Historically, Ohio is sometimes forgotten as one of the eastern railroads' most important states, as most associate New York and Pennsylvania with this distinction. Because of this, there are several Ohio train rides available to the general public including everything from dinner trains, open-air rides, operational steam locomotives, and lots of different special trains and events hosted throughout the year. Currently, there are nearly a dozen tourist railroads operating in Ohio including the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railway, Byesville Scenic Railway, Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad, Lorain & West Virginia Railway, Toledo, Lake Erie and Western Railway & Museum, Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad, and the very popular Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Needless to say, the Buckeye State is a great place to catch a train ride.
Before today's mega mergers Ohio once found itself home to numerous eastern and Midwestern railroads looking to either tap its natural resources, reach its important cities/ports, and/or pass on their way to reach larger markets such as Chicago and St. Louis. As such, the state featured nearly 10,000 miles of rails in the 1920s and famous passenger trains like the 20th Century Limited, Broadway Limited, and National Limited/Capitol Limited all served Ohio. Today, the state's tourist railroads look to preserve this history and most offer rides lasting over one hour passing through either state parks or rolling countryside. Partly due to its location, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is the most popular seeing tens of thousands of visitors annually offering all sorts of special trains throughout the year. In any event, to learn more about all Ohio train rides please read more about each below.
Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railway
The Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railway, based in Jefferson, Ohio (located in the northeastern part of the state) operates on a former stretch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway (later part of the New York Central) between Jefferson and Carson Yard in Plymouth Township. The AC&J is also a freight line and operates about six miles of track today. The tourist line operates a number of special and seasonal trains throughout the year, including its 0-4-0T steam locomotive on occasion.
Byesville Scenic Railway
The Byesville Scenic Railway located in Byesville, Ohio in the southeastern part of the state operates on a former stretch of the Pennsylvania Railroad (later sold to the Baltimore & Ohio). The line itself is about 2 1/2-miles in length and today hosts tourist trains between May and December.
Carillon Park Rail & Steam Society
The Carillon Park Rail & Steam Society, based in Dayton, has a small selection of rolling stock on its premises and also provides scale train rides on select days throughout the year.
Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad
The Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad is an excursion train built for the popular theme park in Cedar Point in the 1960s. Today, it operates several live steam locomotives on a short stretch of track that traverses around the park's grounds.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is the one most folks go to ride in Ohio. It uses tracks once owned by the Baltimore & Ohio and operates through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park located near Cleveland. The railroad uses no steam locomotives but does operate a fleet of historic Alco diesel locomotives. Throughout the year they operate they host special events (such as the popular Day Out With Thomas and holiday festivities such as during Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas).
Dennison Railroad Depot Museum
The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, based in Dennison, is open most of the year. It house in the restored 1873 Pennsylvania Railroad depot and offers a wide range of static displays and rolling stock along with a restaurant. The organization also provides official Polar Express rides in December.
Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is located in Nelsonville, Ohio
and operates over a former Chesapeake & Ohio branch to Athens. The
HVSR does not operate luxury dinner trains or host steam locomotives but
they feature a very nice operation through Ohio's countryside.
Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad
The Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad based in Lebanon, Ohio operates
on trackage once owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Trains board from
Lebanon for about a 1 1/2-hour trip and the railroad offers numerous
seasonal and special trains throughout the year.
Lorain & West Virginia Railway
The Lorain & West Virginia Railway based in Elyria, Ohio operates on trackage originally built by the railroad known by the same name. Currently they have about five miles of track open for service but plan to restore the entire line between Wellington and Elyria operating both freight as well as passenger trains.
Ohio Railway Museum
The Ohio Railway Museum, based in Worthington, offers a museum of historic rolling stock and also provides short excursion train rides. The organization, however, operates on only Sunday afternoons.
Toledo, Lake Erie and Western Railway & Museum
The Toledo, Lake Erie and Western Railway & Museum is based in Waterville, Ohio offering a 15-mile round trip journey on trackage once owned by the Nickel Plate Road. Their train is known as the "Bluebird Passenger Train" and normally operates between May and November.
Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad
The Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad based in Zanesville, is not yet open but once it is will operate excursion trains that feature a 34-mile round trip on trackage formerly owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad.