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Kentucky Fall Foliage Train Rides (2024): A Complete Guide

Last revised: December 30, 2023

By: Adam Burns

There are currently four locations in Kentucky hosting train rides through the fall season.  More information about these trips may be found below

krym_am.jpgLouisville & Nashville 4-6-2 #152 (K-2a) powers an excursion near Lyons Station, Kentucky on October 4, 2008.

Big South Fork Scenic Railway

(Stearns): Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of Kentucky, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway offers a captivating journey back in time. Step aboard this historic railway and embark on an unforgettable adventure through breathtaking natural beauty and rich coal mining history.

The Big South Fork Scenic Railway operates a section of the historic Kentucky & Tennessee Railway, which played a pivotal role in the region's coal mining industry during the early 20th century. Built in 1902, this railway was vital for transporting coal, lumber, and other goods across the rugged Appalachian terrain. Today, it stands as a testament to the region's heritage and offers visitors an opportunity to relive this fascinating era.

Based in Stearns, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway operates a 16-mile round trip west of the town that reaches the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River.

As the train rolls through the dense forest, the conductor provides fascinating commentary, sharing tales of the area's coal mining history and the communities that once thrived along the railway. At Blue Heron, visitors can explore the preserved mining town and gain insights into the lives of the miners who shaped the region.

For outdoor enthusiasts seeking a more active experience, the Rail and Trail Adventure offers a combination of train travel and hiking. After an informative train ride, visitors disembark at the historic Barthell Coal Mining Camp. From there, they can embark on a scenic hike along the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, immersing themselves in the natural splendor of the area.

Throughout the year, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway hosts a variety of themed excursions, including seasonal events and special train rides. From fall foliage tours to holiday-themed journeys, these excursions offer a unique twist on the traditional railway experience, ensuring there's always something exciting for visitors to enjoy.

The railroad not only provides a memorable experience for visitors but also plays a crucial role in preserving the region's heritage. The dedicated staff and volunteers work tirelessly to maintain the railway's historic charm and educate visitors about its significance. Additionally, the railway actively engages with the local community, hosting events and partnering with neighboring attractions to promote tourism and support the region's economy.

Their excursions continue through the fall season and the railroad has been named by the Southern Living Magazine as the #1 train ride in the south to view the fall foliage.

Blue Grass Scenic Railroad & Museum

(Versailles): The Blue Grass Scenic Railroad & Museum is located in Versailles with a mission to highlight Kentucky's colorful history with railroads. 

The organization was launched in 1976 by a local model railroad group that began collecting unwanted equipment (passenger and freight cars). 

After having these pieces stored at various locations the group eventually found a permanent home along Highway 62 near Versailles.  By 1988 the group began hosting public excursions by acquiring about 5.5 miles of a former Southern Railway branch that once linked Lexington with Lawrenceburg, originally built as the Louisville Southern Railroad. 

Adjacent to the train station, the museum features a captivating collection of exhibits that chronicle the region's railroad heritage. From vintage locomotives and railcars to interactive displays and historical photographs, the museum showcases the evolution of rail transportation and its impact on the local community.

Visitors can explore the exhibits at their own pace, learning about the engineering marvels, the railroad workers, and the stories that shaped Kentucky's rail history.

Throughout the year, the museums hosts a variety of themed train rides and special events. From seasonal excursions like the "Pumpkin Patch Train" during Halloween to the magical "Santa Claus Train" during the holiday season, these events offer a unique twist on the traditional train ride experience, making them perfect for families and railroad enthusiasts of all ages.

The museum does not host official fall foliage events but does continue running excursions through the fall, offering guests the chance to see the area's changing foliage.  The rail line passes several bucolic and rural farms west of Versailles.

Kentucky Railway Museum

(New Haven):   This captivating attraction offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the nostalgia and grandeur of the golden age of railroading. With its impressive collection of vintage locomotives, beautifully restored railcars, and engaging exhibits, the Kentucky Railway Museum is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and railroad aficionados alike. 

The Kentucky Railway Museum has a history that dates as far back as the late 1940s. Its true beginnings occurred in 1954.  Since that time the museum has grown steadily and today features a large collection of rolling stock.  They also maintain an operating steam locomotive, ex-Louisville & Nashville 4-6-2 #152, which occasionally pulls excursion (the organization also maintains an operational diesel, a former Santa Fe CF7).

One of the museum's highlights is its exhilarating train rides. Visitors have the opportunity to board vintage coaches and embark on a scenic journey through the picturesque Kentucky countryside.

The train traverses a former Louisville & Nashville branch line between Lebanon Junction, New Haven, and New Hope; a 17-mile scenic corridor that meanders through rolling hills, along pastoral landscapes, and through charming small towns.

The immersive experience allows passengers to relish the sights, sounds, and rhythms of a bygone era while enjoying informative narration that sheds light on the history and significance of the railroad.

The museum hosts excursions through the fall season offering guests the chance to see some fantastic fall colors in this part of Kentucky.  In addition, they host the "Fall Break Express," a 90-minute trip for the whole family that is tailored towards viewing the region's autumn foliage.

2024 Dates (Fall Break Express):

Not Yet Released!

My Old Kentucky Dinner Train

(Bardstown): The My Old Kentucky Dinner Train has become one of the most popular and upscale railroad excursions in the country.

It is owned and maintained by RJ Corman, a short line that oversees several routes in Kentucky as well as several other states.  The dinner train began in 1988 and covers a distance of about 18 miles between Bardstown and Limestone Springs Junction over an ex-Louisville & Nashville branch.

This very opulent trip requires a dress code and while it does host official "fall foliage" excursions the train does continue running through the autumn season, offering guests the chance to view the region's colors.

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