Published: February 13, 2023
By: Adam Burns
There is currently only one location hosting train rides in Alabama, which offers some type of food service or drinks; the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in Calera. More information about their trips may be found below.
Historically, the state was served primarily by two railroads, the Southern Railway and Louisville & Nashville. Both were very well managed, profitable companies for generations and boasted a fine fleet of passenger trains.
Some of the L&N's top named trains, which passed through Alabama on its main line to New Orleans (or operated eastbound from New Orleans into Florida) included the, Gulf Wind (New Orleans - Jacksonville), Hummingbird (Cincinnati - New Orleans), and Pan American (Cincinnati - New Orleans).
Some of the L&N's menu selections on its trains during the 1950s, which highlighted Gulf Coast cuisine, included, Broiled Gulf Coast Fish, soft-shelled crab, Turkey and Ham Croquettes, Fried Pork Chops with Brown Gravy, Roasted Young Turkey with Dressing and Cranberry Sauce, Baked Sugar-Cured Ham, Broiled Sirloin Steak, Gulf Coast Jumbo Shrimp, Fried Tenderloin of Trout, Broiled Spanish Mackerel, and Bayou Cooked Oysters.
By the 1960s, as rail travel waned, the L&N's passenger service declined, as did its dining offerings. However, the railroad was still offering a fine selection at this time.
The Southern Railway continued to maintain a limited, but fine fleet of passenger trains until Amtrak began on May 1, 1971. In fact, the carrier was so proud of its trains it continued to operate its Southern Crescent until 1979 when it finally handed over the service to Amtrak.
Some of its top trains to serve Alabama included the Birmingham Special (Washington, D.C. - Birmingham), Crescent (New York-Washington-Atlanta-Montgomery-New Orleans), Queen & Crescent (Cincinnati - New Orleans), Southerner (Washington-Atlanta-Birmingham-New Orleans), and the Pelican (New York-Lynchburg-Bristol-Knoxville-Chattanooga-Birmingham-New Orleans).
Some of the railroad's top dining selections during the late 1960s included Broiled Fish with Lemon Butter, Roasted Young Turkey with Dressing and Cranberry Sauce, Sirloin Steak, Country Ham Steak with Natural Gravy, and Prime Rib of Beef.
The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum has been telling the Alabama's railroad history since 1962 and today offers a wide range of exhibits to see. These exhibits largely focus on the history of railroading in the South which includes diesel locomotives owned by the Birmingham Southern, Memphis Union Station, Alabama Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Company, and others.
In addition, there are passenger and freight cars owned by the Southern, St. Louis-San Francisco Railway ("Frisco"), L&N, Seaboard Coast Line, and Atlantic Coast Line among others.
Finally, along with displays, the Heart of Dixie hosts scenic train rides along a 5.5-mile stretch of the former L&N, originally built by subsidiary Alabama Mineral Railroad. They also operate a 2-foot gauge live-steam attraction over a 1/4-mile loop (previously located at the Birmingham Zoo).
Among their many excursion train rides is the including their Ozan Wine Trains for adults at the Ozan Winery & Distillery. Please note the train's boarding does not take place from the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. More information about the trip can be found at the museum's website.
In addition to wine tasting the trip includes complimentary appetizers. The museum states: "Arrive at Ozan’s Tasting Room for and enjoy an appetizer and wine tasting of locally produced white, specialty, red and dessert wines followed by lunch from Ozan’s own Café Vino. (included is a keepsake wine glass)."
The museum also hosts other special excursions that include wine, or spirit tasting at the Ozan Winery. These include the Sweetheart Special, Mardi Gras Limited, Summer Sunset Date-Night, and Cheers to Christmas.
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Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives.
It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website.
It is quite staggering and a must visit!