The 10 Best Train Rides in Georgia & Georgia Railways Museums

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Before the advent of automobiles, Georgia railways were essential for both transportation and business. 

Railways in Georgia began in the mid-1830s with the Central of Georgia Railway (Savannah to Macon), Georgia Railroad (Augusta to Athens), Monroe Railroad (Macon to Forsyth), and the Western & Atlantic Railroad (to Chattanooga).

By the 1850s, trains in Georgia had linked all the major towns and created a railroad epicenter in Atlanta. But the necessity of railroads in Georgia grew exponentially in the early days of the Civil War.

During the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862, Union raiders used the Western & Atlantic Railroad’s General steamer in an attempt to destroy GA railroad infrastructure north of Atlanta and capture Chattanooga. 

BRMTG co-founder Mary Gabbett has a personal connection to Georgia railroad history. Her great-great-grandfather, Col. Edward Gabbett, was named General Manager of the Atlanta West Point Railroad in 1886. 

By the early 20th century, the rising popularity of cars had made train rides in Georgia increasingly unnecessary, and the importance of many Georgia railways began to decline. 

Today, many of the old railroads have adapted to provide entertaining and scenic train rides in Georgia

These Georgia train rides offer a nostalgic way to see many of the state’s most gorgeous natural attractions, discover its historic sites, and learn more about local culture.

Read on for our guide to the 10 best railway museums and train rides in Georgia, including an overview of their history, available tours, and what you can expect to see along the way.

READ MORE: 8 Civil War Battlefields in Georgia to Visit


Train Rides in Georgia & Railways Museums Guide

(Arranged Alphabetically) 

  1. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
  2. Georgia Coastal Railways
  3. Georgia State Railroad Museum 
  4. Okefenokee Railroad 
  5. SAM Shortline
  6. Scenic Railroad at Stone Mountain
  7. Southeastern Railway Museum
  8. Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History
  9. The Steam Engine at Georgia Museum of Agriculture & Historic Village
  10. The Tennessee Valley Railroad’s Summerville Steam Special

READ MORE: Where are the Blue Ridge Mountains? A State-by-State Guide

Train ride Blue Ridge GA - Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

241 Depot St, Blue Ridge GA • (877) 413-8725 • Official Website

The original tracks for this Blue Ridge GA railroad line from Marietta were laid in 1886. By 1905 the company had been sold twice, and was known as the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

There were no passenger train rides in Blue Ridge until 1951, but freight trains continued running continuously until 1987. 

In 1998, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway opened for business, offering passenger excursions along the Toccoa River from downtown Blue Ridge GA. Today, the railway hosts more than 78,000 passengers each year.

Blue Ridge scenic train tickets include a 2-hour layover that allows you to visit McCaysville GA and the town of Copperhill in Tennessee. They also offer private caboose rental, locomotive cab rides, and seasonal specials.

Their Blue Ridge Christmas Train is widely regarded as the best of the Christmas train rides in Georgia, and it’s our favorite of the North Georgia train rides we’ve taken. 

Ticket prices vary by season, with discounts available for children, seniors, first responders, and military. A standard adult train ticket typically costs between $52.99 and $68.99, while private caboose rentals range from $700 to $1,000.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Things to Do in Blue Ridge GA

Georgia scenic train rides - Georgia Costal Railway
photo courtesy of Georgia Coastal Railway

2. Georgia Coastal Railway

440 S. Lee St, Kingsland GA • (904) 370-3744 • Official Website

The Georgia Coastal Railway is one of our favorite Georgia train rides, providing gorgeous views of marshlands along the Atlantic coast of St. Mary’s GA.

Departing from Kingsland Station in Kingsland GA, this is one of America’s oldest privately owned shortline railroads, meaning a small or mid-sized railroad that operates over a relatively short distance.

Today the Georgia Coastal Railway is known for its many festive train rides, which include the following:

  • Christmas Trains
  • Comedy Train
  • Murder Mystery Express
  • Tea Trains
  • Karaoke Train
  • Wild West Train
  • Ship Wreckers Pirate Train (Family Friendly)
  • Great Gatsby Getaway
  • Pizza Party Express
  • Wine Tasting Train
  • STARS on Track

The price for a standard train ride is $16.50 per adult. Other ticket prices depend on the type of event, but typical range anywhere from $25 to $130.

If you’re riding the train on a regular day, plan for a 90-minute trip to the town of St. Mary’s and back. The train operates on most Saturdays in summer, plus some special holiday weekends.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Places to Visit in Georgia

Savannah railroad museum- Georgia State Railroad
Photo courtesy of Georgia State Railroad Museum

3. Georgia State Railroad Museum 

655 Louisville Rd, Savannah GA • (912) 651-6840 • Official Website

Located in Tricentennial Park in Savannah GA, the Georgia State Railroad Museum is a National Historic Landmark with a fully operational railroad turntable.

On certain days, there are scheduled train rides that take you around the museum, which is located at the old Central of Georgia Railway Savannah Shops & Terminal Facilities.

The Savannah Shops served as a repair facility for the Central of Georgia Railway for nearly a century, from 1833 until the 1920s. CGR continued to operate throughout the Great Depression, eventually closing for good in 1963.

In 1989, the Coastal Heritage Society took over the Savannah Shops complex and made efforts to preserve its history with the Georgia State Railroad Museum.

Museum admission is $15 per adult and $8 per child. There are also several membership and group tour options. If you’re looking to host a private event or wedding, the beautiful venue offers several special event packages.

READ MORE: The 10 Most Haunted Places in Georgia to Visit

Train rides in GA - Okefenokee Railroad
Photo courtesy of Okefenokee Adventures

4. Okefenokee Railroad

5700 Okefenokee Swamp Park Rd, Waycross GA • (912) 283-0583 • Official Website

If you’re looking for a train ride in GA that offers a good chance of seeing some extraordinary wildlife, check out the Okefenokee Railroad Tour of Okefenokee Swamp Park.

This incredible park near Waycross GA is the northernmost entry point to the 438,000-acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which is the most extensive blackwater swamp in all of North America!

Native Americans inhabited the Okefenokee Swamp as early as 2500 BC: Its name is a native word meaning “trembling earth.” The swamp was made a National Wildlife Refuge in 1937, and designated a National Wilderness Area in 1974.

Opened in 1999, the Okefenokee Railroad takes visitors on a 45-minute scenic route through the alligator-filled swamp, with a stop at Pioneer Island. General admission tickets are $35 for adults, $30 for kids ages 4-11, and FREE for kids under age 4.

Pioneer Island attractions include a recreated homestead featuring the Highsmith Cabin, a replica of the Wildes Cabin, and an interpretive experience along the Okefenokee railroad. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Lakes in Georgia to Visit

Georgia train rides - SAM Shortline Railroad
Photo courtesy of SAM Shortline

5. SAM Shortline Railroad

105 9th Ave E, Cordele GA • (229) 276-0755 • Official Website

The Savannah, Americus & Montgomery Railway (now known as the SAM Shortline) was founded by Samuel Hugh Hawkins in the 1880s. This railway route initially stretched 270 miles, from Montgomery AL to Lyons GA.

But by 1896 it had been bought by Virginia-based bankers John L. Williams & Sons and renamed the Georgia & Alabama Railway, extending the route another 85 miles to Savannah. 

In 1900, company President John Skelton Williams merged numerous railroad interests along the East Coast to create the Seaboard Air Line Railway. 

A hundred years later, new SAM Shortline Railroad operators the Heart of Georgia Railroad located the original train cars and restored them as a heritage train attraction before the first public run in 2002.

The SAM Shortline train now runs from Cordele to Plains, and visits sites including the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum, Historic Downtown Americus, and President Jimmy Carter’s hometown and boyhood home.

Pricing for SAM Shortline train rides varies: Coach tickets are $39.99 per adult, while Deluxe tickets are $49.99 per adult. There are discounts available for seniors, children, and military, and upgrades available for both ticket options.

READ MORE: The 15 Coolest Covered Bridges in Georgia

Christmas train rides in Georgia - Stone Mountain Christmas
Christmas Train Ride on the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

6. Scenic Railroad at Stone Mountain

1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA • (800) 401-2407 • Official Website

The Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad at Stone Mountain Park is an industrial train line that was used for granite mining in Georgia in the late 1860s, just after the Civil War.

Nearly a century later, in 1960, the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad was formed as a tourist railroad at the park. They rebuilt two miles of former quarry tracks, adding new tracks to complete the route around the perimeter of  Stone Mountain.

In 1981, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association took over railroad operations, and transitioned the line to diesel power. The train still had an old-fashioned look, with 19th century-style headlights and smokestacks.

Today, the Stone Mountain train ride is a 5-mile, 30-minute trip around the mountain, departing from the Stone Mountain Train Depot numerous times a day.

To ride the Scenic Railroad, you’ll need an Attractions Ticket or a Mountain Membership. Attractions Tickets range from $39.95 to $54.95 (plus tax) for an adult, depending on if you opt to include a meal and/or VIP access.

This is also our favorite place for Christmas train rides in GA. The train is decked out in white Christmas lights, with colorful Christmas light displays along the way, festive Christmas carol sing-alongs, and more! 

READ MORE: 10 Fun Things to Do at Stone Mountain Christmas

Train museum Atlanta- Southeastern Railway Museum
Photo courtesy of Southeastern Railway Museum

7. Southeastern Railway Museum

3595 Buford Hwy, Duluth GA • (770) 476-2013 • Official Website

Located in Duluth GA, the Southeastern Railway Museum offers a wealth of information on the history of trains, cars, and buses.

Formed in 1970 by the Atlanta Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, it is now Georgia’s official transportation history museum, due largely to its exceptional amount of rolling stock.

Current exhibits include Baggage and RPOs, Cabooses, Locomotives, Passenger Cars, Freight Cars, Transit, and Odds & Ends.

Museum admission includes one train ride on either the Historic Train or the Park Train. But keep in mind that the Park Train does not run on Thursdays (though the museum itself is open Thursday through Sunday).

The Southeastern Railway Museum offers an array of educational programs and activities, and has been featured in several film and TV productions. It’s also available for private events.

For general admission, you can purchase tickets on-site. For seasonal events, such as summer camp tours, you must purchase advance tickets online.

READ MORE: The 30 Best Day Trips From Atlanta GA

Train museum Kennesaw - Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History
“The General” courtesy of Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History

8. Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History

2829 Cherokee St NW, Kennesaw GA • (770) 427-2117 • Official Website

The Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History is located in Kennesaw GA, and it’s a great place to learn about the role trains played in Georgia State history.

Opened in 1972 as the Big Shanty Museum, the museum was primarily dedicated to telling the story of the Great Locomotive Chase, which pushed the tiny town of Big Shanty (now Kennesaw) to prominence during the Civil War.

As time went on, their collection grew to include permanent exhibits such as “Railroads: Lifelines of the Civil War.” The Jolley Education Center provides interactive learning stations for children and adults, with engaging activities.

Additionally, the Southern Museum’s Library & Archives contain rare documents, manuscripts, and photographs pertaining to Southern and Civil War railroad history.

Museum members can make an appointment to visit the library for free, but non-members can pay a fee to conduct research.

The Southern Museum is open every Tuesday through Saturday, excluding some holidays. Adults pay $10, while there are some discounts for children, active-duty military, students, and seniors.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Hiking Trails In Atlanta GA (& Hikes Near Atlanta)

Scenic train rides in GA
Vulcan Steam Engine courtesy of

9. The Steam Engine at Georgia Museum of Agriculture & Historic Village

 1392 Whiddon Mill Road, Tifton GA • (299) 391-5205 • Official Website

Located at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture in Tifton GA, the Vulcan steam locomotive is the only steam-powered train in Georgia that is still in regular operation.

Built in 1917 by Vulcan Iron Works for the Hardaway Contracting Company, this locomotive was originally used during the construction of the Catawba River’s hydroelectric dam and Lake James (in North Carolina).

It has been housed at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture since 1976.

The museum also features interesting attractions such as a Historic Village, Country Store, Langdale Nature Center, Ford B. Spinks Exhibit Hall, and Destination Ag, which features learning stations about food, fiber, and shelter.

On Saturdays (if the museum is open), visitors can experience the historic train, with its open-air wooden rail cars. Museum tickets range from $9 to $12 for adults, with discounts for seniors and children. The train ride costs an additional $6.

READ MORE: Strawberry Picking in GA: The 10 Best Strawberry Farms to Visit

Welcome to Summerville GA Mural photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett
Welcome to SummervilleTrain Mural

10. The Tennessee Valley Railroad’s Summerville Steam Special

 4119 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga TN • (423) 894-8028 • Official Website

This lesser-known North Georgia train ride departs from the Grand Junction depot in Chattanooga TN to visit the historic train turntable in Summerville GA.

It passes through North Georgia towns such as Chickamauga, Rock Spring, LaFayette, and Trion before ultimately reaching Summerville.

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum preserves, collects, and displays railroad artifacts from the surrounding areas. It’s home to several other great train rides that explore the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee.

Note that their Summerville Steam train rides are currently unavailable due to track improvements, but they’re expected to return at some point in 2023. In the meantime, check out their Hiawassee Loop or Copperhill Special runs instead.

Ticket prices for the Tennessee Valley Railroad train rides run from $70 to $130, depending on the season and the section of the train you select.

When their Summerville trips are up and running again, you can ride on select dates from April to November, and expect the trip to last 9 hours. -by Rachel Nipp; lead image via Canva


Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Rachel has lived in Georgia her whole life. She was born in Canton, lived in Athens and Atlanta, and now resides in Woodstock. She has a degree in Advertising with a minor in English from the University of Georgia and has been working in marketing for over five years with an emphasis on copywriting. She loves visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains and exploring local nature, cuisine, and culture.