Florida train rides may not offer the stunning scenery found in other states such as Colorado or anywhere in New England. However, few other states except perhaps California feature such incredible, sub-tropical weather. What's more, if you may be interested in riding a train while in Florida most can operate year-round because of the climate, allowing you more flexibility in planning a trip. One would think that because of the weather the state would have several tourist trains to choose from. However, there are only a handful and just two, the Orlando Star Clipper Dinner Train and Seminole Gulf Railway offer a long journey with on board meals and more upscale accommodations and seating. In any event, more information about Florida train rides can be found below.
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 property.
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.
Mount Dora Scenic Railway
Operated year-round the Mount Dora Scenic Railway (based in Mount
Dora) features an hour-long ride through Florida's Lake County.
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 charters.
Seminole Gulf Railway
The Seminole 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
The 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.