Missouri has some of the most beautiful scenery in the Midwest, especially around fall time. With rolling hills, ancient mountains and tall bluffs overlooking the Missouri River there are plenty of choices to enjoy the natural beauty of the Show-Me State.
A unique aspect of Missouri is getting to know the landscape through one of a handful of scenic railroad tours. Four prominent railroads take you on excursions in various parts of Missouri. If you fancy a journey back in time and back into the woods, examine some of these options for a fun day trip.
Branson Scenic Railway
Branson is known for fun family entertainment including music, theme parks, shopping, and a scenic railroad excursion. The 40-mile Branson Scenic Railway takes you through some breathtaking scenery, through tunnels, over bridges, and you get a unique view of the Missouri Ozark mountains.
Daily trips happen from March until early November. New for 2010 is the Polar Express which launches four days a week in months of November and December. The costs of the Polar Express are $34 for adults and $24 for children ages two to 12. The railway is closed on Sunday during regular trips.
The entire train trip lasts about two to three hours and a dinner excursion is available in the evenings. The train leaves and arrives at the historic 1906 depot in downtown Branson. As far as taking a trip through beautiful hills and having a fun family event, the Branson Scenic Railway is first class.
Belton Grandview & Kansas City Railroad
The Kansas City area boasts the Belton Grandview & Kansas City Railroad based in historic Belton, Missouri. Belton is southeast of Kansas City off U.S. 71.
In addition to weekend excursions during the summer months, there are Halloween trains and Christmas trains during the fall holidays. A museum is on the grounds of the railroad and you can see older locomotives and rail equipment.
Passengers can ride in the caboose and for $25 two riders per trip can be in the train engine. Round trips are 45 minutes and the ride is five miles long. Costs are $9.50 for 2010. Be sure to check out downtown Belton and take in the history of this railway in its entirety.
St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway
The St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway is based in Jackson, Missouri, about 100 miles south of St. Louis off Interstate 55. For now the diesel train is running while the steam locomotive is being renovated.
Special events run from May until December with holiday trains and Halloween excursions geared for families and children. Adults cost $16 and children three to 12 are $9 on a trip lasting one hour and 20 minutes to Gordonville and back. Special events cost more and you can charter the train for special events.
Amtrak Missouri River Runner
Regular daily train service on Amtrak runs between Kansas City and St. Louis as it follows the Missouri River. Even though the train is a modern convenience, the scenery of the bluffs overlooking the Big Muddy is well worth the price.
The trip lasts 5 hours and 40 minutes and takes you through one of the most scenic riverways in America. As you gaze upon the Missouri River, imagine what it would have been like over 200 years ago as the Lewis and Clark expedition began up the Missouri River as it explored the new Louisiana Territory.
Tickets are $43 for adults and $24.50 for children ages three to 15. A National Park Service Ranger is on board for some trips to help guide passengers through the history of westward expansion in Missouri.
Missouri has a nice balance of everything–a few large population centers, wide open spaces, and lots of natural beauty. If you want to take an easy trip to see some of the natural wonders of Missouri without leaving behind modern conveniences, try one of Missouri’s four major scenic railroads. It will be well worth the trip.
Branson Scenic Railway, “Branson’s Most Classic Attraction”, BransonTrain.com.
“Belton Grandview & Kansas City Railroad”, BeltonRailroad.org.
“St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway”, SLIMRR.com.
Amtrak, “Missouri River Runner”, Amtrak.com.