From the beautiful surroundings and rolling hills of Ohio to the smells and sounds of a locomotive, an experience on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is nothing short of incredible.
It feels like a step back in time to the way people used to travel. At the same time, it’s immersive into the natural world around the region, creating a meaningful experience for most who ride.
About the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is a train that runs through the heart of Nelsonville Ohio. The original rail line was founded in 1864 and called the Mineral Rail Road. It connected Columbus to Athens Ohio. A few years later, the name was changed to the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railroad.
From the start, the rail line was designed to move salt and coal, but over the coming years, it became critical for moving brick, which helped build the region’s cities. Passenger service was established in 1869 and provided a fast way to get to Lancaster.
Over the years, the railroad’s name and purpose changed, often expanding to include new areas and towns. Passenger service on the train ended in 1949 with many of the rail depots closing down and ultimately being torn down in the coming years.
Today, the train is managed entirely by volunteers, and it no longer moves coal. Rather, it has become a tourist destination in Ohio for Hocking Hills train rides. Many people come to the area to explore the feel of the railroad, and numerous types of train rides are available.
The Hocking Valley Train & Route
The train currently used on the Hocking Valley rail line is made up of equipment that ranges from 1917 through 1960. It features some surprising amenities, including enclosed coaches and three open-air cars. These open-air cars were once historic freight cars, but today, they make for a fun way to enjoy the ride.
The train travels along a 145-year-old route that used to link Columbus and Lake Erie to the Southern portions of Ohio. The route allows visitors to see a number of fun sites along the way, including the Nelsonville Brick Company, Hocking Canal, and miles and miles of beautiful, dense forest.
Nelsonville Ohio Historic Train Rides
One of the best things about the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is that it operates most times of the year, providing fun excursions with various themes. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most impressive Nelsonville train rides available each year.
Dinner Train Rides
An old-fashioned Hocking Valley Railway dinner train ride is one of the best ways to experience the railroad. This is a three-hour trip that takes you through the Southeast Ohio backcountry all the way to East Logan and then returns.
A four-course dinner takes place on the trip with a range of foods available. This dinner train experience is for those who are over the age of 21. As an elegant dinner train experience, it’s not only enjoyable and tastes great but also makes for the perfect romantic dinner.
Starbrick BBQ and Brew’s Express
For those looking for a two-hour scenic train ride with lots of food and beer, the Starbrick BBQ and Brew’s Express is a must-do experience. The ticket includes a meal that consists of a chicken wing dinner, strawberry shortcake, and a can of beer (up to four per passenger available).
This trip, also for those who are over the age of 21, is designed to provide a fun evening out. This dining experience must be booked in advance and is a popular option.
The Murder Mystery Dinner Train
Are you looking for a more exciting experience? Perhaps, one that’s more interactive? The Murder Mystery Dinner Train is a fantastic opportunity.
This experience allows guests to particulate in uncovering the mysterious murder of a passenger. And, the meal is one of gourmet prime rib with fixings. It is a fun train ride that includes plenty of time spent relaxing with a drink and a show.
Holiday Train Rides
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway has long been a valuable tool for transportation during the colder months, but today, it is more focused on providing holiday experiences for guests.
There are a number of events throughout the winter months and the rest of the year that are celebrated with lots of fun on the railroad. Here are some of them.
Easter Bunny Train & Egg Hunt
The Easter Bunny Train & Egg Hunt is a fun way to get the kids involved. Two trains depart for the trip, each traveling past Haydenville and then returning to Nelsonville.
On the return trip, the train stops at a secret hiding spot where the Easter Bunny lives, allowing kids to spend some time finding Easter eggs. Prizes and age-appropriate activities are provided too. The Easter train trip takes about two hours to complete.
Memorial Day Train
Celebrating Memorial Day is a very important tradition in the region. The Memorial Day Train ride is the East Logan weekend train experience, which leaves from Nelsonville and travels on the Hocking River Valley path.
There are a number of historic sites on the way, including the city of Haydenville, where the brick company used to be. Other experiences include the Hocking Canal locks and the gravel mine.
Fall Foliage Train Ride
There’s nothing quite like the vibrance of the fall leaves in Ohio, and the Fall Foliage Train Tour is one of the best ways to experience it all. The trains depart on select days during October.
The ride is about two hours, taking riders to East Logan and back again. Open-air cars are available as long as the weather is good.
Nelsonville Labor Day Train
Another relaxing train experience is the Nelsonville Labor Day Train, a trip that happens each Labor Day. The train leaves the Nelsonville Depot and travels along the Hocking River Valley, passing through Haydenville and other sites along the way.
It’s a great way to spend this special day and provides a fantastic view along the way.
Nelsonville Halloween Train
A trunk-or-treat type of experience, the Nelsonville Halloween Train leaves from Nelsonville in the evening and traverses the spooky Hocking River Valley. Kids and parents can dress up appropriately, and there’s lots of candy to be had.
Perhaps one of the most sought-after tickets of the year is for the Santa Train. This two-hour train ride is a 40-year tradition in the region, taking families along the East Logan route and back.
Santa gets on board and visits with each child during the experience, and the often snow-covered hills make for a mesmerizing sight.
New Year’s Eve Train & Fireworks
During the New Year’s Eve Train & Fireworks experience, the train stops near midnight to view a fantastic fireworks display. With two themes, the event is a fun way to ring in the New Year.
More Hocking Valley Train Rides
There are a few more interesting train rides to consider on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway. You don’t need a holiday for a reason to jump on board.
Hocking Valley Steam Train Special
Riding a steam train through Hocking Valley is a unique experience, taking you way back in history. The train is a 1920s coal-fired steam train that travels around to East Logan and back.
There are limited times when this ride is available because of the historic nature of the train, but the Hocking Valley Steam Train Special is one of the best times of year for a true adventure.
All Caboose Train Ride
If you enjoy trains, you will want to book the All Caboose Train Ride, an opportunity to check out all of the cabooses in the area. The rail uses privately owned cabooses to operate this unique, annual train ride.
The train makes its way to East Logan but stops along the way for some photos. There is very little seating for this ride, so booking in advance is a must.
Ohio’s Friendliest Train Robbery
There’s no doubt that Ohio’s Friendliest Train Robbery is a must for those who want to experience an adventure. This is a family-friendly experience but one in which a group of bandits on horseback really will come on board. Although there’s play money involved, it’s a thrilling experience.
Nelsonville East Logan Train Ride
The Nelsonville East Logan Train Ride offers a fantastic view of the nature of this region. This is the routine, Saturday-and-Sunday train ride offered by the organization. It’s a fun two hours on board a historic train.
Noon Train to Haydenville
The Noon Train to Haydenville happens during the warmer months on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s a ride along the Hocking River Valley. The ride is a short trip about 1.5 hours in length but perfect for those who are going on their first ride.
FAQs About the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
Where is the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway?
The Hocking Valley rail line is located in Nelsonville in Athens Ohio. It is part of the Hocking Hills State Park area.
How much are the train rides on Hocking Valley Scenic Railway?
The costs differ significantly based on the experience itself. For instance, the Hocking Valley Railway dinner train rides cost more than the rides that don’t include dinner.
Are the Hocking Valley train rides kid-friendly?
Yes, most of the Hocking Valley Railway train rides are suitable for children unless there is a restriction for only those 21 and older because of alcohol.
More Things to Do in Athens County Ohio
There’s plenty to do in the Hocking Valley. You can hike through Hocking Hills State Park, visit the Southeast Ohio History Center, and explore the beautiful Athens Downtown Historic District and farmer’s market.
And if you want to see more of Southeast Ohio, we recommend checking out Marietta Ohio.