Posted: 08/04/2022 | by Discover Lancaster

Insider's Guide to the Strasburg Rail Road

Hop aboard the historic Strasburg Rail Road and travel back in time for a vintage Americana experience on one of the finest examples of early 20th century railroading.

A train engine painted as the cartoon Thomas the Tank Engine pulls train cars along the Strasburg Rail Road.

Stationed just a short drive from downtown Lancaster, Strasburg Rail Road is the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere. Once a primary artery for passengers and freight traveling through Pennsylvania, today Strasburg Rail Road is one of Lancaster’s most popular family attractions, inviting guests of all ages to step back in time as they enjoy a wondrous, 45-minute round-trip steam train journey through the beautiful rolling hills, fields, and farmland of the Strasburg region.

Strasburg Rail Road Experience

A recipient of TripAdvisor’s 2021 Traveler’s Choice Award and a relaxing, fun addition to any Lancaster family itinerary, Strasburg Rail Road presents passengers with a whimsical yet authentic glimpse at early 20th century railroading.

Train Mall and Platform

Visitors will begin and end their round-trip journey at the train mall, which continues the vintage vibe presented onboard the train itself. While you wait to depart, interact and be amused by mid-century musicians, jugglers, actors and other living history entertainers that wander throughout the mall between train rides. Pose for photos with loveable mascots Stras Bear and Stacy Bear, or entertain the little ones with the locomotive fun with rides on the Cranky Cars, Pint-sized Pufferbelly and the Pump Car.

Locomotive aficionados can learn more about train operations and maintenance by touring the Mechanical Shop or with an up-close look at the process of “hostling.” Work alongside family and friends to solve clues and outwit the Strasburg Escape Room, hosted onboard the stationary “President’s Car.”

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, grab a snack from a vintage popcorn wagon as you wait for your departure. For a more well-rounded meal, grab a seat at Café 1832 — Strasburg’s on-site dining option stationed on the historic train platform — and savor a menu of scratch-made American dishes perfect for lunch, dinner or snacks. Brought your own food? Relax and refuel in one of the railroad’s shaded picnic areas: Groff’s Grove or Leaman Place Grove.

Onboard the Train

The steam whistle sounds, the wheels churn and your adventure is underway! Passengers can sit back and relax and enjoy the picturesque views of Lancaster County during this 45-minute journey, or you can elevate your experience with onboard amenities and activities.

Enjoy a one-of-a-kind dining experience in the Dining Car — the nation’s oldest operating all-wood dining railcar — featuring a menu of snacks, sandwiches and kid-approved bites prepared by the culinary team from Café 1832. Dining Car tickets are available to purchase in advance online, at which time passengers will make their meal selection.

Adults 21 and older can enjoy a luxurious Wine & Cheese Train Ride seasonally on select Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings beginning at 6 or 7 p.m. Featuring wine from Pennsylvania-based Waltz Vineyards and hosted within the stylish “Marian” First Class Parlor Car No. 88 and Linn W. Moedinger No. 118 cars, this chic experience is perfect for date night, girls night or just reconnecting with friends. For more adult fun, don’t miss the Le Train Cabaret event, held select Fridays between February and June.

Seasonal Events & Experiences

Plan your train ride during special seasonal events for unique, themed excursions sure to please the whole family. For a full list of special events and seasonal experiences, visit Strasburg Rail Road’s official website.

Day Out With Thomas

Let everyone’s favorite celebrity locomotive, Thomas the Tank Engine — the only remaining Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal steam engine still in operation — power your journey as you admire the bucolic beauty of Lancaster County. Arrive early to enjoy live performances by singers and dancers in the train mall.

Easter Bunny Train

“Hop” aboard and mingle with the Easter Bunny during this early spring excursion through the blooming Lancaster countryside.

The Great Diamond Heist

Available in late summer, the thrilling Great Diamond Heist features a daring old-time diamond caper and stunt show performed by 8 actors on the train.

Tap Takeover Aboard the Strasburg

Sip local suds during the Tap Takeover series, features a rotating selection of craft beer from local Pennsylvania brewers paired with specialty menu items in the historic dining car.

Dead Men Ride No Rails Murder Mystery

This intimate murder mystery performance is limited to just 20 passengers per show and is set within the luxurious Lounge Car No. 118. Can you help Detective Holden of Scotland Yard solve the clues and bring the killer to justice?

Legacy of Sleepy Hollow at Strasburg Rail Road

Available to book in October, this extra special, extra spooky Strasburg performance dives into the chilling tale of Sleepy Hollow and Ichabod Crane, complete with ghosts, curses, sword fights, live horses, special effects and more to create the scariest train ride of the year.

Christmas Trains at Strasburg Railroad

Embark on a magical holiday journey with one of several themed Christmas excursions on Strasburg Rail Road. Special train rides with Santa offer a chance for passengers to greet Santa Claus and personally tell Old Saint Nick what they desire for Christmas. If you’re in the market for a Christmas tree, the Christmas Tree Train Rides include a stop at Leaman Place Grove where passengers can select a fir of their choice to be hauled back to the station aboard the train. Brim with holiday cheer as you enjoy a peaceful winter evening ride while being regaled with Clarke Moore’s classic, “The Night Before Christmas,” during the Night Before Christmas Train Rides.

History

Founded in 1832, Strasburg Rail Road is the oldest public utility in Pennsylvania and America’s oldest operating railroad. Originally conceived as an efficient alternative to Conestoga wagons that would connect with the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad to transport passengers and freight through Pennsylvania, the railroad’s purpose would eventually shift to primarily shuttle goods as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Following a decline in necessity for rail transportation in favor of highways and automobiles following World War II, plus track damages caused by storms, Strasburg Rail Road faced irrelevance and abandonment in the late 1950s.

In 1958, railfans Henry K. Long and Donald E. L. Hallock formed a committee to purchase and save the railroad. Successful in their endeavor, Strasburg Rail Road roared along the tracks again just a week following their purchase. Soon thereafter, the line began a tourist excursion service, which continues to this day, delighting visitors of all ages with an authentic railroad experience. To uncover more of the railroad’s history, visit Strasburg Rail Road’s official website.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to ride the Strasburg Rail Road?

Pricing varies by age, group size, and type of car. Seasonal events and special experiences also have their own pricing model. Consult Strasburg Rail Road’s official website for up-to-date pricing information. Current pricing for standard, 45-minute round-trip journeys are as follows:

  • Coach Cars:
    • Children ages 2-11: $14
    • Adults ages 12+: $22
  • Open Air Cars:
    • Children ages 2-11: $16
    • Adults ages 12+: $24
  • First Class Cars: $32-35, with private charters available
  • The Dining Car:
    • Children ages 2-11: $14
    • Adults ages 12+: $22

Seasonal and annual Train Passes are also available, granting access to multiple rides throughout the year and special discounts on merchandise, food and drink, tours, and events, in addition to other benefits.

What is the Strasburg Rail Road train schedule?

Similar to most train operations, Strasburg Rail Road operates on a fixed schedule, with trains departing at their scheduled departure times and passengers boarding 10-15 minutes prior to their scheduled departure. Typical departure times occur at 90-minute intervals and most trains operate on a 45-minute round trip journey, barring special scheduling for seasonal events.

What age is considered a child on the Strasburg Rail Road?

Strasburg Rail Road considers passengers ages 2-11 years old children, qualifying for child pricing. Passengers under the age of 2 ride free.

How long is the Strasburg Rail Road train ride?

The average ride onboard the Strasburg Rail Road is 45 minutes, round trip. Select special events and seasonal experiences operate under slightly different timing, per experience.

Does the Strasburg Rail Road haul freight?

Yes. True to its origins, the Strasburg Rail Road still hauls freight along its route, including lumber, steel, grains, dry fertilizers, bedding, and bio-fuel, among other items. To learn more, click here.

How long is a Day Out With Thomas?

The Day Out With Thomas excursions last 45 minutes. The related activities, photo ops and performances at the Train Mall are available on Day Out With Thomas days, from 9:30 a.m. until one hour after the last Thomas train has returned to the station.

Does Strasburg Rail Road have bathrooms?

Yes. All First-Class cars, including the President’s Car, Parlor, Lounge and Dining cars, have restrooms. Specific Coach cars have restrooms, with at least one Coach car accessible on daily trains. There are no restrooms on Open Air cars. Visitors are recommended to arrive ahead of the scheduled departure time and use public restrooms to avoid ride disruptions.

How old is the Strasburg Rail Road?

Strasburg Rail Road was founded in 1832, and recently celebrated its 190th anniversary in 2022. Ongoing research is still being conducted to determine precisely when the first train rolled along the tracks, however current research suggests trains were scheduled as of December 1851.

Are pets allowed onboard Strasburg Rail Road?

No. Pets and animals are not permitted on Strasburg Rail Road or in customer areas at the station mall or train platform. Only service animals, who are trained to support individuals with disabilities, are permitted beyond those points.

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