Florida's railroads date back to 1835 and since trains became a primary
mode of transportation in the latter 19th century the state was marketed
as a sunny getaway, particularly during the dark days of winter. This
was especially true during the streamliner era of the 1930s with the
Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line
dispatching numerous Florida-bound passenger trains which remained
successful through the 1960s. Today, the state's tourist railroads
attempt to keep alive these memorable trains. While you will not find
historic steam locomotives operating in Florida operations like the
dinner trains mentioned above use classic and restored streamlined
equipment giving passengers a semblance of what rail travel was once
like in the state. Additionally, museums like Gold Coast Railroad
Museum and Florida Railroad Museum offer short excursions on their
Florida Railroad Museum
While the Florida Railroad Museum mostly focuses on preserving the state's and region's railroad history it also operates a nearly a 7-mile stretch of former Seaboard Air Line trackage. Operating between Parrish and Willow the train (using one of three operations locomotives an Alco RS3, EMD GP7, or GE 44-ton switcher) includes your choice of an open-air or air-conditioned car. The excursion train also offers a number of different options including chartering just a car or the entire train. The museum also offers caboose rentals for birthdays as well as cab rides and discounts for large groups.
Gold Coast Railroad Museum
The Gold Coast Railroad Museum mostly features and displays its
large collection of historic railroad equipment and items in its former
Naval base hangars in Miami. However, it also operates train and cab
rides along a short stretch of trackage on its property along with
playing host to "A Day Out With Thomas" the tank engine once a year.
Largo Central Railroad
The Largo Central, based in Largo operates a 1.2-mile miniature railroad through the Largo Central Park, operated by the LCRR Club. They are currently open to the public during the first weekend of each month. To learn more about their operation and riding please visit their website.
Orlando Star Clipper Dinner Train
This train used to be operated in Michigan but with a new owner
(Rail Entertainment USA) it has been moved to the warmer climate of
southern Florida. Running nearly year-round between April and December
this train features a wide range of dining options available, including
additional perks such as theme trains, murder mystery specials, and
Seminole Gulf Railway
Gulf Railway, located in Fort Myers, Florida is a shortline freight
railroad that also hosts excursion trains, which have become quite
popular over the years. Today, you have your choice of a standard
excursion train run during the day or the very popular Murder Mystery
Train that includes a fine dinner and show. The Seminole Gulf’s
excursion trains also offer you a beautiful look at southwest Florida
by rail as trains travel north out of Fort Myers. If you are looking
for a relaxing alternative to the nearby hustle and bustle whether
you’re a vacationer or local resident, a trip aboard the Seminole Gulf
is most definitely a memorable experience.
Tavares, Eustis & Gulf Railroad
Tavares, Eustis & Gulf offers the only chance to ride behind
historic steam locomotives in the state of Florida utilizing a restored
2-6-0 Mogul built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1907. This
relatively new excursions (service was initiated in October of 2011)
currently offers two different excursions, a one-hour ride to Ellsworth Junction or a two-hour trip to Lake Jem.
TECO Line Streetcar System
The TECO provides
trolley rides through the downtown area of Tampa on more than 2 miles of
streetcar trackage. They use restored Birney cars and have plans to
expand the system. To learn more about riding this restored operation
(the city once had trolleys years ago) please visit their website.
Walt Disney World Railroad
The most popular operation in Florida due to the shear number of visitors to the park is the Walt Disney World Railroad in Lake Buena Vista at Walt Disney World. The 3-foot, narrow-gauge line, 1.5 miles in length, connects the entire park, as originally envisioned by Walt Disney himself (who held a nearly life-long interest in trains). The railroad utilizes original, restored steam locomotives and has long been one of the park's main attractions.
Related Reading You May Enjoy
Tourist Train Information