How To Travel By Train In The South

Rainy Autumn Day in the Great Smoky Mountains
Photo: Getty Images

There's nothing quite like a train ride. Speeding through the landscape and taking in the views along the way has a certain romantic flair. While other modes of transport have made train travel less common, there are still opportunities out there to ride the rails. With lots of Amtrak routes crisscrossing the Southern states, as well as shorter scenic routes on historic and vintage railroads, you can usually find a railway near you for enjoying a ride—and all the memories that come with it. Whether you're on the hunt for an opulent dining car, a fall foliage round-trip route, a seasonal spin on a railway, or a ride from city to Southern city, you can find a depot nearby to welcome you.

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Bluegrass Scenic Railroad

Bluegrass Scenic Railroad and Museum
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>>> Departs from Versailles, Kentucky

Ride through Central Kentucky's horse country on an air-conditioned Saturday train ride departing from the station on Beasley Road in Versailles, Kentucky.

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Carolinian/Piedmont Trains

Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson/Getty Images

>>> Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte

Explore the sights of North Carolina on this dual Amtrak route that runs through Charlotte and Raleigh. The Piedmont extends between Charlotte and Raleigh, while the Carolinian continues up to New York. Take the train during the fall months to see the leaves turning.

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Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Historic Cass Scenic Railroad
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>>> Departs from Cass, West Virginia

This state park and historic railway is located in Cass, West Virginia, and is operated by the state's Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad. You can hop the scenic railway downtown and follow it on a journey up to the overlook at Bald Knob, the highest point in the state, on a four-and-a-half-hour ride, or you can take a two-hour excursion to Whittaker Station.

Learn more.

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City of New Orleans Train

New Orleans
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>>> Memphis, Greenwood, Jackson, New Orleans

The City of New Orleans train, an Amtrak route, shuttles from Tennessee (Memphis) to Mississippi (Greenwood, Jackson) to Louisiana (New Orleans), running through beautiful countryside as it goes.

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Crescent Train

Sunset Over Birmingham, AL
Robbie Caponetto

>>> Atlanta, Birmingham, New Orleans

This Amtrak route, which runs from New York to New Orleans, makes stops in Charlottesville, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and Greenville, Mississippi, before rolling into the Big Easy.

Learn more.

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Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway

Eureka Springs Images

>>> Departs from Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This seasonal tourist rail line has narrated excursion trains, dinner trains, and lunch trains on historic, ornately appointed railcars.

Learn more.

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Georgia Coastal Railroad

Cumberland Island National Seashore
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>>> Departs from Kingsland Station in Kingsland, Georgia

This fun railway offers several services, including wine tasting trains, 1920s-inspired trains, a Christmas train, and other seasonal specials. There's also a one-and-a-half hour ride that will whisk you from Kingsland to St. Marys and back.

Learn more.

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Grapevine Vintage Railroad

Downtown Grapevine, TX at Christmas
Robbie Caponetto

>>> Departs from Grapevine, Texas

This railroad runs excursion and special event trains (like Jazz Wine Trains, the North Pole Express, and the After Christmas Trains) that travel from Main Street in historic downtown Grapevine, Texas, to the Fort Worth Stockyards. Travelers enjoy rides on the railroad's air-conditioned 1920s Victorian coaches.

Learn more.

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Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

Rainy Autumn Day in the Great Smoky Mountains
Getty Images

>>> Departs from Bryson City, North Carolina

For a train ride with unbeatable views, hop aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Rides depart from the historic train depot, which is located in downtown Bryson City, North Carolina.

Learn more.

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Silver Service/Palmetto Trains

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>>> DC, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Miami

On this Amtrak route, you'll ride on the Silver Meteor, Silver Star, and Palmetto trains as you travel through the Southeast into Florida and its welcoming beaches.

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Sunset Limited Train

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>>> New Orleans, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Houston, San Antonio, Alpine, El Paso

The southernmost of the Amtrak routes, this line runs from New Orleans through South Texas and continues all the way to Los Angeles.

Learn more.

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Tennessee Valley Railroad

Tennessee Train Tracks
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>>> Departs from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Delano, Tennessee

You can hop aboard this Tennessee railway for rides of varying lengths—options range from 45 minutes to 8 hours long. The offerings include day trips, round trips, meals aboard dining cars, and vintage short lines. Trips include small-town stops, rides through scenic gorges, and holiday rides with lights and seasonal celebrations.

Learn more.

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