Just south of Louisville is a bastion of railroad history, housed at the Kentucky Railway Museum. Part exhibit, part experience, the museum was initially launched in 1954 by a team of “rail enthusiasts” who created a National Railway Historical Society chapter that started their collection with a single steam locomotive. Today, guests can visit the exhibit hall, which includes a handcar, dining car, train whistles, and a track-inspection car, while a restored boxcar used during World War I and II is parked outside for guests to explore.
But observing renovated trains is one thing—taking a trip on them adds more tactile experience. On Saturdays and Sundays, the museum has a variety of themed train trips scheduled. The 22-mile journey brings guests through the Rolling Fork River Valley for 90 minutes of Kentucky countryside. Depending on the scheduled trip for the weekend, the train may offer Mystery Theater, which includes dinner at Sherwood Inn followed by a trip with actors who perform an interactive mystery that relies on the audience to solve it; a Train Robbery, which includes a dramatic battle between law enforcement and a train robbing gang; or, throughout December, the North Pole Express or Santa Express (both involve hot chocolate, cookies, and Mr. Claus)—just get your tickets now, as these sell out fast.
Specialty train rides run up to two hours long and may include dinner, while the shorter trips stop halfway in Boston, Kentucky, for passengers to pick up snacks for the trip back to the station. Before heading home, stop in the gift store to pick up souvenirs for any Thomas the Tank Engine enthusiasts in your midst, and if the journey worked up an appetite, head to The Rickhouse in Bardstown for some hearty southern cooking in the vein of steak and potatoes.
Kentucky Railway Museum, 136 S. Main St., New Haven, Kentucky, (800) 272-0152.