Michigan’s Top Train Rides
Have you taken any train rides in Michigan lately?
With all the picturesque places across Michigan, it’s hard to plan out just how you’re going to see all the natural beauty in the state.
You could drive, but the views from the highway are often obstructed and less immersive than you might have hoped for.
Explore Michigan by Train
The good news is that there’s another way – train rides. Train rides offer unique views and perspectives of Michigan, often chugging along through countrysides, forests, and historical towns.
Many of these trains are even restored relics, offering you the chance to learn about locomotives and their important role in shaping Michigan’s history and industries. Immerse yourself in a blast from the past with a scenic train ride aboard a historic engine.
Spend the day traveling by train on a historic railroad or your very own wilderness excursion. Prepare to be amazed.
Check out any one of these Michigan railroad rides for a fantastic day trip for the whole family.
Southeast Michigan Train Rides
The Pere Marquette No. 1225 is the largest locomotive in its class that is still in operation. You can find it at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso. Board this legendary locomotive for a memorable train trip. It starts at the Shiawassee River and glides past vast farmscapes and chugs through natural wooded areas.
All year long the Steam Railroading Institute conducts both all-day trips and weekend-long adventures.
During the holiday season, especially, business booms as the demand soars for their North Pole Express trip available from November to December.
The hour-long train ride on the Pere Marquette 1225 (aka the Polar Express) to the village of Ashley is one of Michigan’s most popular holiday events for kids and adults, too. Passengers will disembark from the stream engine into Ashley’s Country Christmas. The town decked out in Christmas décor, and there’s a two-hour Christmas party, complete with hot cocoa and other treats.
PRO-TIP: The Christmas-themed Polar Express train ride is a great opportunity to get in the holiday spirit. Read more about it in our Guide to Michigan Holiday Train Rides.
Crossroads Village in Flint, MI is a favorite destination for history buffs looking to immerse themselves in an antique setting.
For many, the highlight of a trip to Crossroads Village is the Huckleberry Railroad. Starting and ending at historic Crossroads Village, a ride on the line runs for 40 minutes. It travels through densely wooded spaces and along the banks of Mott Lake, offering stunning views of the water.
The Huckleberry Railroad is one of Michigan’s narrow gauge railroads. The narrow gauge rails allow the train to make tighter curves. This allows for some unique views for passengers.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, hop aboard one of the railroad’s three locomotives (diesel, coal-fired, or steam) to experience Michigan’s natural beauty like you’ve never seen before.
It doesn’t have to end when the ride is over either; Crossroads Village has more than 34 historic structures that you’re welcome to explore, making this excursion a perfect day-trip.
The Michigan Transit Museum in Mt. Clemens is appropriately located in the old train station. From 1859 to 1980 this station was part of a 60-mile line between Detroit and Port Huron. This earned the building a spot on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Here you can find plenty of information about Michigan’s railroading history as well as unique train rides on their restored equipment.
Train rides at the Michigan Transit Museum run throughout the year and last about 45 minutes.
Enjoy the warm weather on a summer train from June to September or get cozy on a Fall Harvest train from September to October. After that, the rides get festive, with Trick-or-Treat runs near the end of October and Holiday Express rides in December. There’s never a bad time to ride this southern Michigan railroad, so find the run that looks best to you and climb aboard.
Internationally acclaimed museum, The Henry Ford of Dearborn, immerses visitors in the creativity, innovation, and resourcefulness that shaped the states. Among the technological marvels housed at The Henry Ford Museum, are the diesel and steam locomotive.
Train rides help bring attention to how important locomotives were to America’s development, plus they’re fun. Ride one of the oldest steam locomotives in the nation through Greenfield Village and learn all about railroading history in the area.
Keep an eye out for special weekends aboard the Weiser Railroad at Greenfield Village where Thomas the Tank Engine visits. Along with his appearance, an all-day celebration is held with plenty of fun to be found in magic shows, live music, storytelling, and more. While you’re there, take the opportunity to explore other areas, rides, and activities in Greenfield Village to round out your immersive experience.
What’s better than a fabulous train ride through southeast Michigan aboard the historic Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad? Getting served dinner while enjoying that fabulous train ride.
Thanks to the Adrian & Blissfield Railroad Company, you can have all the fun of a scenic train ride with an added food bonus. Take in the sights as you wind through rich southeast Michigan farmland until you get to Lenawee Junction, a train hub where goods and passengers were exchanged daily.
Book a three-course lunch or five-course dinner on a 2-hour round trip – and if you’re feeling bold, opt for the murder mystery package, which features an extra hour of humorous tableside mystery content, complete with an acting troupe to sell the story.
If you’re looking for a way to wind down during the week, weekday evening charters are also available. Holiday rides are also popular in December, which can include lunch with Santa himself aboard the Santa Express, or the New Year’s Eve murder mystery train.
West Michigan Train Rides
All-volunteer line Coopersville & Marne Railway operates vintage locomotives and passenger cars from the 1920s. While the original tracks run between Coopersville to Grand Rapids, the passenger service stops at Marne. Catch a ride on this historic railway and learn about Michigan’s railroad history as you gaze out on the marvelous landscape, which includes a crossing over an open deck girder bridge, a road bridge, and four creeks.
From spring to winter you can take a ride along this historic route, but on Saturdays in the summer, the railway engages in what they call, “EnterTRAINment Excursions” where musicians team up with the Singing Trainman to perform acoustic songs, often railroad oriented.
Check back seasonally for specialty train rides as well, including The Great Train Robbery, The Murder Mystery Train, The Famous Pumpkin Train, The Santa Train, The Bunny Train and more.
South-Central Michigan Train Rides
Take a scenic ride on a steam train that’s over 100 years old on the Little River Railroad. The trip from Coldwater to Quincy or Hillsdale and back again is filled with gorgeous views of southern Michigan’s sprawling countryside. When you arrive at either Quincy or Hillsdale, you can even exit the train to watch the locomotive detach and reattach to the cars for the return trip, a process which takes about 30 minutes.
The Little River Railroad offers a few different experiences throughout the year, some of which include Lazy Days summer rides, the Easter Bunny Express, the Fall Pumpkin Train, and of course a Holiday Express complete with an appearance from Santa. Each of these packages vary in price and train ride length, so look into your options to optimize your excursion.
The Southern Michigan Railroad is managed by the Southern Michigan Railroad Society and is operated completely on a volunteer basis. This is unique in that the line is completely owned by the organization. That means it’s only used to preserve the line’s history and educate visitors.
That being said, a ride on this train is guaranteed to be memorable and educational as you become immersed in this living moving museum that chugs through countryside, forests, and small towns along the scenic route between Clinton and Tecumseh.
Each season brings new adventures on the Southern Michigan Railroad. These, include a Spring Wildflower Train, Summer Tours, Fall Colors Tours, and even Santa Tours once December comes around. If you do your research and pick the right day, you may even get the chance to attend popular events in the towns during your ride.
Northern Michigan Train Rides
Since 1927, Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tours has offered both riverboat tours and scenic train rides through Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The rail line is the longest 24” gauge railroad in the nation. This is leftover from the days when the land was a working logging site.
As you ride this trolley through the wilderness, you’ll get a close look at the habitats of Michigan’s many native animal species. If you’re lucky you may even see some of those animals.
Expect this wild excursion to last around an hour and 45 minutes. Concessions and restrooms are available at the stopover before heading back to Soo Junction.
The window for this unique experience is small, though, since the train tours only operate from July to the third week of August. If this sounds amazing but you feel you won’t get nearly enough time to explore, try Tour #1, which includes a riverboat tour that takes you right to the falls.
PRO-TIP: A Tahquamenon Falls Wildness Excursion is one of the top family-friendly things to do in Michigan. Be sure and take some time to explore the Tahquamenon Falls area in the eastern Upper Peninsula.
Up in Lake Linden on the Upper Peninsula’s west side, the Houghton County Historical Society’s museum complex hosts a wide variety of exhibits to educate and excite the public about the region’s history. A favorite among these exhibits is a functional Calumet Hecla Mining Co. Train, which you can ride along the Lake Linden and Torch Lake Railroad.
For the whole summer, visitors can loop around the museum campus and see all the other large machines displayed outdoors. Come October the line offers Halloween-themed adventures for those brave enough to ride. When you’ve finished your day at the museum, spend the rest of the day in Marquette for a memorable end to your up-north trip.
Alternative Michigan Train Rides
Most of the train rides on this list are limited in their ability to take you across multiple cities, with most only able to stop at a town or two, but there is a method out there for all you who want to see more. Amtrak passenger trains make it easy to explore Michigan with 22 depots from which you can begin a trip.
While their trains are more modern with less historical value, they’re full of comfortable amenities like bathrooms and wifi. Plus, they still have fantastic views.
Operating year-round as well makes Amtrak a great option to explore Southern Michigan. Try a ride on the Wolverine to get between Detroit and Chicago or anywhere in between.
The Blue Waterline branches off the Wolverine at Battle Creek and heads up past East Lansing on the way to Port Huron, one of Michigan’s oldest cities, rich in Great Lakes maritime history.
Favorite Train Rides in Michigan
Have you taken any of these fun train rides in Michigan? Use the comment section below to tell us about it!
About the Author-
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland. She later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school. She is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.