Best Scenic Train Rides In Connecticut

While there aren’t many scenic train rides in Connecticut, the few that do exist there are well worth exploring year round, especially in the fall season and in this post I’ll be providing you details on each one.

Here are the scenic train rides in Connecticut:

  1. Essex Steam Train & Riverboat
  2. Naugatuck Railroad
  3. Shore Line Trolley Museum
  4. Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum

Like I said there’s not that many but I’ll also be providing links to other states in the New England area by Connecticut that also provide incredible scenic train rides of their own. Let’s get to this list though:

Essex Steam Train & Riverboat:

The Essex Steam Train And Riverboat ride is considered on of the best scenic train rides in Connecticut and possibly all of New England. This ride takes you through the heart of the Connecticut River Valley. The train is powered by a vintage steam locomotive and winds its way through scenic towns, forests, and meadows.

In addition to being a scenic train ride, there’s also a River Boat connection involved. Altogether this journey lasts 2-3 hours and includes a train ride to Deep River Landing, followed by a cruise along the Connecticut River aboard the Becky Thatcher riverboat. Passengers can enjoy views of Gillette Castle, the Goodspeed Opera House, and the pristine beauty of the river.

The Naugatuck Railroad:

The Naugatuck Railroad, operated by the Railroad Museum of New England, offers a variety of scenic excursions that explore the rolling hills and historic landscapes of western Connecticut. This train departs from Thomaston Station and rides provide a unique perspective on the state’s industrial heritage and natural splendor.

One of the most recommended times to go for this ride is during the fall foliage season (around late October through mid November). During this time you’ll get not only some of the most blazing views of fall foliage in Connecticut but also one of the best spots to see it in New England In addition to that, thoughout the the year the Naugatuck Railroad hosts special event trains, including holiday themed rides that are perfect for families.

Shore Line Trolley Museum:

Although this isn’t your classic scenic train ride, it’s still worth visiting. The Shore Line Trolley Museum offers a unique rail experience on one of the country’s oldest trolley lines. The museum operates a variety of historic streetcars along a scenic route from East Haven to Branford, offering views of salt marshes and the Connecticut shoreline. This ride offers a glimpse into the golden age of trolley transportation in New England. If you’re going to keep heading north to states like Massachussetts, I’d strongly recommend also checking out the incredible Cape Cod Central Railroad.

Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum:

This one is located in Willimantic CO. This museum does not offer regular scenic rides but hosts special train events and caboose weekends that allow visitors to experience a short ride on a vintage train. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the state’s railroad history and see a collection of historic railcars and locomotives. This type of attraction is better for those who enjoy train history and enjoy short trips.

3 reasons to explore these scenic train rides:

(1) There’s historical value: Connecticut’s scenic train rides are not just about the views; they are a journey through the state’s rich history. From the industrial heritage of the Naugatuck Valley to the maritime legacy of the Connecticut River, these rides offer insights into the past.

(2) Connecticut nature: The train routes traverse some of Connecticut’s most beautiful landscapes. Whether it’s the serene Connecticut River Valley, the vibrant colors of New England fall foliage, or the coastal wetlands, passengers are treated to an array of stunning vistas.

(3) The scenic train ride experience itself: Beyond the scenery, these train rides offer unique experiences such as riverboat cruises, special event trains, and the chance to ride in historic trolley cars, making them memorable for passengers of all ages.

When to visit:

While scenic train rides can be enjoyed throughout the year, the fall foliage season (late October through most of November) is particularly spectacular in Connecticut and not just for the fall foliage views you’ll see on the train ride but also the hikes, towns to check out and overall beauty of the area you can see on car/foot.

Summer and Spring is also an amazing time to visit this area, but it is likely to get hot there too, so know this ahead of time.

Best Scenic Train Rides In Connecticut

Booking info:

Popular rides, especially during peak seasons, can sell out quickly. I advise to book your tickets in advance to secure your spot, especially for special event trains and typically that’s 3 or more weeks out. I also found an awesome site here with more details on Connecticut’s trains and trollys to check out.


Connecticut offers a wide range of lodging options, from quaint bed and breakfasts in historic towns to luxury resorts along the coast. Staying near your scenic train ride’s departure point can enhance your experience and allow you to explore more of the local area and Connecticut is full of awesome towns and nature spots to explore.

Other attractions:

Complement your scenic train ride with visits to other Connecticut attractions. Besides the state’s charming small towns, visiting museums, historic sites, enjoying the local cuisine, or spending a day at one of the beautiful beaches along the Long Island Sound is well worth the trip!

Overall Connecticut’s scenic train rides offer a unique and captivating way to explore the state’s natural beauty and historical heritage. Whether you’re a rail enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking for a relaxing and picturesque journey, these train rides will almost surely guarantee you get that experience there!


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