 16-mile-long round-trip train journey travels past the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The historic Kentucky and Tennessee Railway lies.
It begins from Stearns and ends at the mining town of Blue Heron. The train also serves The Coal Miners’ Lunch– a frugal meal consisting of a deli sandwich, chips, drink, and a dessert.
Even though its railway operation is from April through October, several events occur around the year. Big South Fork Scenic Railway also has enough provisions for your pets if you want to bring them.
3. Blue Grass Scenic Railroad and Museum, Versailles, KY
Situated in the heart of the ‘Bluegrass State,’ this 17-mile-long rail journey originates from Versailles town in Kentucky.
This train ride offers glimpses of the Kentucky countryside’s scenic beauty, lush pasture, and horse farms. The train stops at Young’s High Bridge, thus allowing passengers to savor the country’s pleasant view.
The museum at Versailles exhibits train cars from the 30s and the 40s, making it a sought-after destination for train enthusiasts.
Even though there is no admission fee for the museum, you must purchase a ticket for riding the train. Like others, it has special tours like Easter specials, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day specials, etc.
If you crave a spooky ride, you should go for a 90-minute long haunted train ride that runs in October. It is a perfect train ride for you and your family for the Halloween festivities!
You can even sit on coach seating from the 1930s as well. Not only that, but you can also opt for first-class seating or an open-air coach.
4. Kentucky Railway Museum, New Haven
If you are a history freak and vintage train cars fancy you, you should visit the museum at New Haven.
From its humble beginnings in the 1960s, the museum, run by a group of volunteers and railway enthusiasts, has a great collection of vintage rolling stocks at its disposal to educate people about the past glory of the railroads.
It also offers a 22-mile train ride to the magnificent rolling Fork River valley and trips from March through late November on special days.
The museum also has provisions for unique train rides. Among them, train robbery train excursion is the bestseller. Even though everything is enacted in this train robbery, you will get some thrilling experience!
There is also a Thomas The Train ride present, which is especially for children.
5. Amtrak Cardinal
This is one of the best train rides in KY, suitable for the long-haul journey. It runs thrice a week, from New York to Chicago, through major cities such as Washington DC, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis.
Long-journey trains come with their perks, and of course, the towns and the countryside’s appeal while sitting on a speeding train is satisfying.
You can board this train from Kentucky at the train stations in Ashland, South Portsmouth, and Maysville. Here, you will find the Ohio River in its full might and encounter other unsung attractions of the Appalachian mountains.
Fun fact: The origins of renowned Hollywood actress Ashley Judd are from Ashland.
While savoring the trip, Amtrak makes sure that you are comfortable throughout the trip as it covers everything, from bagging services to ensuring you get your meals on time and sleep right.
You can even bring your pets weighing a maximum of 20 pounds (9.07 kg).
6. Amtrak’s ‘City of New Orleans’
If you love trains in general, particularly sleeper trains, you should not miss this Amtrak train.
Like the Cardinal, it also runs thrice a week from Chicago to New Orleans through the heart of the eastern part of the country, where you can see the enthralling beauty of the Mississippi River and may have a look at some sights of significance as well.
This trail traverses through significant cities like Carbondale and Memphis and various states. It also passes through the periphery of the state of Kentucky as well, or you can board this train from Fulton.
Even though you may not be able to see much of the fascinating countryside of Kentucky, there is a lot to see in the journey between the windy city and the city of jazz!
Top Train Museums In KY
As discussed above, Kentucky hosts numerous railroads that played an essential role in developing the state. Apart from these Kentucky train rides, listed below are the top train museums for you.
1. Historic Rail Park and Train Museum, Bowling Green
This is situated on the former railroad station of Bowling Green.
After the last passenger train departed the station in 1979, a group of rail enthusiasts undertook restoration projects of rolling stocks provided by various railroad agencies and presented them to the public.
You can find true gems of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad that were instrumental in the town’s development.
2. Railway Museum of Greater Cincinnati, Covington
Here, you can find various models of antique train cars to look at. It was founded in 1975 and is open from 10 am to 4 pm, May through October.
Mostly, tours here are ‘self-guided,’ even though a volunteer would also be available to guide.
It is a perfect place for kids as this museum exhibits the antiquities of the railroad to the fullest of its grandeur and allows kids, especially toddlers, to feel and touch them (while being under constant surveillance of their guardians).
3. Paducah Railroad Museum, Paducah
It is a local railroad museum situated in Paducah, which has a train simulator for visitors to get the train driving experience and learn about train rides in KY.
4. Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp., Irvine
Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. was formed in 2016. it also aims at preserving the glory of the railways. You can see the mighty steam locomotive 2716 of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O) and other rarities of railways.
Apart from exhibiting various train cars on display, it is also involved in various events and activities you can participate in.
It is an organization with an ambition to enhance heritage tourism and stimulate economic growth, as it has plans for expansion in the coming years as well.
Points to Remember
The COVID pandemic has affected everything we can think of, but since restrictions are being lifted gradually, keep these things in mind:
- Due to the pandemic, most of the train rides in KY are closed. For updates regarding their reopening, check their websites or social media accounts.
- If you are lucky that any of these KY train rides are open, you must conform to social distancing norms. Always carry hand sanitizer and wear a mask.
- If you have a mild cold, fever, or other flu-like symptoms, you must defer your train ride.
- For longer train rides like Amtrak, book your tickets well in advance.
- Before heading for your train ride in KY, make sure you meet all the requirements (if any) before boarding. You can check for them on their respective websites.
Train rides in KY have a lot to offer and can be a perfect getaway or simply a beautiful mode of transportation; it’s your wish what to choose. Explore and let us know your experience in the comment section below!
Last Updated on October 16, 2023 by Sathi Chakraborty