If you like trains then you will love this list of places to ride trains in California. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, Kids Trains, Dinner Trains, Weekend Rail Excursions, Historic Trains, we have them all. Riding the rails is a fun and exciting way to see California and often lets you see sights that are not viewable in an automobile or bus. All Aborad for a fun train trip. Jump to: Northern California Trains – Nevada Trains
Southern California Train Rides
The Pacific Surfliner travels along the California coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Popular destinations along the Surfliner’s route are Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Juan Capistrano, and San Diego. Amtrak’s sleek double-decker trains travel up to ninety miles on some sections of its route.
Take a trip back in time through the Heritage Valley onboard the Fillmore and Western Railway. Weekend scenic excursion trains, dinner trains, and seasonal events make the Fillmore a popular destination for Southern California Railfans.
The Orange Empire Railway Museum operates a fleet of restored urban trolley cars. On most weekends both trolley cars and a diesel powered train take passengers for a ride on a 1.5-mile mainline that was once a part of the Santa Fe Railroad. If you love trains the Orange Empire Railway Museum is the perfect day trip destination for you.
Kids love riding the trains at Goat Hill Junction in Costa Mesa. Once a month the Orange County Model Engineers offer free trains for kids of all ages. Goat Hill Junction has one of the largest miniature train layouts on the west coast. Rides last about 15 minutes and you can ride as many times as you like for free.
Los Angeles Live Steamers lets riders climb aboard beautifully built and maintained 7½” gauge model trains with pocket-sized railroad passenger cars, where they take a 15-minute ride on over two miles of track, through a miniature world, with tiny towns, low-hanging tunnels, and dainty bridges.
Visitors can view a collection of locomotives, cabooses, passenger cars and motor cars from 1880 to the 1930s. Kids are allowed to climb aboard some of the locomotives and experience what it would be like to be an engineer. Travel Town has a miniature train that takes visitors for a ten-minute ride.
The 12-minute ride travels past both of the parks lakes and around one of the oldest oak tree groves in Irvine Park. Your conductor points out highlights along the way and gives some brief information about Irvine Park. Top speed is only a few miles an hour giving you plenty of time to take in the view
Adventure City Railroad consists of a 1938 vintage miniature train that circles around the theme park. The trip only takes a few minutes but it is one of the most popular attractions at the little theme park. One interesting feature of the Adventure City Railroad is it passes through the center of the parks birthday party area.
Toms Farm train is a reproduction of an 1800’s steam train. This fun little train trip takes you over a covered bridge and through an undeveloped area of Toms Farm in Corona. Plan on spending at least a couple of hours at the farm and taking home a bag full of nuts and candy. Have lunch and enjoy riding the ride the train and carnival rides.
One of Los Angeles’ most enduring landmarks, the railway was originally constructed in 1901 on the Southwest corner of Third and Hill Streets. Designed to carry passengers up and down the steep incline between downtown and Bunker Hill, then a fashionable residential district, it is the “shortest railroad in the world”.
Enchanted Railroad is a lot of fun; it allows you to ride aboard a 1/8th replica of a diesel train that travels around a section of the Descanso Gardens. It’s only available on weekends, 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are only a few dollars and can be purchased at the train station near the Center Circle.
The Santa Ana Zoo has wonderful miniature train ride called the Zoofari Express. This train originally was stationed at Santa’s Village, a long-gone attraction in the San Bernardino mountains of Southern California.
At one time, the Calico & Odessa Railway hauled supplies up to the mines and ore down to Yermo. These days a replica train circles through the Calico Hills giving you a birds-eye view of old mines and the desert valley below.
The museum offers train rides on most weekends. The Golden State train excursion takes a 12-mile round-trip journey along the old San Diego & Arizona Railway track. Vintage passenger cars are pulled by a Diesel-electric locomotive. On the grounds, you will find numerous pieces of railroad equipment in various stages of repair from passenger cars to locomotives.
The Santa Barbara Zoo has two miniature C. P. Huntington trains that run on a half-mile track. The train is a great way to see the Andre Clark Bird Refuge behind the zoo. It is possible to take a day trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo using Amtrak. The train station is within walking distance of the zoo. A shuttle bus runs along State Street and El Cabrillo Blvd to the zoo.
A vintage 1907 Baldwin No. 3 Steam Locomotive, 1894 Los Angeles Yellow Trolley Car or 1950 Fairmont Speeder run on a short track around Old Poway Park. Trains run on weekends except for the 2nd Sunday of each month wich is a quiet day.
Griffith Park & Southern Railroad opened in 1948. The trip aboard the miniature train is about a mile long and takes 15 minutes to complete. The train ride takes you over a fifty-year-old creaking bridge and into the woods of Griffith Park.
The little train at the museum was hand built in the 1960s and was never put use. The train was donated to the museum where volunteers built a train station and laid about a quarter mile of track. The little train is run on special event days only. The rest of the year visitors can check out a huge indoor N’ scale model railroad gallery.
San Diego’s Red Car Trolley system is a great way to get around town. The system operates over three lines the Blue Line, Orange Line, and Green Line. With over fifty miles of track, you can travel just about anywhere in San Diego County.
South Coast Railroad Museum is located in Goleta California a few miles north of Santa Barbara. The 1901 Southern Pacific Railroad Depot was originally located about two miles west of its present location. A miniature-train and handcar rides are the South Coast Railroad Museum’s most popular visitor attractions. The Goleta Short Line operates year-round on weekends.
California Living Museum
The Central California Children’s Railroad is located on the grounds of the Living Museum near Bakersfield. The train runs on during weekends and during special event days. A train ticket is only one dollar and takes you for a scenic loop around the museum’s back lot.
Northern California Train Rides
The Napa Valley Wine Train runs along a line built in 1847 to take visitors to the Calistoga resort. Today the train runs as far as St. Helena and is rated one of the top twenty rail journeys in the world. Travelers view the vineyards while riding in vintage 1915-1947 Pullman Dining, Lounge or Vista Dome cars.
Parents and grandparents will appreciate the budget-friendly prices while the kids revel in the carnival-like atmosphere. There is a small fee for park rides and train tickets but no general admission fee for visitors who prefer to keep their feet on the ground and skip the rides.
The railroad track is about a mile long and rides last about eight minutes. Adults can relax and enjoy the nostalgia while children ooh and aah as the locomotives pass over the bridge at Los Gatos Creek and continue on through adjoining Vasona Park.
The Skunk line runs 40 miles from Fort Bragg on the coast to Willits on US Highway 101. The train crosses numerous bridges and travels through two tunnels on the trip to Willits. Passengers enjoy miles of beautiful Northern California scenery with views of redwood trees and the Noyo River.
Historic Niles Canyon Railway runs from Sunol to Niles and back, offering departures and arrivals from both towns on most Sundays throughout the year. The Pacific Locomotive Association has railroad equipment on display and alternates between steam and diesel locomotives on Sunday runs.
For over fifty years, the Redwood Valley Steam Train has been plying its trade in Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley. A fully functional miniature railway, the railroad has one and a quarter miles of track on which to run its fleet of replicas of the great steam engines of old.
Catch a ride the “Outback Express Adventure Train,” which transports riders through the zoo’s “Wild Australia” exhibit. This exhibit features several emus and wallabies, as they live in the Australian outback. The train ride is the only way to see these animals in the zoo.
Folsom Valley Railway is adjacent to the zoo and is a perfect place to end your day trip. This fun little train is the only 12-inch gauge railroad remaining in the United States. Open air rail cars are pulled by a real miniature steam engine along with a mile long track.
Western Railway Museum gives visitors the opportunity to ride historic streetcars and interurban electric trains from all over California and other western states. Street cars loop the shaded picnic grounds. Interurban cars run over the restored main line of the old Sacramento Northern Railway.
Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad is an exciting 4-mile railroad excursion at Yosemite Park’s south gate on highway 41. Ride into history where powerful locomotives once hauled massive log trains through the Sierra mountains.
San Francisco Zoo little puffer train is older than the zoo itself. It started out as tourist train that ran along the beach in Santa Cruz way back in 1907. In 1925 the little puffer started a 50-year run shuttling guest around the zoo. The train was retired in 1978 and returned to service at the zoo in in 1997.
The Sacramento River Train runs east from Woodland to West Sacramento along the Sacramento River and through rich agricultural land and the Yolo Wildlife Refuge. A highlight of the 28-mile excursion is crossing the Fremont Bridge, and 8,000-foot wooden trestle, considered by some to be the longest in the West.
Roaring Camp’s collection of steam engines is among the oldest and most accurately preserved regularly scheduled passenger service trains in America. Roaring Camp offers two different tours to suit your tastes. The Roaring Camp & Big Trees is a steam-powered narrow gauge line using Shay and Heisler locomotives.
The Sierra Railroad is the third oldest railroad in North America, and besides carrying freight and passengers, became famous during the modern age and dubbed as “The Movie Railroad” for making over 300 movies, commercials and television shows.
Jamestown 1897 State Historic Park one-of-a-kind experience affords visitors a unique experience to jump aboard authentic steam and diesel locomotives. Ride in vintage passenger coaches on a six-mile, 40-minute roundtrip ride through the scenic Sierra Nevada foothills.
Nevada Train Rides
Sit back and relax while your conductor tells the story of the Comstock mines and how the railroad played its part to make Virginia City the most famous boomtown of the Old West. The Virginia Truckee Railroad offers visitors three trip options. Shortline to Gold Hill, Carson City to Virginia City, and Carson River Canyon Train.
A typical visit to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum includes exploring the grounds of the museum and checking out the shops and techniques that were used in the last century. Then, it is time to hop on the train for a steam-powered adventure.