From the first steam locomotive in the United States to one of the world's first roller coasters, the Poconos region of Pennsylvania was a pioneer when it came to the railroad in the nineteenth century, with local lines moving essential goods to nearby cities like Philadelphia and New York City. Victorian vacationers also arrived by train, and visitors today can experience that tradition through exciting local train tours and excursions.
Sit back in a classic coach as the train puffs along beneath the colorful trees, take a trip underground and back in time at an immersive museum or travel along the tracks under your own pedal power. Keep reading to find the perfect rail excursion to try this fall!
The Stourbridge Line
The very first steam locomotive to be operated in the United States arrived in Honesdale, Pennsylvania in 1829, commissioned by the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company as part of their coal transportation network. Visitors today can find a replica of that early train, the Stourbridge Lion, at the Wayne County Historical Society & Museum, housed in the old D&H Canal Company headquarters; but to take to the tracks yourself, you'll want to book a trip with The Stourbridge Line.
Connecting the charming towns of Honesdale and Hawley, The Stourbridge Line's Pocono Foliage Express and Hawley Pocono Foliage Express runs select dates through the end of October: an hour and a half round-trip encompassing 20 miles of Wayne County's stunning fall scenery. If the kids haven't picked their jack-o-lanterns yet, don't miss a ride on the Pumpkin Patch Express, departing from Honesdale on Saturdays and Sundays from October 1 to October 30. The Blue Moon Express, running one night only on October 29, is a Halloween trip just for adults. Come in costume and enjoy a scenic sunset and moonrise over the Lackawaxen River!
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
The D&H Canal Company engineers weren't the only ones laying tracks in the Poconos in the 1800s. In Carbon County, the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company founded the town of Jim Thorpe (originally known as Mauch Chunk) and used an innovative incline and gravity design for their Switchback Railroad. Now a peaceful biking trail, it is considered one of the world's first roller coasters and, after the construction of a new tunnel moved the coal route, became a popular attraction for Victorian tourists.
Industrial development by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co. was also underway along the Lehigh River in the nineteenth century. Portions of the Upper Grand Canal can still be seen in what is today Lehigh Gorge State Park, and the railway-grade trail along the river offers a superb route for hiking and biking, often running alongside the tracks of the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.
A trip aboard the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway begins at the same impressive train station that Victorian visitors used; built in 1888, the beautiful brick building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a 70-minute round trip scenic train excursion like the Autumn Leaf Train Excursion through the rocky cliffs and lush mountainsides as your vintage coach winds out of Jim Thorpe, past Glen Onoko and out to White Haven.
Hoping to bring your four-legged best friend along? The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is pet-friendly! If you're interested in cycling along the D&L Trail through Lehigh Gorge State Park, take advantage of the Bike Train, offered on November 12 and 13, to conserve your energy and experience the route by both track and trail.
Soarin' Eagle Rail Tours
While Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway's bike train allows you to combine cycling and a train tour, there's an even more immersive way to bike along the tracks. Soarin' Eagle Rail Tours in Hawley allows visitors to pedal right on the railroad (when the trains aren't running!) in unique two- or four-seater rail bikes. It's a perfect way to spend an afternoon out in the crisp fall air with family members or friends! Check out the fall special Pumpkin Patch trip which allows guests to hop off the rail bikes at a farm along the route and pick some pumpkins, included in the price of the ticket.
No. 9 Coal Mine and Museum
Most of the train tours in the Poconos curve around the area's scenic mountains, but there's one that goes deep inside the mountain! The No. 9 Mine & Museum just outside of Jim Thorpe highlights the coal mining history that first brought the railroads to the region and offers visitors a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience history first-hand. Travel by rail 1,600 feet into the hillside, walk the mule-way and examine the original 700-foot mine shaft. Delving into the "Mammoth Vein" deposit from 1855 to 1972, No. 9 was the longest continuously-operated deep anthracite coal mine in the world.
Trolley Tours in the Poconos
Can't get enough of old-fashioned transportation? Hop aboard a trolley tour! Both Jim Thorpe Trolley Company, operating out of Jim Thorpe, and The Pocono Historic Trolley Tour, operating out of Delaware Water Gap, invite visitors to learn more about the history of the Poconos during a ride on a quaint tram. While these trolleys run on the roads rather than rails, they are an excellent way to enjoy an autumn afternoon out.
Looking to learn more about our region's trains? Watch the video below from Pocono Television Network!
Click below to check out the train excursions episode from the Pocono Mountains Podcast.
With so many different train tours to experience in the Pocono Mountains, why not give yourself time to try them all? Book an overnight stay, lock in savings with regional special offers, and find even more fun things to do in the area. Treat yourself to an autumn getaway in the Poconos: get ideas for more ways to see the leaves and consult our fall foliage forecast to find out when the colors will be at their peak. Plan a return trip to ride the train through our beautiful scenery during all four seasons!