Adults as well as kids are welcome to explore historic railroad cars and locomotives and learn about the history of each. Many have served the Atlanta area, including a Southern Railway Diesel Passenger Locomotive that was built in 1951. This unit powered the Crescent passenger train that ran from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. Two authentic railcars — a retired Clinchfield executive car #112 and a converted Southern Baggage car #4329 — can also be reserved for birthday parties. And if you’d like to ride a train, there’s one made up of vintage cabooses that moves around the 35-acre property. You can even buy a cab ride that lets you join the engineer as he operates the train.
If you’re planning a visit to the museum, check their calendar of events to see if there’s something special going on. The museum hosts events such as a Trains, Trucks and Tractors Day, as well as one devoted to model railroads that are worth scheduling a visit around. And if you have kids who love trains, they might be interested in the yearly summer camp.
3595 Buford Highway, Duluth. $18 for adults, $15 for seniors 65 and up and $12 for children 2-12. Regular admission includes one train ride, with additional train rides costing $4. Members of the National Railway Historical Society get buy-one-get-one-free admission. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. 770-476-2013.
The importance of railroads to Atlanta’s origins and growth is explored in Atlanta History Center’s “Locomotion: Railroads and the Making of Atlanta.” The restored locomotive Texas is the cornerstone of the exhibit. It was built in 1856 for the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which had its terminus in what would become Atlanta. An “American type” locomotive, inspired by the Texas’ design, even made it into the city’s first seal.
Visitors will be able to climb aboard the Texas’ cab and see the Zero Mile Post from a unique vantage point. The Center also displays the original Zero Mile Post, an 1850s Western & Atlantic Railroad marker that Atlanta grew around. It weighs 800 pounds and is an important artifact in the city’s history.
Meanwhile, historians (and serious train junkies) will be excited to learn that Atlanta History Center is now home to the Southern Railway’s massive archive of railway history. Norfolk Southern donated the archives to the center to celebrate the opening of its new headquarters in Atlanta.
130 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta. Adult $23.41, seniors 65+ and students $19.50, youth ages 4-12 $9.80, free for members. Free onsite parking. Hours are Tuesday-Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. 404-814-4000.
Ride around Stone Mountain in style in a full-size locomotive from the 1940s. The cars are open-air, so you’ll have great views of the mountain and its landscape during your five-mile, 25-30 minute ride.
In Blue Ridge, meanwhile, you can board a train at the historic downtown depot to start a four-hour, 26-mile round trip ride. You’ll ride along the Toccoa River and stop by McCaysville, GA, and Copperhill, TN, where you’ll have a two-hour layover to explore these quaint towns. A shorter two-hour ride that runs through the Chattahoochee National Forest is also available.
Stone Mountain Park, 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain. $34.95 attractions pass for adults 12+ and $29.95 for children age 3-11. Annual passes are available. Parking is $20 a day. Attraction times vary according to the day you visit.
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, 241 Depot St., Blue Ridge, GA. Prices vary according to the trip and day you select. 877-413-8724.
The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History explores the strategic and economic use of railroads during and after the Civil War. You’ll be able to see the General Locomotive, which was made famous during the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862. It was used to move troops and equipment during the Civil War before returning to its regular runs between Atlanta and Chattanooga after the war.
Exhibits include one that explores the Great Locomotive Chase, which involved a band of Union spies that stole the General Locomotive from present-day Kennesaw. They were pursued and caught by a Confederate conductor. The exhibit includes a movie, art and artifacts.
2829 Cherokee St. NW, Kennesaw. Adults $10, seniors 65+ $8, active duty military, students with IDs and kids 3-17 $5 and kids 2 and under free. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. 770-427-2117.