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Fun On Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Fun On Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Updated: Feb. 24, 2019

The only place you can take your kids on a steam engine train ride in Nebraska or Iowa is on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad in Boone, Iowa. My kids have a fixation on Thomas the Tank Engine, so I ask: How could I not take my kids on it when we were in the area?

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad - What to expect if you take train ride on this central Iowa railroad #Iowa #train #familytravel

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets in order to write this review. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Boone is a small town between Des Moines and Clear Lake, our two main stops on our Great Iowa Road Trip. It’s about 2 1/2  hours from Omaha. We ended up with a diesel engine pulling our train, but no big deal – it didn’t dampen the experience of riding in on authentic train.

What to expect on the train ride

– Expect to buy a ticket for anyone in your party who can walk (babe in arms do not need a ticket).

– The train depot has a museum – admission is included with your train ticket – and a gift shop. Allow some time before your ride to walk through both, especially if you’ve planned this pit stop to be a chance to stretch your legs.

Exterior of the train depot in Boone, Iowa.
Outside the train depot in Boone, Iowa.

– The steam engine is used on the Saturdays, so when we went during the week, we had a diesel engine. That’s no big deal for me or the kids, it’s still a train ride. If it’s a big deal to you, go on a Saturday.

– Your ride will not be air-conditioned – these are 1920s rail cars (though, dinner trains are enclosed with heating and air-conditioning). We went in June and thanks to some temperate weather, it was not a hot mess. It was, in fact, quite comfortable.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad train depot in Iowa
The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad 1920s era coach cars are not air-conditioned. On our trip in June, it was a comfortable ride without needing air-conditioning.

– Seating is first come, first served in the coach cars. If you ride on the dinner or dessert train, your seats are reserved. We arrived late and had to ask a couple to switch seats so that the four of us could be seated together. Arrive early and avoid the hassle.

Interior of a railcar of the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
Even on a weekday, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad cars can be crowded. It was for us on a Tuesday afternoon.

– The ride is out and back, about an hour and a half ride. Each car has a volunteer who’ll share interesting facts about the train and the area you pass through. Ours shared the story about Kate Shelley on the way back to the station.

– There is a concession car, but since the kids slept through lunch, I had also brought their lunch with us. I didn’t see anyone else eating. If you get tickets to ride in the caboose, you will not have access to the concession car.

Eating lunch on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad train
Mooch enjoyed her picnic on the train.

Highlights of the train ride

The highlight has to be crossing the Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which you’ll do twice since it’s an out-and-back ride. If you’re afraid of heights, this will be the ultimate low.

Looking out of the train while going over the Bass Point Creek High Bridge in Iowa
The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad crosses the Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which, at 156 feet tall, is the tallest single-track interurban railroad bridge in the United States. It’s a doozy of a drop.

We also liked the concession car. The kids got some ice cream, and Mr. Wonderful and I enjoyed a craft beer from a Boone brewery. Cheers!

Special Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad Events

There are daily rides with the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, as well as regular dinner and dessert trains. From time to time, special themed events are planned – several I can see being very, very popular with families.

2019 special events:

Sunset Barbecue Dinner Train – March 9, 16, 23 and 30, and April 6, 13, 20 and 27

Boy Scout Jamboree – May 4

Electric Day – June 1

Day Out With Thomas – Sept. 14, 15, and Sept. 20-22

Pumpkin Express – Oct. 5, Oct. 12, and Oct. 19

Fall Motorcar Day – Nov. 2

Santa Express Train – Nov. 29 and 30, and Dec. 1, 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22

Be sure to check the dates here as they may change. You will want to purchase your tickets in advance since these are popular.

If you go

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Where: 225 10th St., Boone, Iowa

When: The classic excursion runs daily Memorial Day Weekend through Oct. 31 each year. It departs Sundays-Fridays at 1:30 p.m.; departs Saturdays at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Ride lasts about an hour and 45 minutes. Special events and dinner trains may have different start times and run on different dates outside the Memorial Day Weekend to Oct. 31 time frame. Always check dates and times before you go.

Cost: Classic Coach Class tickets are $22 for adults and $9 for children; Climate Controlled Coach is $27 for adults and $15 for children; Valley View is $32 for adults and $17 for children; and Caboose is $26 for adults and $14 for children. Special event train rides and dinner trains will likely have a different ticket price.


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Plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip!

Iowa Collage

Here’s an itinerary to plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip! To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, check out these posts:

Rustic charm in suburban Iowa at Wildwood Lodge in Des Moines, Iowa

A room with a view: South Shore Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa

Clear Lake Yurts: A Unique Iowa Experience

Since this trip, we’ve explored more Iowa cities you may be interested in checking out, including Orange City (with a great Tulip Festival), the Quad Cities, and even more of Des Moines.

Get even more inspiration from my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!

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Clear Lake Yurts: A Unique Experience In Iowa
What To Eat At Omaha Restaurants

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Kylie N

Thursday 26th of January 2017

The dessert train is on my Iowa bucket list! A combination of 2 of my favourite things, desserts and train journeys!


Friday 27th of January 2017

Yours and mine too! When I heard about the dessert train, I already started planning how I could make another visit happen.


Thursday 18th of August 2016

We did this trip with our two oldest grandsons recently. We all had a great time and had a wonderful tour guide - Sally! This was the second trip over for all of us.


Friday 19th of August 2016

That's great to hear! I'm 99% certain our guide was Sally, too. She was so friendly.

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