The Indiana Railway Museum is a small museum located in French Lick, Indiana. Along with the equipment their equipment the museum also operates a small tourist railroad, the French Lick Scenic Railway, on the property and operates over 10 miles of railroad, although they own a total of 16 miles. The Indiana Railway Museum looks to promote Indiana's railroading history but also the industry's history in general. Indiana railroading has a rich history dating back to the 1830s and historically has not only been home to the important market of Indianapolis but also a key through route to other important markets like St. Louis (the third busiest gateway behind Chicago and Kansas City) and Chicago. Today, Indiana is home to four of the seven Class I systems and has numerous shortlines, museums and tourist railroads operating with its borders.
The history of the Indiana Railway Museum dates back to 1961 when it was founded by a group of locals in the town of Westport, operating primarily as a small tourist line using a diesel locomotive for power and three passenger coaches. The museum moved operations in 1971 to Greensburg and again moved in 1978 to French Lick when the Southern Railway offered the museum sixteen miles of a former branch line between West Baden and Dubois (passing through French Lick along the way). Today, the museum operates about 10 miles of this line between French Lick and Cuzco. All of the organization's tourist trains depart from the restored Monon Railroad depot in French Lick, which is also their base of operations including where you can find displays indoors and a gift shop.
Along with its tourist line the Indiana Railway Museum also features more than 65 pieces of historic railroad equipment on its grounds, over 400 members, volunteers and paid staff, and more than 25,000 annual visitors. Still, the organization is best recognized, and known by visitors for its tourist railroad operations. While they operate a standard excursion between the months of April and November they also run numerous special events such as hosting The Polar Express during the holidays, The Easter Bunny Express in the spring, train robberies, and Halloween trains. They also operate the popular Dessert Train during the summer months during June, July, and August. All of their trips last approximately two hours passing through the Hoosier National Forest and magnificent Burton Tunnel which is roughly 2,200 feet in length.
The Dessert Train is hosted aboard their Spirit of Jasper excursion and includes restored heavyweight cars that are painted in a handsome green and gold livery with the interiors just as nicely decorated. Along with the on board desserts they also offer a cash bar. Finally, the museum also offers other activities such as caboose rentals, special charters for groups (which the museum states must include at least 40 individuals to do so), and cocktail trains. To learn more about everything the Indiana Railway Museum has to offer please click here to visit their website.
Lastly, for the railfan or train enthusiast the organization also operates a for-profit shortline known as the Dubois County Railroad which runs between Huntingburg and Dubois, Indiana (about 16 miles, the same Southern Railway branch which the tourist trains use). According to the DCRR's website the freight trains operate three to five days a week as needed and interchange with Norfolk Southern at Huntingburg. Below is a schedule of when the tourist train typically operates at the museum, including hours of operation and fares to ride the train. It should be noted that the museum itself is free of charge to visit and all operations cease between December and March. If you are ever in southern Indiana consider visiting the museum, it's just a short drive from Louisville, Bloomington or Jasper.
For more information about facilities like the Indiana Railway Museum you might want to consider the book Tourist Trains Guidebook, which is put together by the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains magazine. The guide below is the latest, released in just April, 2011 that now includes more than 470 museums and tourist trains found all across the country (every state has at least one tourist line or museum listed). In any event, if you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.