Written by Jessica Covert
Posted by Mark Ruda
The Branson Scenic Railway
When you’re on vacation in Branson, you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, something special, something to remember. Riding the rails with Branson Scenic Railway is the perfect escape from the ordinary as you experience the romance of train travel.
The Branson Scenic Railway began as the White River Railway in 1902 when construction began in January. The railroad was finished in 1905. It cost $12 million to lay 239 miles of track through the rugged terrain of the Ozark Mountains. A number of trestles had to be built to span the large gorges and tunnels blasted through solid rock. The town of Branson existed as early as 1882, before Rueben S. Branson moved to where the Roark Creek and White River (now known as Lake Taneycomo) converge. The city flourished after the arrival of the railroad in 1902, and the area was then accessible to tourists.
The Branson Scenic Railway began its daily train excursions in 1993 and uses a working commercial railroad line for its travel. Routes go either north or south, and the route the train will take is determined just before each departure. The northern route takes you as far as Galena, Missouri in the James River Valley; the southern route goes into Arkansas. A narrator tells the story of the area, where you will see extinct communities pointed out along the way, described as they were when the railroad was built. You will also see original trestles and tunnels as you wind through southwest Missouri. Excursions depart from the historic depot, built in 1905.
Today, the Branson Scenic Railway takes its passengers on a 40 mile roundtrip through the Ozark Mountains 3 to 4 times daily, touring locations inaccessible to cars or other modes of transportation. The trip takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, and provides an interesting lesson in Ozarks history narrated by the train conductor. The locomotives and the rail cars have been restored to give you the ‘first-class experience’ from the heyday of train travel. Passengers are encouraged to tour each of the cars, which include 3 dome cars that provide passengers with panoramic views of the beauty of the Ozarks.
The Branson Scenic Railway operates from March to December, and offers a dinner train on Saturdays from April to October. Reservations are required for dinner train excursions, and tickets are $56.00 for all ages. Tickets for regular excursions are $26.00 for adults (ages 13 and up) and $15.50 for children (ages 3 – 12). The Branson Scenic Railway also offers a special Polar Express excursion in November and December. Polar Express tickets are $34.00 for adults (ages 13 and up) and $24.00 for children (ages 3 – 12). These tickets can be upgraded to first class for $49.00 (adults) and $39.00 (children). First class tickets include seating in the dining car, hot cocoa in a Polar Express Souvenir Mug, and cookies. Excursions depart from the historic depot in downtown Branson, located at 206 East Main Street across the street from Branson Landing. To reserve your tickets, call 1-800-2-TRAIN-2 (287-2462) or go online to www.bransontrain.com.
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