There is nothing like the iconic sound of a locomotive’s “choo choo” and its distinctive click-clacking on the railroad tracks to stir the imagination of a young child. From the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad and Northwest Railway Museum to Amtrak’s Northwest Passage journey, railroad experiences abound in the Seattle area. Future conductors and engineers can learn about Washington State’s rich train history at the Northwest Railway Museum, travel through the grounds of Remlinger Farms aboard a half-scale locomotive, or tour the scenery of the Pacific Northwest aboard Amtrak Cascade’s Northwest Passage train.
Snoqualmie Valley Railroad
38625 S.E. King St.
Snoqualmie, WA 98065
The quaint city of Snoqualmie, Washington, home to the Northwest Railway Museum and Snoqualmie Valley Railroad, is located approximately 30 minutes east of Seattle and sits in the foothills of the verdant Cascade Mountains. The Northwest Railway Museum is a Victorian-era train depot that provides visitors with a glimpse back in time with its antique coaches. The Snoqualmie Valley Railroad offers several programs for train passengers, including Day Out With Thomas, The Santa Train, the School Train, and the Halloween Train. On Saturdays and Sundays, Snoqualmie Valley Railroad passengers embark on a five-mile trip through the Upper Snoqualmie Valley, departing from either the Snoqualmie Depot or the North Bend Depot. After the train ride, passengers of all ages can learn about the rich history of trains in Washington State at the Northwest Railway Museum, which also offers a bookstore.
Tolt River Railroad Steam Train
32610 N.E. 32nd St.
Carnation, WA 98014
Remlinger Farms, located in rural Carnation, Washington, is situated on the east bank of the Snoqualmie River and is surrounded by lush farmland. In addition to providing families with a place to pick their own berries, this working farm also offers train rides for children – and for the young at heart. The Tolt River Railroad Steam Train is a half-scale locomotive that takes is passengers through the Remlinger Farms grounds, traveling beside the Tolt River. Children must be accompanied by an adult and the train does make unexpected movements and travels at moderate speeds. After riding the train, passengers can stop at the aptly-named Railway Cafe and enjoy a quick lunch and hand-dipped ice cream.
Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad
54124 Mountain Highway E.
Elbe, WA 98355
The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, located 1½ hours south of Seattle, is the Pacific Northwest’s longest continuously running steam railroad and brings alive the atmosphere of a bygone but warmly remembered time. Railroads once threaded the United States, patching together distant towns and providing travelers with easy access to cities both remote and populated; but the Chicago, St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Pacific Railroad closed their lines in 1980, with the property acquired by the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company. Fortunately, a man named Tom Murray, Jr., negotiated with his friend, George Weyerhaeuser, to leave a portion of the railway open for tourist trains. To this day, renovated steam trains cross the foothills near Mt. Rainier, providing passengers with a glimpse of history and a journey through lush, temperate rainforests. A journey on the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad beckons back to the glory days of train travel, closer connections, and the historic beginnings of a new country.
Northwest Passage: Amtrak Cascades
King Street Station
303 S. Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98104
For parents with older children who are looking for a true train adventure, the Northwest Passage Amtrak Cascades provides beautiful scenery and access to shopping, historic destinations, and plentiful wildlife viewing opportunities. The Northwest Passage travels from Vancouver, British Columbia to Seattle and then on to Portland and Eugene, Oregon. This train trip lasts 11½ hours and passes along the coast and through temperate rainforests, with passengers viewing Mt. Baker in the north and Mt. Rainier in the south. Along the way, families have the opportunity to see plentiful wildlife, including waterfowl, otters, harbor seals, and orcas in the Puget Sound; and ungulates, bald eagles, and hawks through the many wooded miles. Shopping and tourist opportunities include the Museum of Glass in Tacoma and Fairhaven Village in Bellingham, which features farmers markets, shops, and restaurants.
Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum
1101 S.W. Sylvenus St.
Chehalis, WA 98532
For future conductors seeking a historic and scenic journey, the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Musuem offers the best of train experiences, past and present. The Railroad and Museum are only 90 minutes from Seattle and the nine-mile railroad track, which traverses the Chehalis River Valley, provides views of historic farms and rolling countryside. Passengers who step aboard the steam locomotive, built in 1916, will be lulled by the its vintage sounds and dazzled by the timelessness of its dining car. Few steam-powered passenger railroads remain in the Seattle area and the Chehalis-Centralia offers a memorable journey through history.
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Tracy Campion is a freelance writer covering all things Seattle. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.