Climb aboard these Kentucky train experiences
Grab your family and friends and make tracks to one of Kentucky’s unique train experiences. From train rides through the countryside to historic museums and train tracks that are central to Kentucky towns, there’s something for rail fans and everyone to see! Learn about some of Kentucky’s train experiences below and plan your next visit!
Big South Fork Scenic Railway
Enjoy a unique view of wide-open vistas, roaring rivers, and the history and charm of Appalachia during a ride on the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. Headquartered at the historic Stearns depot in McCreary County, the train travels 600 feet down into the gorge before stopping at the Blue Heron Coal Mining Community, a National Park Service outdoor interpretive site. Enjoy a meal at The Whistle Stop restaurant before or after your ride, as it’s only steps away from the train. The restaurant is popular with locals and offers home-cooked American fare.
Historic Railpark & Train Museum
Bowling Green’s Historic Railpark and Train Museum features fun for the whole family! The historic L&N Passenger Depot built in 1925 with limestone has been restored and now houses a two-story self-guided museum with exhibits highlighting the history of the tracks, the African American experience during segregation, the Civil War and the railroad and more. You’ll also find one of the region’s largest model railroad displays. Outside, the park has restored cars for guided tours.
My Old Kentucky Dinner Train
Plan an outing with Bardstown’s My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. Take in the beautiful countryside outside your rail window while enjoying lunch or dinner, or a special excursion including bourbon, wine, or a little murder-mystery. Be sure to stop in The Depot before or after your outing to check out the gift shop and souvenirs.
In Oldham County, historic small town La Grange has a train track running down Main Street that up to 30 CSX freight trains a day use. Although it’s not a passenger train, visitors and locals alike enjoy the experience of seeing a train run down the middle of a street lined by cars and local businesses. For travel ideas, check out Tour Oldham County’s Trains on Main itinerary, including a visit to the La Grange Train Museum. Stop in One Nineteen West Main for lunch or dinner while waiting to catch sight of a train through the picture windows, then explore local shops.
Bluegrass Scenic Railroad & Museum, Versailles
The Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum in Versailles offers relaxing train rides through rolling hills and beautiful farms in Central Kentucky. The 2022 train ride schedule is available online, with two rides offered on Saturdays May-October, along with special themed rides offered seasonally, including the popular pumpkin patch rides. Guests can book seats in air-conditioned cars, historic cars or a new open-air “hobo” car. Before or after your ride, check out the museum exhibits and the outdoor displays, which are open daily from dawn to dusk.
Just up the road from Versailles but still in Woodford County, you’ll find the small town of Midway, Kentucky’s first town founded by a railroad. The Lexington and Ohio Railroad first named it Middleway because it is located halfway between Frankfort and Lexington – it was renamed Midway in 1837. Many of the major streets were named to honor railroad officials, and several homes and businesses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stroll around the charming town and stop in the shops to see a piece of Kentucky’s railroad history. Grab a bite to eat at Holly Hill Inn, Heirloom or another of the restaurants around the town and pose for a picture by the tracks.
National Underground Railroad Museum
The National Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville preserves an important part of history. The museum is open on Fridays and Saturdays and is housed in the Bierbower House, which once served as a safe house where slaves hid beneath the floorboards for safety. Visitors can learn more about African slaves fleeing along the historic route to freedom that has become known as the Underground Railroad, Maysville’s role in the abolitionist movement, the Bierbower family and more.
Kentucky Railway Museum
Just south of Bardstown in small town New Haven is the Kentucky Railway Museum. Take a train ride along L&N’s Historic Lebanon Branch, the oldest portion of the entire Louisville and Nashville Railroad. The traditional weekend excursion is about 90 minutes long, with specialty rides such as the “Train Robbery” lasting about two hours. Visitors can also book a behind-the-scenes guided tour or explore the museum on their own.
Mammoth Cave’s historic train
Did you know that Mammoth Cave National Park was once home to a working railroad? The Mammoth Cave Railroad, a tiny 9-mile track, officially opened for business in 1886, and the final run was in 1931. The historic train brought more tourism to the area and transported passengers locally as well as serving as trade for farm products. Visitors can travel the rail path by foot or bicycle as it was converted into the Mammoth Cave Bike and Hike Trail in 2004.
Trackside Restaurant & Bourbon Bar
Visit the Trackside Restaurant and Bourbon Bar at the historic train depot in Paris for a delicious meal and a unique experience. The depot is late American Victorian style and was handcrafted completed from wood and topped with a tin roof when constructed in 1882. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The main dining room and bar was originally the passenger waiting room, and the historic ticket windows have been incorporated into “The Train Booth.”