If it only took you an hour or two, would you travel back in time? From its picturesque Victorian train station (built in 1874) to the very train cars themselves, the Conway Scenic Railroad is steeped in local history. We’ve booked our tickets for an afternoon tour in late fall – won’t you hop aboard our time machine of sorts?
For those traveling through Mount Washington Valley, it might be tempting to fill your schedule for the day with tax-free shopping and gentle sightseeing, but don’t miss out – the train excursions offered by the Conway Scenic Railroad count as some of the best things to do in North Conway, NH.
Your journey begins with something bold: the exterior of the Conway Scenic’s railroad station. With its twin yellow spires topped by orange crowns and the grassy expanse of Schouler Park to complement, we wouldn’t fault you for filling your camera roll before you even set foot inside.
Within the station, another world awaits. It’s filled with a glossy wood staircase, historic exhibits, and a bustling gift shop. For now though, skip that – your train departs soon.
This time around, we’ve booked a seat on the Conway Valley train (and more specifically, first-class seating aboard the Gertrude Emma Pullman car). This excursion is the answer to “which Conway Scenic trip is best for children?”, and it’s easy to see why. The trip itself is on the short side (just 55 minutes round trip), but the 11 miles it traverses include trees whizzing by, views of the White Mountains across the valley, a few sparkling streams, and even an oft-photographed bridge.
During the ride, visitors can enjoy narration of the sights seen outside as well as some information on the train car itself. Since the Conway Valley train runs on the same set of tracks on its return trip to the station, kids will have the chance to see things they might have missed during the journey out (including an old “blink and you’ll miss it” graveyard).
Most exciting of all? Halfway through the journey, passengers can disembark for a few minutes to watch the train engine scoot past the cars on the track and then recouple for the return journey.
If trains aren’t really your thing though, you can content yourself with great conversation, fun photo taking, and the beautiful interior of the Gertrude Emma car. In addition to cozy wicker seats, this car is filled with finery: carved wood door frames and arches, fluted glass light fixtures, eyebrow windows inset with oceanic hues, and walls painted in the softest shade of green to set it all off. Outside, a striped canopy, gilded wrought iron railings, and finely decorated dome help further announce the obvious – this train car was built with beauty in mind.
Stepping aboard gives one the feeling of stepping back in time and watching the scenery slide by as many travelers before you did, decades upon decades ago.
We don’t want to spoil too much of the history of the Gertrude Emma here, but we will leave you with a few brief tidbits. It was built by the Pullman Palace Car Co. in 1898 during Robert Todd Lincoln’s tenure as president of the company, and it just might be the oldest Pullman Palace product in North America that still carries passengers on a regular basis.
Isn’t that astounding? Right in the heart of North Conway, a time machine waits. To board it, all you need is a ticket, an hour, and your sense of adventure.
We strongly recommend booking your tickets for the Conway Scenic Railroad online ahead of time; as with all of our trains in the White Mountains, sellouts do occur with regularity, and particularly so during peak foliage season, special events, and on weekends. Also, be generous with your day-of schedule and plan to arrive at least half an hour before your train’s departure time.
For more information on all of the Conway Scenic Railroad’s excursions and special events, click here.
Want to try out another train ride? Read up on what it's like to ride the Mount Washington Cog Railway during winter!