Arizona Train Rides And Museums

Arizona train rides have a lot to offer depending on what your budget may be. Today, the state is home to about six excursions of some kind, as they are a unique mix of miniature trains (like the Paradise & Pacific Railroad) to one of the most luxurious tourist lines in the country, the Grand Canyon Railway. Most offer incredibly scenic views of the state's desert country with Verde Canyon Railway traveling along the Verde River and through the Verde Canyon. The Grand Canyon Railway, of course, speaks for itself taking travelers right to the front doorstep of the famous National Park. And then there is the chance to the ride the trolley in Tucson. In a lot of ways, it is surprising Arizona has so many tourist trains to offer considering it was never heavily populated with railroads.  Also included here are available railroad museums to visit. Please note!  The information here pertains only to Arizona train rides related to vacation and tourism destinations.  If you are interested in intercity/long distance rail travel please visit Amtrak's website.

Arizona railroading is known for flat deserts, high mountains, and trains that range from speeding loads of intermodal to slow drags of coal, copper, agriculture, and wood products. It's history with trains dates back to 1880 and whether directly or indirectly, the state's tourist lines help keep alive this history. As mentioned above the Grand Canyon Railway is one of top operations in the country offering passengers incredible luxury on their trip to the park as well as vacation packages if they wish to spend time there. Others like the Superstition Scenic Railway and Yuma Valley Railway are more budget friendly but still allow for a great experience taking the train. Finally, if you are interested in Arizona train rides pertaining to specific events, such as "The Polar Express," Halloween trips, Thomas the Tank Engine excursions, or fall foliage events please click on the corresponding image found in the left hand-column of this page, below the navigation buttons.

Arizona Railway Museum

This museum is located in Chandler, somewhat southeast of Phoenix.  The organization was launched in 1983 and its collection generally focuses on preserving the rail history of Arizona and the Southwestern United States.  Their more notable pieces include Homestake Mining 0-4-0CA #5, Southern Pacific 2-8-0 #2562 (Class C-9), and former Chicago & North Western E8A #5022-B.  Due to the region's extreme heat during the summer the museum is closed from late May through early September.

Grand Canyon Railway

One of the most popular train rides in the country, the Grand Canyon Railway offers top-notch services and stunning scenery of the Arizona desert and Grand Canyon National Park.  Its heritage fir began in 1974 when the fabled Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway gave up its route the South Rim.  The popularity of the Grand Canyon has certainly increased since its inception in 1988 and today, the railroad's diesel and steam locomotives carry you in a fleet of restored passenger equipment ranging from café and club cars to observations and domes for unparalleled enjoyment and spectacular views. 

Old Pueblo Trolley

The Old Pueblo Trolley is not so much an excursion train as it is a fully operational trolley system serving University Boulevard and 4th Avenue in Tuscon. Along with the trolley the organization operates buses and also manages the nearby Southern Arizona Transportation Museum. 

Paradise & Pacific Railroad/McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

The Paradise & Pacific Railroad is located in Scottsdale and is part of the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. The train itself is based from a Colorado narrow gauge railroad and is exactly 5/12 the actual size, carrying passengers on a one-mile trip around the park.

Gadsen-Pacific Division Toy Train Operation Museum

This organization is based in Tuscon and offers free admission.  They have a small collection of rolling stock on the grounds as well as a large, indoor operating train layout.  The museum is closed July and August but is open every second and fourth Sunday the rest of the year.

Maricopa Live Steamers

This organization, based in Phoenix, offers scale train rides on the second Sunday in September through the second Sunday in May (due to the hot weather during the summer).  The trips are free of charge although the group does welcome donations.  Visit their website for more information.

Sierra Madre Express

The Sierra Madre Express is a unique, private rail tour that operates between Tuscon, crosses the Mexican border, passes through the country's breathtaking Copper Canyon, and operates as far as Creel/Divisadero.

Southern Arizona Transportation Museum

The Southern Arizona Transportation Museum is housed in the restored Southern Pacific/El Paso & Southwestern depot in Tuscon.  Admission is free and among the displays is Southern Pacific 2-6-0 #1673.

Superstition Scenic Narrow Gauge Railroad 

The Superstition Scenic Narrow Gauge Railroad is an often forgotten tourist railroad located in Goldfield. The railroad itself is a 36-inch narrow-gauge using a Plymouth diesel locomotive retrofitted to appear as a steam locomotive. The railroad operates on about a 1 1/2-mile of track which surrounds the Goldfield Ghost Town. 



Verde Canyon Railway

The train rides available in Arizona today are thanks in large part to the Santa Fe Railroad. The Verde Canyon Railroad is no exception as it uses former AT&SF trackage in central Arizona, near the very popular tourist destination of Sedona. Like Sedona,  the Verde Canyon has become a popular tourist attraction itself since it began operations in the early 1990s. Today the railroad offers several different excursions and special trains for visitors and although prices average a little higher than what you might find on other tourist railroads the scenery afforded of Verde Canyon in climate-controlled, comfortable coaches is well worth the cost! So, if you are visiting Sedona, or Arizona in general I would very much recommend a visit to the Verde Canyon Railroad, especially since you can often witness Bald Eagles on the journey and it is the only way to see Arizona's breathtaking Verde Canyon.

More On Arizona Train Rides

If you are interested in learning more about Arizona train rides, Kalmbach Publishing/Trains Magazine releases their Tourist Trains Guidebook each year, which highlights most such destinations throughout the U.S. and Canada

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