California Train Rides And Excursions

It's probably no surprise that there are such a large number of California train rides to choose from given the size of the state and its history with railroads. If you love excursion trains the state offers a lot of different options from the ultra-luxurious Napa Valley Wine Train to the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and California State Railroad Museum, which showcase historic steam locomotives pulling their trains. Of note, California is also home to several railroad museums. Finally, the information included here highlights all of the state's tourist line currently operating, providing a brief description of them along with their contact and website information.  Per capita, California train rides offer perhaps the most luxury of any other state.

Most excursions include some kind of first class accommodations and many offer the option of dinner trains.  The Napa Valley Wine Train, mentioned above, likely provides the best dinner train service anywhere in the country using restored streamlined equipment that features a five star restaurant atmosphere and overall dining experience. Naturally, it is a bit expensive but well worth the price if one can afford it. You can also find Rails Journey West located in California, which is not so much an excursion train as it is a private rail car service for those who would like to ride aboard Amtrak in complete privacy. It is another quite pricey proposition but offers  an unforgettable journey by rail. And finally, you have your choice of trolley rides offer by organizations like the Orange Empire Railway Museum and California Trolley & Railroad Corporation.

Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad

This little operation based in Los Gatos provides scale train rides.  They operate nearly year-round but have different hours depending on the seasons.

California State Railroad Museum

The California State Railroad Museum offers steam powered excursion trips using an 0-6-0 steam locomotive. It operates April through September on Saturday and Sunday every hour while the museum is open and features a six-mile round trip that follows the Sacramento River. 

California Trolley & Railroad Corporation

This railroad museum looks to preserve the history of rail transportation in the the Santa Clara Valley. They also hope to soon open a small section of interurban trackage for their trolley at their property in Santa Clara. 

California Western Railroad

The famed Skunk Train, one of the most popular California tourist trains is located in the northern region of the state between Fort Bragg and Willits. The railroad operates both steam and diesel locomotives to power their trains, which run year-round. 

Descanso, Alpine & Pacific Railway

The DA&P is a 2-foot, narrow-gauge operation which provides free train rides on each Sunday of the week.

Fillmore & Western Railroad

Located in Fillmore, California just up the coast from Los Angeles the Fillmore & Western Railroad offers numerous different train rides to choose from, including dinner trains and murder mystery specials. The railroad is perhaps best known for being the location of many films.

Folsom Valley Railway/Folsom City Zoo

The Folsom Valley Railway is part of the Folsom City Zoo in Folsom, California.  The train ride has been in operation since 1970 and utilized an authentically-scaled steam engine and cars running on about 3/4-mile of track around the park.

Irvine Park Railroad

The Irvine Park Railroad is situated in Orange, California offering scale-train rides throughout much of the year within the Irvine Regional Park, which is also home to numerous other outdoor activities.

Knott's Berry Farm

Don't let the name fool you!  This organization provides a long laundry list of activities for the family and is essentially a theme park.  One of their attractions is the narrow-gauge Calico Railroad, providing a round-trip tour of the park.

Napa Valley Wine Train

One of the most popular excursion trains operating anywhere in the country and perhaps offering the best dinner train experience you can enjoy the Wine Train features a wide range of dinner options (including wine) aboard their train which operates through the beautiful Napa Valley region. 

Nevada County Traction Company

Once a week the narrow-gauge Nevada County Traction Company excursion train offers a barbecue dinner and live entertainment along its property in San Jose.

Niles Canyon Railway

The Niles Canyon Railway features a number of different train rides on its 1 hour, 15 minute round trips, which highlights both steam and diesel locomotives used for power.

Orange Empire Railway Museum

This railroad museum offers several excursion trains to choose from including steam powered trains and trolleys (you can also operate a diesel locomotive), which operate along their 1.5 mile system.

Pacific Southwest Railway Museum

Every month but December the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum offers at least one of its many excursion options along its 16-mile round trip railroad near Campo, California.

Port of Los Angeles Waterfront Red Car Line

As its name implies the Red Car Line operates along the Port's waterfront on a former stretch of the once vast Pacific Electric Railway's interurban operations in the city and surrounding region. 

Poway-Midland Railroad

Located in Poway the Poway-Midland Railroad operates on a half-mile of track in the city's park using a standard-gauge 0-4-0 steam locomotive and trolley car.

Rails Journey West

Less of a true tourist railroad, Rail Journeys West offers private rail car services if you plan to travel by train (i.e., such as via Amtrak). This service truly hearkens back to the "Golden Age" of rail travel with full meals provided as well as entertainment.

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Railtown 1897 is located in Jamestown offering excursions pulled by historic steam locomotives and restored vintage railroad equipment.  They also house their equipment within the town's vintage shops and roundhouse.  Excursions are offered throughout much of the year with special events also hosted.

Redwood Valley Railway

Located inside Tilden Regional Park at Berkeley the Redwood Valley Railway offers miniature train rides on weekends year-round and weekdays during the summer.

Roaring Camp Railroads

The Roaring Camp operates a number of different trains including a beach train and forest train. Also, throughout the year the railroad operates special dinner trains that feature entertainment.

Sacramento RiverTrain

The Sacaramento RiverTrain, based in Woodland, offers upscale dinner train packages offering entertainment with your meal during the three-hour trip.  They also provide special trains and events throughout the year.

Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay Railway

The Santa Cruz & Monterey Bay is a newer excursion line offering incredible scenery along California's beautiful Monterey Bay.  Their upscale accommodations also include full-course meals and luxurious interior settings.

Sonoma TrainTown Railroad

This little operation, located in Sonoma, is based in a small theme park, offering a range of miniature, scale train rides.

Skunk Train

The famous Skunk Train, located in Fort Bragg, offers a wide range of excursions throughout the year and many are pulled by historic steam locomotives.  They also offer several themed events annually.



Sierra Railroad

Also operated by the same organization that owns the Skunk Train and Roaring Camp the Sierra Railroad offers their Sierra Railroad Dinner Train, which features both dinner and entertainment.

South Coast Railroad Museum

This organization, based at Goleta's restored Southern Pacific depot, offers scale-train rides for a small price around the grounds.

Western Railway Museum

The Western Railway Museum operates trolley service on a former segment of the Sacramento Northern Railway's main line located near Suisun City.

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

A narrow-gauge operation that uses four miles of ex-Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company property this tourist railroad still uses two Shay steam locomotives. Also, during select times throughout the operating season the railroad operates specials known as the Moonlight Special, which feature dinner and entertainment.

Related Reading You May Enjoy


Share Your Thoughts

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below. Please note that while I strive to present the information as accurately as possible I am aware that there may be errors. If you have potential corrections the help is greatly appreciated.

Top Of Page

› California