The railroads were an indispensable part of the creation of the National Park System, taking early visitors to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, and other parks that were nearly inaccesible by other means.
While not as many national parks have trains and railroads as do those units with buses, they are still popular features in several parks:
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR)
The CVSR operates year round, offering alternative transportation for visitors to the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as well as transit opporutnities for people living in the vicinity of the four stations: the Akron Northside Station, the Peninsula Depot, the Canal Visitor Center, and the Rockside Station. Passengers can climb aboard with an all-day boarding pass for just $15 for adults and $10 for children. Park visitors can also bring bicycles aboard the train on a space-available basis. Cyclists pedal the Towpath Trail through the Park in one direction, then hop on the train for a ride back to their starting point.
The CVSR has a long and colorful history in the Valley. In 1880, the Valley Railway began operations, transporting coal to Cleveland, Akron, and Canton from the Tuscarawas River Valley, and providing passenger service along the way. After a decade of operation, the Valley Railway became part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. In the 20th century, competition from automobiles, trucks, and buses caused the decline of both freight and passenger service.
Interest in the line was renewed in 1972 as a scenic excursion route, and the Cuyahoga Valley Preservation and Scenic Railway Association was born. Originally known as the Cuyahoga Valley Line, the scenic railroad now operates as Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is a private sector, volunteer supported, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization operating in partnership with Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Association is dedicated to the preservation of passenger rail transportation in Cuyahoga Valley and the historic Ohio & Erie Canalway.
Steamtown National Historic Site
Not only does the Steamtown National Historic Site have a train...it's all about trains! Park visitors relive the era of steam engines through museum exhibits and exsursions on the the park's namesake trains. The Natonal Park Service acquired the collection of locomotives and associated equipment in 1995.
Steamtown NHS occupies about 40 acres of the former Scranton yards of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. The yards include an operating turntable where engines are regularly pulled into and out of maintenance roundhouse. One of the engines is CP #2317, built in 1923 and still running strong.
Steamtown NHS has a number of demonstrations and excursions that show how railroads functioned in the steam age. Several working locomotives transport visitors on short excursions through the Scranton rail yard. Longer excursions travel to Moscow and Carbondale, Pennsylvania.
Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area
The Kentucky & Tennessee Railway rumbles along a 16-mile round trip into the Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. This trip is full of spectacular scenic vistas, lush vegetation and mountain streams as it descends 600 feet into the gorge before stopping at Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp, a NPS outdoor interpretive site.
The Kentucky & Tennessee Railway served as the primary passage not only for timber and coal coming out of the Big South Fork River Valley, but also for the workers and supplies going into the coal and lumber camps. At one time the line stretched for over 20 miles into the valley, and operated 12 steam locomotives. The coal mines began to play out in the 1950s, and in 1987 the last railcar of coal left the Blue Diamond mines. A grand era had come to an end.
The train enters the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area just below Barthell, the oldest coal camp on the railroad which traces its beginnings to 1902. While rolling through this remote wilderness, The train makes a regular 3 1/2 hour round trip April through October.