Day Trippin: A ride on Missouri’s short railways

Vicki Wood
There are four Missouri Day trips by train that are destinations not too far from the Lake of the Ozarks, and can give guests a bit of history.

 Long to ride the rails, but not ready for a journey that can take days? There are four Missouri Day trips by train that are destinations not too far from the Lake of the Ozarks, and can give guests a bit of history.


The St. Louis Iron Mountain Railway in Jackson beckons riders with a unique excursion on the rails. The train itself is a traveling history museum offering adventure on board each trip. For the kids, Iron Mountain Railway takes the family on a prehistoric adventure on the Dinosaur Train, filled with themed activities including bone digs. Reserve online now for the next dino departure, beginning in June. Another family oriented trip boarding in May is the Zoo Train. On May 15th, volunteer conductors shout “All Aboard,” for kids of all ages. Free watermelon and s’mores are provided to guests taking the animal themed trip. Junior Engineer and Conductor trips give little ones and their families a learning experience of a lifetime with an up close, hands on experience of what it takes to drive a train. All the child themed events encourage guests to dress up in themed costumes for the occasion, adding to the inclusive fun. Volunteers staff the entire operation, including the actors who do a fantastic job of recreating wild west shootouts on the James Gang Train Robbery events. Jackson, Missouri is only a four-hour trip down to the boot heel, near Cape Girardeau. Reservations can be made online at:


Another short rail experience is the Belton, Grandview, and Kansas City Railroad in Belton. The 1950s diesel locomotive rambles through Old Town Belton on a 45 minute excursion, allowing visitors to step back to another era while riding the 1920s passenger coach. The train was once part of the St. Louis and San Francisco Blair Line, which operated from Belton to Springfield from the 1800s to the mid-1980s, with the building of Truman Dam in 1979 dissecting the first portion of the route. While there, be sure and browse the train yard, a museum of yesteryear railway displays, including two static steam locomotives. The train runs on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm and masks are required. The train boards 20 minutes before departure. Riders can depart and stroll through Main Street Belton after the trip. Reservations online can be found here: -


The Branson Scenic Railway in downtown Branson steps riders up to the 1930s through 1950s era of train travel, with a bit more comfort on board. The popular railway sees lines of tourists a block long during the busiest portion of Branson’s summer season. At 206 E. Main Street, The Silver Chef is one route on the Ozark Zephyr railway. They serve candlelit four course prime rib dinners in the vintage dining car set with china and linens. Diners are treated to majestic views of the rolling hills and forests of Branson to Northern Arkansas, riding over bridges and through tunnels on the excursion. The dinner train departs at 5pm and is a 45 minute vintage experience aboard a 1956 Budd 48 seat diner train, once part of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy railway. Tickets can be purchased online at:


A mini railway for the kids worthy for a day of train tripping, is the Wabash, Frisco, and Pacific 12 inch gauge live steam railroad. Located in Glencoe, the ride through the woods and along the Meramec River can accommodate parents with their children. The volunteer staff makes sure that families receive an unforgettable experience. The ride on the mini train is two miles long and lasts 40 minutes. The Wabash, Frisco, and Pacific railway was organized in 1939 and operated through the Meramec region after moving from the St. Louis Lambert Airport through the 1950s. The experience of the open air rail cars traveling through the panoramic Meramec Valley holds a wealth of wildlife for viewing and an occasional spotting of “Snowflake” the albino deer. The train tradition continues at Glencoe operated by a volunteer staff, with tickets only a $4 donation to the organization. Departures are every twenty minutes. A gift and snack shop onsite offers souvenirs for visitors. Wabash, Frisco, and Pacific Railway 199 Grand Avenue Glencoe Online at”