Walkersville Southern Railroad: A Step Back Into History for the Whole Family

Walkersville Southern Railroad

On Saturday, August 25th, with temperatures reaching the low 80’s and perfect partly cloudy skies, I took the family to Frederick County, Maryland to go for a ride on the Walkersville Southern Railroad (WS) and check out the Walkersville Southern Railroad Museum. The visit far surpassed my expectations.

It started with booking our family on the diesel-powered train ride. I checked out the web site and saw that the best excursions for our household with two wee-little-littles (two under three years old) would be either the 11am or the 2pm ride on Saturdays in the Spring-Fall, May to September to be exact. In the month of October, both Saturdays and Sundays become an option, same schedule. With all the rain we’ve been getting this year, we held out for a picture-perfect weather day. We were really lucky. The train operates both rain and shine. If you click on the “Tickets/Calendar” link in their site navigation, you’ll be able to click on a specific date and time you’d like to go. It will tell you how many seats are still available to book for that specific ride. You can monitor this availability number to gauge when to book, while keeping an eye on the weather. If I recall correctly, there were around 130~ seats remaining the day before our particular ride.

Walkersville Southern Railroad makes for a great family-friendly step back into history. Hop on the CertifiKid deal now and don't miss the train! http://amysav.es/certifikid Share on X

There are also some exceptions to the schedule, like steam trains, special events, etc. There are also dinner train excursions some evenings. All of this is listed out in detail on the web site.

Once we settled on the 11am train and made our reservations, we decided to arrive at 10am to have some time to spare to pick up our tickets at the ticket office, browse the museum, hit the bathrooms, etc. as the train departs at 11am sharp (it was on the nose as it should be)! “All aboard” the conductor called out loud, as he was the last to hop on the departing train.

The other benefit to arriving at 10am, is that was when they were bringing the train into the station from the north. We hadn’t told our kids what we were doing that day. We rarely do, because we don’t want the disappointment if something doesn’t go as planned. So, imagine the shock and surprise when we were unloading our kids from the car to the sound of a train whistling and entering the station. Our preschooler is obsessed with “choo choo trains” and couldn’t believe her eyes, nor that we were about to go for a ride!

Walkersville Southern Railroad

Walkersville Southern Railroad

Parking is free and aplenty, in a grassy field adjacent to the ticket office. Between the ticket office and the museum is an in-use roadway, so be careful to cross with your littles! There are three porta-potties here, all in clean shape, with toilet paper, but without working hand sanitizer (so make sure you have that with you). One of the three is handicap accessible (as is the train – there is limited space for wheelchairs so they urge you to call in advance). Note, there are some gravel and grassy areas here, if that makes operating a wheelchair difficult. (As an added note: my husband had just undergone laparoscopic appendectomy surgery the Monday prior to our excursion and found the trains easy to get on and off and comfortable for the ride). One of the WS staff told me that they are in the process of building out restrooms with “real plumbing” but I didn’t hear the ETA on that. Also, I highly doubt there is a bathroom on the train. At least I didn’t see one. But that shouldn’t be too big a deal as the ride is approximately 70 minutes. Be sure that everyone has ample time to go in advance, especially those getting potty trained. Since they don’t have full-fledged restrooms, your best bet for diapering little ones is in your vehicle, though I’m sure you could do this in your lap on the train as you would on an airplane.

Walkersville Southern Railroad & Museum

So, I mentioned “staff” before. The WS is made up mostly of volunteers. About 50-60 of them! Anyone over 18 years old is able to volunteer, but the average age is around 50 years old…which makes sense with the aging railroad fanatic population. I don’t recall seeing any female volunteers, though it’s certainly open to them! The conductor had a striking resemblance to Kris Kringle. ALL of the staff was wonderfully accommodating, keeping us safe and answering our many questions.

In addition to hitting the porta-potties before departure, we checked out the museum. There were also many rail cars undergoing restoration and maintenance in the rail yard just outside of the museum entrance. I should have allotted more time for the museum. It opens approximately 30 minutes before the day’s first departure and closes approximately 30 minutes following the day’s last arrival. Admission to the museum is complimentary. Because we would be getting off the train at 12:10pm approximately with a 2.5-year-old and a 9-month-old, we really couldn’t stay much after to check out the museum as grumbling tummies, followed by needed naps, were calling. You’d probably have more time to visit this prior to the 2pm train, if this is important to you. Many historic artifacts, hands-on activities for your littles, including many train books to explore, and a miniature train set. It was one large room, about the size of a basketball court.

Walkersville Southern Railroad Museum

Walkersville Southern Railroad Museum

Walkersville Southern Railroad Museum

About ten minutes before departure, we hopped on the train. We overheard that there was not a birthday party booked for the 11am ride, which gets the caboose privately…so we decided to ride there. If you choose to ride on the caboose, you can’t move from the caboose to other cars while the train is in motion. You may be able to move to other cars at the brief halfway stop, but the staff has to get permission from the conductor for you to do so. The caboose turned out to be a great place to take the ride. Not only was it the rear of the train for the first 9 miles of the trip, but it became the front for the return leg! Also, the caboose has two lookout seats up a set of steps. The backs on these particular chairs changed direction for each of the two legs of the excursion.

Walkersville Southern Railroad Caboose

A brief bout of WS history:
The track you travel was constructed by the Pennsylvania Railroad 1869-1872 between Walkersville and Frederick to carry passengers and goods. In 1968 the PR merged with New York Central. Just three years later, the railroad filed for bankruptcy and a year after that Hurricane Agnes ravished Frederick. The resulting flood took out the rail’s Monocacy River bridge and severed the line two miles south of Walkersville. The line was put up for sale. The State of Maryland bought the line, but only utilized the section north of Walkersville. For the next twenty years, the six-mile line between Walkersville and Frederick was out of service and overgrown by forest and concrete. In the early 1990’s, volunteers cleared the brush and debris and rebuilding was underway. The bridge was reconstructed between 1995-1996. And, the WS started its first season in 1997. A year later, trains started running to Route 26, the current terminus of the line (marked by a “yard limit” sign as I observed from the second-level of the caboose during our brief halfway stop). In 2009, the State of Maryland granted access to three more northwardly miles of track, which is included in some limited operations.

Once the train is in motion, the conductor comes through to collect tickets. So, you won’t be handing your ticket to anyone when you board the train. Therefore, it doesn’t matter which of the cars you get on. Other than private parties or designated wheelchair areas, no seats are reserved. Some may prefer the open flat car near the engine. Or one of the 1920’s enclosed coaches (windows open in nice weather).

Walkersville Southern Railroad

The caboose had several seats. There are no seat belts on these seats. I could easily see bringing an infant in a carrier on board (set on the floor), but I wouldn’t bring a stroller. With the doors open during the ride, you’ll want to make sure to keep your children within arm’s reach at all times. There is a WS staff member that prohibits anyone from walking out the back of the caboose during the ride. There was also a folding card table here, likely for birthday party food. Also, balloons and banners decorated the inside of the car as well. It would be a great way to celebrate a child’s birthday. You can also charter one car or the whole train for events too (corporate, weddings, etc.)

Walkersville Southern Railroad

The train moves at “yard speed,” which is about 10 mph. Most of our scenery involved farm fields, wooded areas, and a Monocacy River crossing. We did cross one heavily-used automobile road, which gave the kids an opportunity to wave to folks stopped at the crossing from the windows. Occasionally tree branches brushed up against the train. Be sure to look both ways before sticking your head out the window!

Walkersville Southern Railroad Scenery

It was rare, but the train’s whistle would blow during the ride. From the caboose it wasn’t very loud. I say this as I know there are parents of sensory processing disorder kids who may be interested in this excursion.

I should also add that food and drink are fine on the train. There’s even a “hot dog man” concession pop-up tent near the ticket office and train, selling a variety of snack items. We easily brought on baby bottles and food and snacks we had packed for our littles. You will likely also want to pack sunglasses, sunblock, and hats for everybody.

Walkersville Southern Railroad Concessions

At the end of the ride, you can check out their small souvenir shop inside the ticket office. They accept both cash and credit (assuming the latter to mean just Visa and Mastercard). It’s always good to help fund and support a volunteer-driven, historical excursion such as this. Items we purchased ranged from $2-$5/ea.

Walkersville Southern Railroad Station Shop

The WS is located in a relatively rural area. You will need to drive to find other activities to tack onto your day. Because we were coming to the excursion from near the Baltimore area, we would be passing the Frederick Municipal Airport on the way home. We decided to stop here, at “Airways Inn” for lunch. Airways Inn offers a plethora of casual food with windows to watch the small planes and some helicopters take off and land. The kids absolutely loved this. Kind of turned it into a “planes, trains, and automobiles” day for us.

Frederick Municipal Airport Airways Inn Restaurant

Walkersville Southern Railroad is located at 34 W. Pennsylvania Ave, Walkersville, MD 21793.
Airways Inn at Frederick Municipal Airport is located at 310 Aviation Way, Frederick, MD 21701.

The WS regularly updates their Facebook page. So, give it a “Like” to keep tabs on special events and happenings.

All photos contained in this post were taken by me. Please do not use my photos without my permission.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary admission to the Walkersville Southern Railroad in exchange for my honest, unbiased review. You can read my “Real Mom Review” at CertifiKid.

Note: Affiliate off-site links are used in order to help support this blog site.

Coupon Code

Want to check out Walkersville Southern Railroad at a discount? CertifiKid is currently featuring a deal that’s 34% off the standard adult ticket price, or 20% off the standard child (3-12) ticket price. Children 2 and under are free. Click through and search “Walkersville Southern Railroad.”

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Mom of three littles, and a small business supporter, Amy Lynn, is the woman behind the Saving Amy blog, covering a broad range of topics with an ultimate goal to encourage and inspire you to save both money and time.Have a sunny day! Have a sunny day!