Whether you’re looking for a fun way to spend a summer afternoon or a hardcore fan of the railways, a trip on the Delaware River Railroad is not to be missed. The railroad hosts a variety of themed tours out of beautiful downtown Phillipsburg, New Jersey, to destinations throughout western New Jersey. It’s a great way to spend a day with your family or see some of the area’s most beautiful and historic spots. All trains are run on painstakingly restored passenger trains and pulled behind authentic steam locomotives. Even the most diehard railroad buff will enjoy an excursion on the Delaware River Railroad – and a trip may just make a railfan out of you, too!
One popular tour you can take on the railroad is to the old Susquehanna Mine in Phillipsburg. A short train ride takes you to the site of the old mines. There, you’ll be treated to an introduction to the history of the mines. Be forewarned: this is not your average history lecture. We don’t want to ruin the surprise but know that it gets very exciting! The original mine shaft is still operating, and as part of the tour, everyone can pan for gemstones. This is a great activity for kids. All visitors get their own bag of mining ore to pan through in search of gemstones. Crystals, quartz, rubies, amethyst, emeralds, and even arrowheads have all been discovered in the mine’s ore. Visitors can take home a bag of their findings as a keepsake. We can’t recommend this trip highly enough – it’s a wonderful way to learn about the history of the area and about mining and geology. The ride to the mine is beautiful as well. It takes about twenty minutes to get to the mine and you’ll probably want to give yourself one and a half to two hours at the mine. The interactive history demonstration takes only about twenty minutes, but we bet you’ll be having so much fun panning for gemstones that the time will fly by! There’s also a corn maze and picnic area on-site to round out your afternoon, so consider packing a picnic lunch.
Delaware River Railroad Excursions also operate a trip to visit a beautiful winery in Finesville, New Jersey. You board as usual in Phillipsburg and ride all the way to the end of the line, and then board a complimentary shuttle to the Villa Milagro Vineyard. (For those railroad buffs among us, you’ll be riding old Long Island Railroad passenger cars, beautifully restored, behind a 2-8-2 Mikado Steam locomotive.) The 104-acre vineyard is heavenly; walking the fields between rolling hills and overlooking the Musconetcong and Delaware Rivers, you’ll feel a world away. Villa Milagro Vineyards is especially interesting because it’s all organic, spraying no chemical fertilizers or pesticides on their grape vines. In fact, they’re the only all organic winery on the East Coast. You’ll tour the property, learning about how grapes are grown and selected for winemaking. You’ll also get introduced to the winemaking equipment and visit the vaults where barrels sit, aging. And, of course, you’ll have a chance to sample Villa Milagro’s wines! The wine tasting is a wonderful way to learn more about wine and develop your own palate. You can even pack a picnic and enjoy your lunch along with a bottle of Villa Milagro’s under the trees at the Susquehanna Mine stop. Best of all, if you’re feeling a little sleepy after the wine tasting, don’t worry: you’re taking the train home!
A favorite tour for families is the ‘Thomas Train’. On your day out with Thomas the Tank Engine, you’ll be riding at Phillipsburg on a life-sized Thomas Train. You’ll enjoy Sir Topham Hatt’s storytelling and great live music onboard. There are even Mega Bloks to play with on the train! This trip is sure to make a railroad fan out of your whole family and is especially suitable for younger ones. There’s a train-themed gift shop right on board where you can shop for train models, books, and play sets.
There are also a number of seasonal excursions that the Delaware River Railroad hosts. These are great for holidays or if you have relatives visiting f rom out of town. They’re also all wonderful ways to spend the day as a family, as many are designed especially for children.
In the spring, you and your family can take a ride on the Easter Bunny train. Mr. Easter Bunny himself is onboard the train (bring a camera!) as you ride out to the bunny patch for a good old fashioned Easter egg hunt. Kids can hunt for eggs containing toys and candy. In recent years, a juggler has also been available for entertainment. The Delaware River Railroad service also offers an optional professional photography service to capture the memories.
Celebrate the fall season with a ride on the Great Pumpkin Train operated by the Delaware River Railroad. This excursion takes you on a beautiful scenic ride to a pumpkin patch in Carpentersville. Admire the changing colors of the trees and the fresh fall air as your family searches the patch for that perfect pumpkin. Each child can pick one pumpkin for free to take home. We recommend pairing this excursion with a visit to the nearby corn maze at the Ole’ Susquehanna Mining Company site. There, you can tour the mines, and try your hand at finding your way through the corn maze. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the picnic area in a glade of trees.
Winter brings with it the Delaware River Railroad’s most magical tour, the Polar Express. This trip is based on the famous children’s book about a train that takes children to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus and his helper elves. The story is read live on board as children listen to the Polar Express’s music and enjoy complimentary Christmas cookies and hot chocolate. Adults are welcome to snack too if they wear their PJs! The excursion includes a visit to Santa Claus, who will present each child with their very own special bell, which only true believers in the magic of Christmas can hear.
- Thomas talks at Delaware River Railroad (blogs.mcall.com)
- This Weekend, Spend A Day Out with Thomas (eightymphmom.com)
- Thomas the Tank Engine rides the rails in Phillipsburg (wfmz.com)