Indiana train rides are not often thought of, probably because the state isn't home to any well known tourist railroads like the Durango & Silverton in Colorado or the Napa Valley Wine Train in California. However, there are some real jewels to be found here such as the French Lick Scenic Railway, operated by the Indiana Railway Museum, hosts a lot of events and activities and offers visitors quite a long train ride. There are also short train rides hosted by museums (also included in the information below) like the Indiana Transportation Museum and Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum. Overall, Indiana offers quite a mix of excursions and all make a point to keep alive the history of the state's railroads. Please note! The guide information here pertains only to Indiana train rides related to vacation and tourism destinations. If you are interested in intercity/long distance rail travel please visit Amtrak's website.
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 and Chicago. As mentioned above Indiana's excursion trains do a very nice job of telling this history with many using sections of routes once owned by mighty railroads like the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central. Also, you won't find breathtaking open vistas or luxurious accommodations with Indiana train rides. However, Indiana train rides do offer bucolic, open farmland scenery and a laid back, relaxing trip by train. Any of the state's tourist railroads are certainly worth the price to ride and most offer special events or trains during their seasonal runs. Also, if you are interested in Indiana train rides that pertain to specific events, such as "The Polar Express," Halloween, Thomas the Tank Engine excursions, or fall foliage events please visit the main tourist trains section of this website.
Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society/TrainTown
Based in New Haven this organization is the official caretaker of the restored and operational Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 #765. They operate numerous excursions east of the Mississippi River throughout the year while their downtown facility in Fort Wayne keeps the locomotive ready for service. To learn more please visit their website.
Hesston Steam Museum
The Hesston Steam Museum based in La Porte is an organization dedicated to the preservation related to steam-powered machines. Amongst their collection are several operating narrow-gauge steam locomotives of various types that take passengers on short trips along their 2 1/2 miles of track. They also operate scale trains of various size. To learn more please visit their website.
Indiana Railway Museum/French Lick Scenic Railway
The Indiana Railway Museum also operates the popular French Lick Scenic Railway based in French Lick, Indiana. They operate a 20-mile round trip excursion train which runs through the Hoosier National Forest. Special events and excursions are also operated throughout the year such as dessert trains, Halloween specials, and the Polar Express for the Christmas season.
Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum
The Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum based North Judson mostly
looks to preserve and keep alive the region's rail history. However, it
also operates a 10-mile excursion train (20-mile round trip) using a
combination of cabooses and open air cars for passengers to enjoy the
Indiana Transportation Museum
The Indiana Transportation Museum based Noblesville (near Indianapolis) holds the state's largest collection of preserved railroad, and other transportation equipment. The ITM also offers excursion train rides on former Nickel Plate trackage and features many special trains and events throughout the year.
Linden Depot Museum
This organization is housed within the Linden Union Depot, a wooden structure built in 1905 and utilized by the Toledo, St. Louis & Western Railroad (which later became a part of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis or Nickel Plate Road) and Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville (Monon). They have a preserved Nickel Plate caboose on the grounds, other artifacts, and host special events during the year.
Madison Railroad Station
This museum, based in Madison, is housed inside the town's restored Pennsylvania depot. Operated by the Jefferson County Historical Society it is opened during select days throughout the year featuring historic displays both indoors and out. To learn more please visit the society's website.
National New York Central Railroad Museum
One of the largest museums dedicated to the history of the New York Central is this facility located at Elkhart, once a busy terminal on the railroad. Open throughout much of the year they boast a large collection of NYC rolling stock and displays. To learn more and planning a visit please visit their website.
Wabash Valley Railroaders Museum
The Wabash Valley Railroader's Museum is located in Terre Haute, Indiana having preserved two former towers, Haley Tower (originally owned by the Louisville & Nashville) and Spring Hill Tower. While both towers are preserve the group plans a much more elaborate museum complex.
Whitewater Valley Railroad
What would certainly be considered one of Indiana's more popular excursion train rides the Whitewater Valley Railroad based Connersville, like the former Carthage,
Knightstown & Shirley Railroad operates on former Big Four Railroad
trackage. Its 19-mile line connects Metamora and they use one of
several diesel locomotives on the property to power their trains. The
railroad also hosts a number of special events throughout the year such
as the Polar Express and "A Day Out With Thomas" the tank engine. To learn more about riding their trains and planning a visit please stop by their website.
If you are interested in learning more about Indiana train rides and railroad museums, Kalmbach Publishing/Trains Magazine releases their Tourist Trains Guidebook each year, which highlights most such destinations throughout the U.S. and Canada.