Tennessee is a gorgeous state no matter the season, but when autumn arrives it truly shines. Recently we took a scenic Fall Foliage train ride from Nashville to Monterey and back with Tennessee Central Railway Museum. Unfortunately, the leaves had not really turned yet so we missed some of the natural splendor, but the trip was still well worth it. I can’t wait to do it again next year (and hopefully see more color)!
Scenic Fall Foliage Train Excursion
Tennessee Central Railway Museum has multiple events each year with train rides of varying distances. They have trips for just about every occasion including: North-pole trips with Santa which runs 64 miles round trip from Nashville to Lebanon, Valentines Murder Mystery Trips which runs 90 miles round trip to Watertown, and even a trip to DelMonaco Winery which runs 168 miles round trip. Tickets to these train rides sell out quick, so we bought our tickets early. We ended up with coach tickets which were 80$ each. Other tickets were available at the time ranging from $60 – $100, but these seats were great! The trip we took was the Super Fall Foliage Trip from Nashville to Monterey. It was 180 miles round trip and scheduled for about 10 hours.
We arrived at Tennessee Central Railway Museum at a little before 7:00 am to make sure we weren’t in a huge rush. The parking lot attendant made sure parking was a smooth process. There was plenty of room to explore the station and museum while we waited for boarding. Just before we loaded onto the train, there was a presentation that covered some brief but important safety items. After the safety run down, we moved to our boarding location and made our way to the rail car.
Tennessee Central Railway Museum is a volunteer run, non-profit organization whose mission is to “preserve, restore, interpret, and operate historic railroad equipment to educate our guests about America’s railroads”. Tennessee Central Railway Museum has an impressive collection of historic train equipment including locomotives, passenger cars, cabooses, and freight cars. The car we booked our seats on for the fall foliage train excursion was built in 1953 for the Santa Fe Railroad and was used for pool service, meaning whenever a car was needed it was used. It was purchased by Amtrak in 1971 and used in their pool service afterwards. When Amtrak purchased these cars they left them in the original configuration except for some minor modifications. It was really interesting for me to see how these train cars were set up for long distance travel in the 1950’s and compare it to the amenities we are accustomed to today.
We pulled out of the station at 8:00 am and started our exodus from Nashville. I was starving, so I took some time to head to the concession car and get a sausage and biscuit and a drink. The concessions on the train were very affordable. After having a bite to eat, we headed back to our car, but not without stopping in the vestibule and enjoying the view from between the cars.
The ride follows close to Interstate 40 before tracking along the Caney Fork River through the country side. The scenery was spectacular, from rolling hills, to farms, and even some gorgeous river views. I was glued to my window for the majority of the trip. Some of my favorite things were the families that lived next to the railroad that came out and sat on their porches to watch our train go by and the glimpses into the small towns that dot the railroad.
When we got to Monterey, we hopped off the train, and luckily there was a trolley waiting that could fit a few of the passengers. We got on it and took a ride to the center of where the main events of the Standing Stone Day Festival were taking place. We grabbed a little bit of BBQ from one of the vendors, checked out the car show, and visited the craft vendors to check out what they were selling.
The reason the train was going to Monterey was to visit the Standing Stone Day Festival. Standing Stone Day is a festival held each year in Monterey to commemorate the Standing Stone Monument. As part of this celebration we were able to watch a symbolic peace ceremony which involved the traditional “burying of the hatchet” and a wreath laying at the standing Stone Monument. Along with the ceremony, there was also an unveiling of a state historic marker next to the monument on the highway. It was an interesting look into the history of Monterey, and I plan on returning sometime to explore the area a little further.
We had to return to the train by 2:00, and a couple of minutes later, we pulled out of Monterey for the long ride home. The visit to Monterey was a lot of fun, but I was definitely ready to start the journey home. As we rolled down the tracks along the Caney Fork, the sun was starting to set. All around us, the other passengers drifted off to sleep. I stayed awake, I didn’t want to miss any of the gorgeous scenery as we chugged down the rails. The return trip was a little faster than the trip there due to it being mostly down hill, and by 6:00 pm we had arrived back in Nashville and made our way to the car and our fall foliage train adventure had come to an end.
This fall foliage train ride has been one of my favorite fall activities in Middle Tennessee. We covered a lot of ground and saw some beautiful scenery. I am looking forward to taking this trip again! There are a few things I would change about my trip though. First, I would wear more comfortable clothes. I thought what I was wearing would be good, but 8 hours on a train let me know I was wrong. Second, I would research more about our destination. Going into this trip, I didn’t really look into Monterey or the Standing Stone much, and I wish I would have. I felt like I missed out on some things because I didn’t prepare enough ahead of time. Despite the things I got wrong, this trip was excellent, and I can not wait for next years Super Fall Foliage Train Excursion!