All Aboard! Excursion train rides offered in Arkansas

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The Silver Feather Premium car offers dome seating
All excursions on the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad go through a quarter-mile tunnel.
One of three trestles on the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad excursions.
A member of the crew is ready to roll
Passenger seating is available in the caboose.

All Aboard:Excursion train rides offered in Arkansas

By Linda Miller

Some riders on the Arkansas & Missouri excursion train are all about the view. Others can’t get enough of the train, the deep bellow of the horn and the clickety-clack of the wheels on the track.

But most just want to relish the entire experience – a lengthy tunnel, three towering trestles and views that include mountains and valleys, rivers and winding creeks and discover what train travel was like in days gone by.

The adventure begins about three hours east of Oklahoma City where the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad offers several different train excursions throughout the year, making it easy to pick one that meets your likes and time constraints. A day-long excursion is offered, with others taking three or four hours. Excursions leave from Fort Smith, Van Buren and Springdale in Arkansas.

Which is the best depends on what you want to see. With little or no foliage to block the view, late fall and winter offer a clear view of the character of the land. Fall usually delivers a beautiful landscape of oranges and reds. Summer offers lush greenery and full trees.

All excursions take visitors through the Boston Mountain range of the Ozarks, over the three valley trestles and through the 1,700-foot-long Winslow tunnel. Be forewarned, when the lights are turned off you can’t see your hands in front of your face.

Along the way, a witty crew share tidbits about the railroad, engage in humorous banter and point out interesting facts about the railroad and its history. In my car, a crew member said in the late 1800s when the railroad was being built, smallpox swept through the area killing so many workers were buried in a group plot. Three crosses near the tracks serve as a memorial.

While traveling, guests also learn a little about their car. The fleet includes six cars, many with their own bit of history. Car No. 104 Biloxi Blues was used in the movie of the same name .It was built in 1917. No. 108 Silver Feather Premium, built in 1948, now offers table seating in the dome. No. 109 Spirit of Arkansas diner-lounge first traveled the rails in 1950 as the Pride of Texas coffee shop-lounge car. As one might expect, it was decorated with cattle brands, but the car was renovated before being put into service by A&M. The restored 1940s caboose seats only 10-12 passengers.

While snack and beverage service is offered on all excursions, lunch is available only on the Van Buren to Winslow route.

The schedule includes roundtrip excursions from Fort Smith to Winslow on Saturdays from January through March; Springdale to Van Buren on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a layover in downtown Van Buren from April through mid-November; Van Buren to Winslow on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from April through mid-November; and Van Buren to Winslow fall foliage excursions Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in October and November. Holiday and dinner trips are also available. The railroad also welcomes large groups and can put together special event and themed excursions.

Coach, club, first class and caboose tickets are available. Tickets start at about $40, depending on the excursion. Reservations are recommended because excursions sell out early.
For schedules and ticket information, go to www.amrailroad.com.

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