As a big fan of trains, I love finding local excursion trains whenever I travel. Even though I’ve ridden thousands of miles on regular passenger trains, there is still something fun about hopping onboard a tourist railroad for a short tour through the region’s countryside.
The Tioga Central Railroad runs along the only rail line still active in Tioga County. The line, which runs from Corning, New York, to Wellsboro, is owned by the Wellsboro and Corning Railroad, who also own the excursion railroad.
The line that the Tioga Central Railroad runs on dates to 1840. The tracks used to be a vital link for Tioga County and provided them with a connection to the north and south.
The line also connected to the tracks that run through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon down to Jersey Shore (along what is now the Pine Creek Rail Trail). Today, the 34 miles of remaining line is used to haul primarily water and sand for the area’s natural gas industry.
My journey on the Tioga Central Railroad began on an overcast Sunday afternoon . Despite a threat of rain showers, the line to board the train was long, but efficient, and we were quickly seated and ready for the ride.
For my trip, the railroad was nice enough to provide my family and me with tickets for the Lake Shore Lunch train. We boarded the train and went to our assigned table. Once the train got underway, we were served an entrée and desert.
The food they served was quite delicious, and I was very impressed to hear that it had all been prepared inside the train’s kitchen. They even had a separate meal for children and high chairs aboard the train, both of which were a nice touch. The meal service itself was a bit rushed, but efficient and friendly.
As we ate, the train traversed northeast, running parallel to Route 287 for the entire 12-mile journey. At our table was a nice brochure that explained not only the history of the railroad, but also gave a cartoonish black-and-white map of what can be seen from the train. Keep in mind that the eastern side of the train is much more scenic than the western side, which overlooks the road for most of the journey.
The highlight of the train is Hammond Lake, a large, man-made lake on the outskirts of the borough of Tioga. The beautiful lake is one of the best crappie fishing lakes in the state and is popular among both locals and visitors alike. It is also home to the beautiful Tioga Reservoir Overlook.
The northern end of the lake is the end of the line for the Tioga Central Railroad, and, after a brief stop, we reversed course and continued our journey back towards the train station.
On the way back, my family and I decided to leave the dining car and explore the rest of the train.
The Tioga Central Railroad offers a variety of train cars for visitors. Some were standard rail cars with rows of seats. Another had some wooden seats with information about the train’s history and brochures for riders to look over. The last car in the train was an open-air car and was by far the most popular.
In this car, several large benches provided seating, while the window areas were kept open for riders wanting to stand. Standing in the open-air car was a refreshing way to enjoy the ride and offered a great chance to move around a bit and see the variety of scenery along the train’s route.
Overall, I had a great time on the Tioga Central Railroad. While some might be disappointed to learn that the train doesn’t go through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, the route it takes through northern Tioga County offers visitors a chance to see a variety of scenery. In fact, despite being in a somewhat industrial area of the county, we passed wetlands, forests, and the aforementioned lake.
The lunch that we had was a perfect complement to the beautiful scenery outside and was quite delicious. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the onboard food and service, but I was very pleasantly surprised with the experience.
There are many great ways to experience the outdoors in Tioga County. However, a ride on the Tioga Central Railroad is a great chance to enjoy the scenery of the area in a unique way, and its proximity to both downtown Wellsboro and the Grand Canyon make it a great way to spend an afternoon.
Note: My ride and meal on the Tioga Central Railroad were hosted by the Tioga County Visitors Bureau. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Tioga Central Railroad
Hours: Fridays & Saturdays: Times Vary. See Website.
Cost: Prices Vary. See Website.
Website: Tioga Central
Address: 35 Charleston Street