Since its inception, the railroad has presented children of all ages with romantic notions like running away with the circus or travelling to faraway places. Books like “The Polar Express” and “The Little Engine That Could,” paired with colorful characters like Thomas the Train Engine and Hoot, Toot and Piper from Chuggington keep that locomotive love alive for future generations. Atlanta parents can help foster that freight car fondness with a visit to a number of local attractions that include everything from train rides to train museums. All aboard for year-round fun!
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
241 Depot St.
Blue Ridge, Georgia 30513
The adventure begins at the historic depot in downtown Blue Ridge – poised among the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. Guests can take their pick of a seat inside a vintage climate-controlled rail car or open air rail car, where they can enjoy the mountain air and breath-taking scenery. Once aboard, travelers are treated to a 26-mile, 3 ½ to 4-hour round trip train ride that winds alongside the Toccoa River – with a stop-over in the twin border towns of McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tenn. for shopping and refreshments. During the holiday season, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is transformed into the Santa Express, offering a carol-filled one-hour ride with Santa and his elves.
The SAM Shortline
Cordele Depot Platform
105 East 9th Ave.
Cordele, Georgia 31015
For an extended train experience, the 68 mile SAM Shortline Excursion Train runs from historic Cordele all the way to Archery, Georgia and back over the course of an eight-hour ride. Offering stop offs at Leslie, Americus, and Plains in between, riders can pay a visit to the restaurants and eclectic shops of these charming small towns located south of Atlanta. Georgia Veterans State Park is another stop along the way that offers a museum for exploring, filled with memorabilia from the Revolutionary through the Gulf Wars. Travelers will ride in style in air-conditioned, vintage cars circa 1949.
Stone Mountain Park
1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd.
Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083
Stone Mountain Park’s Scenic Railroad features a full size locomotive from the 1940s with open-air cars that take riders on a picturesque five-mile excursion around the base of the mountain. The train can be boarded and de-boarded from Marketplace Depot in Crossroads, or riders can elect to de-board at a half-way point to brave the walk-up trail to the top of the mountain. The Scenic Railroad departs every 40 to 45 minutes, and the full train ride lasts about 25 to 30 minutes. Before or after the ride, families may choo-choo-choose to play a game of miniature golf that blends fun and history at the park’s Great Locomotive Chase Adventure Golf. 18 exciting holes place players on the trail of the stolen General locomotive from the Civil War’s famed Great Locomotive Chase.
Southeastern Railway Museum
3595 Buford Hwy
Duluth, Georgia 30096
Poised on 35 acres in Duluth, Georgia, the Southeastern Railway Museum showcases 90 pieces of retired railroad stock, from antique Pullman cars to massive steam locomotives. Visitors have an opportunity to ride in a fully restored caboose pulled behind a diesel locomotive, pose on the platform of a private car where President Warren G. Harding once stood, climb aboard a miniature park train ride, and so much more.
Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum
800 Cherokee Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30315
The steam locomotive Texas serves as the centerpiece of the Civil War Museum portion of the Atlanta Cyclorama. In the early years of the Civil War, the Texas played a key role in the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862 following Andrews’ Raid. After Union soldiers stole another train named The General, the Confederates climbed aboard the Texas to pursue and recover the hijacked locomotive – all while travelling backwards on the track. Conveniently located next door to Zoo Atlanta, caboose-loving kids can enjoy a ride around the zoo upon the Georgia Natural Gas Blue Flame Express Train – a handcrafted replica of an 1863 locomotive – much like the Texas – with cozy seating inside covered passenger coaches. For some added fun, the famed General is on exhibit at another great stop for train fans – the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Kasie Bolling is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.