All Aboard for Family Fun!
Although most kids in Massachusetts may not ride passenger trains very often, they’re fascinated by them. Countless children have been enchanted by such classic tales as The Little Engine That Could and The Polar Express, as well as TV’s Thomas the Tank Engine. They’ve heard the legends of John Henry laying down railroad tracks, Casey Jones’ last ride and Butch Cassidy’s train robberies. So take them for a ride aboard the following Massachusetts and New Hampshire passenger trains and see what adventures await around the next curve. Call or visit each train’s website for ride times and fees.
First Stop: Out West
You’ll find lots of railroad enthusiasts at the nonprofit Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum in Lenox. Operating on weekends and holidays beginning this summer, this all-volunteer organization offers an eight-mile round-trip experience, in conjunction with the Hoosac Valley Service, between North Adams and Renfrew, just north of downtown Adams. You’ll travel on the newly restored RDC #6126, which was originally built for the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1955.
The museum is housed in the station’s depot, circa 1903. When the original station burned down in 1902, the wealthy “cottagers,” who owned summer homes in the Berkshires, influenced the stone-and-timber architecture of the new station. Check out the Gilded Age exhibit in a vintage railway car. 10 Willow Creek Road, Lenox, Mass.; 413-637-2210; berkshirescenicrailroad.org.
Next Stop: Conway Scenic Railroad
Enjoy an old-fashioned railroading experience on the Valley Train as vintage 1920s passenger cars take you on a round-trip excursion from their 1874 train station in North Conway Village to either Conway or Bartlett. A great option for those with young children, the 55-minute ride to Conway or the 105-minute ride to Bartlett is sure to entertain the kids as they try to spot animals frolicking in the fields and near rivers.
In addition to its Valley Train ride, Conway Scenic Railroad also offers families another adventure on their Notch Train – a five-hour expedition that’s perhaps better for families with older children. Traveling on tracks laid in the 1970s, families will be treated to spectacular scenery while they journey through Crawford Notch en route to Crawford and Fabyan stations. Live commentary onboard will narrate the history and folklore as you ride past sheer bluffs, steep ravines, cascading brooks and streams, panoramic mountain vistas, as well as across Frankenstein Trestle and Willey Brook Bridge. At the Crawford Station, passengers have the opportunity to get off the train and explore the beautiful surroundings of Saco Lake. Well-behaved dogs are welcome on all trains. 38 Norcross Circle, North Conway, N.H.; 603-356-5251; conwayscenic.com.
Last Stop: Cape Cod
Hop aboard the Cape Cod Central Railroad in Hyannis for a two-hour, round-trip excursion past cranberry bogs, woods and marshes to the Cape Cod Canal. The railroad also offers gourmet brunch, lunch and supper train rides for families. Although the tables are decked out with white linens, the menu includes kid-friendly chicken fingers and mac and cheese. The railroad also offers a Thanksgiving Dinner Train and The Train to Christmas Town. 252 Main St., Hyannis, Mass.; 508-771-3800; capetrain.com.
In the Station
Built in 1887, the Chatham Railroad station served travelers for 50 years. Now this restored “country depot” is a museum. The collection features hundreds of historic items related to railroads, including model trains, lanterns, bells, Western Union telegraph equipment, a diorama of the Chatham rail yards circa 1918, photographs and memorabilia. Behind the depot, take a walk through the red 1918 New York caboose. 153 Depot Road, Chatham, Mass.; 508-945-5100; chathamrailroadmuseum.com.