Legal Train Watching Locations
Besides listing motels/hotels with a railroad view, here's a list of known train watching spots. Many of these spots were built just to watch trains. If you can add to this list, let us know. We're always looking for new locations!
As always, safety is top priority. Stay off railroad tracks. When you see a train, you may be seen as well. Train crews are told to report anybody on railroad property. Keeping away from tracks may continue to allow railroads to tolerate these "railfan parks" without fences.
Peck Park - Junction of the BNSF Mainlines (ATSF & BN) - Town park located at the crossing of the two lines.
Galesburg Railroad Museum (next to Amtrak station) - Located on the former BN Mainline, good location for train watching.
Visit our page for details on the these hot spots in Galesburg.
Crossroads Park - Known as Crossroads of the B&O. This railfan park is set up on the southwest corner of the diamond. The double Track CSX Garrett Subdivision (former B&O mainline) handles all east-west traffic from both Baltimore and Boston. It crosses the CSX Toledo Subdivision, another former B&O line.
National New York Central Railroad Museum - Museum is located along the busy NS Main (former Conrail Chicago Line), a train watching platform is also in the museum grounds. Visit the museums web site: National New York Central Railroad Museum
The Iron Triangle Railfan Park - This new park is the countries newest train-watching park. Around 100 trains pass the park each day. CSX operates the former Baltimore & Ohio mainline and the C&O line to Toledo. Norfolk Southern operates the busy former Nickles Plate Road main past the park. A visit to the new park in March 2014 will allow us to write a new review on this great train watching spot. Visit this web site for info: Fostoria Iron Triangle
Golden Spike Tower - An observation tower built just for visitor to view Bailey Yard, the world's largest train yard. Visit their web site: Golden Spike Tower
Although not an "official railfan park", the train station parking lot in Berea fills up fast with train watchers. This is one of the busiest areas for passing freight trains in the country, with easily over 110 trains during a 24-hour period. CSX / NS / WE / and overnight Amtrak's are the hosts. You never know what will pass through here!
Cresson Railroad Observation Platform - Located in downtown Cresson, across from the NS Helper Locomotive Service Facility.
Horseshoe Curve - A Must See to not only rail buff, but all people! This is the original railfan park. An admission fee, and scheduled hours restrict the freedom as other railfan parks have, but this park has been turned into a first class tourist attraction complete with an incline plane designed to take you from the visitor's center to the train tracks. Visit their web site for more info: Railroad City - Horseshoe Curve
RailWalk - Located behind the (former) Station Mall & Altoona Railroad Memorial Museum. This "railwalk" was built with the idea of train watching. Park benches, lighting as well as some covered shelters connect overhead pedestrian bridges that span over the tracks. This is a good area to photograph trains.
Tunnel Park - A train watching park built by the western portals of Gallitzin. The Tunnel Inn, a "railfan motel" is also located here. Note: Some trains on the mainline maybe missed at this location, due to some trains are being routed through the "shorter" Portage Tunnel down the street.page for details on Gallitzin.
Roanoke RailWalk - A walking path that parallels the NS Mainline between Hotel Roanoke and the Virginia Museum of Transportation. Park Benches, lighting, and scattered overhead shelters are along the walkway. An enclosed pedestrian bridge is near Hotel Roanoke. The Virginia Museum of Transportation is another fine place to catch the action.
National Museum of Transportation - The museum boarders a Union Pacific / Amtrak line, the museum has a small deck for visitor to watch the passing trains.
Steaming Tender Restaurant Parking lot - This restaurant is located in the former train station. It’s located at the diamond of the CSX (former Conrail Boston Line) and the New England Central RR. The Mass Central may also be seen accessing the interchange tracks at Palmer. NECR usually parks engines in Palmer. The restaurant owner usually tolerates railfans as long as they don't park near the building (don't take parking spots from customers). Be sure to have lunch or dinner at the Steaming Tender, it’s really good food! Steaming Tender Restaurant web site is here.
North East station / Lake Shore Railway Museum - Located along the CSX Chicago Line (former Conrail-PC-New York Central), and Norfolk Southern. This is a nice place to watch trains. The railroad museum also has a good amount of locomotives & rolling stock on display to inspect in between trains.
Cincinnati Union Terminal, TOWER A - The Cincinnati Railroad Club has restored and now maintains Tower A, which was the main control tower for Cincinnati Union Terminal. It is free and open to the public on Thursdays from 8 to 11 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Hours may be extended during holiday periods. Both Norfolk Southern & CSX freight yards are located behind the station. This is one of the best places to watch trains in the area as far as traffic. Please note that the only access requires the use of stairs. Latest club information is available at (513) 651-RAIL (7245) and http://www.cincinnatirrclub.org/.
Jesup Railfan Platform - Located adjacent to Jesup's Amtrak station. Visit their web site: http://www.waynetourism.com/
Walkway Over the Hudson - Opened October 2009, the Walkway over the Hudson is a former New Haven Railroad (later Penn Central) railroad bridge that suffered a fire in 1974, it was deemed unsafe for rail traffic, too expensive (and un-needed) to rebuild, and too large & expensive to scrap. It sat as an eyesore for over 30 years, when the state kicked in money to turn it into a state park. The rebuilt bridge is now the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. Spanning 1.28 miles long and 212 feet high. The views from the bridge are breathtaking. The bridge crosses the Hudson River. Along the west side of the river is CSX's River Line, the main freight route into Northern New Jersey. The single track route hosts about 40 trains a day. On the east side of the river is the busy Hudson Line of CSX, Amtrak and Metro-North. This route, originally part of New York Central's mainline (Water Level Route), has a full schedule of passenger trains, with a handful of CSX freight. Visit the parks web site: Walkway.org
Macungie Flower Park - Built by the town as a flower park on the site of the former train station. This flower park is complete with a fountain, park benches and a large gazebo which is inspired by the shape of the former Reading Railroad Macungie train station. The parking lot & gazebo is no stanger to railfan's. What started out by the town to beautify the area by building this flower garden for residents, has turned into a popular train watching location with visitors from all over the country. Fans often gather here to watch the usual-busy Norfolk Southern's Reading Line. During a 24-hour period, NS operates around 35 train's a day over this line between Allentown, PA and Reading, PA. Its the mainline used by a majority of NS train's traveling to / from the ports & yards of Northern New Jersey. The website for Borough of Macungie can be accessed here.
Dalton Freight Depot - Located about an hour and a half north of Atlanta, and a half hour south of Chattanooga, TN, Hair Interlocking is where CSX crosses the Norfolk Southern main. The City of Dalton has restored the old freight station located downtown and created an excellent train-watching location. Dalton hosts around 50-55 freight trains a day. A platform along the building has benches for resting between trains. A radio scanner and ATCS video monitor helps you know when the next train will come through. A webcam of located on the freight station can let you view passing trains anytime.
Long Bridge Park - Long Bridge Park opened to the public November 5, 2011. The park occupies the west side of CSX’s RF&P Sub at CFP110, at the signals (and former tower) known as RO. The park has substantial railroad history, not the least of which is its name, a reference to the railroad bridge over the Potomac that has connected Washington with Northern Virginia since the mid-19th century. The property was once called “South Washington,” a railroad location that included industries such as Solite. Just to the north is a 4-acre plot where the Twin Bridges Marriott (1957-1990) once stood (the Marriott company’s first hotel), which the county now also owns and will develop in a Phase II expansion of the park. The location marks the northern extreme of the RF&P, where the Rosslyn Branch of the PRR once turned west on a routing that passed the Pentagon and terminated in a small yard in Rosslyn. Ten years ago, when the county began holding public meetings to get citizen input on the design of the park, Mike Schaller and this writer began attending and made a case for the county to accommodate the photographic interests of railfans, as RO was a choice spot, and we hoped the new park would not prevent railfans from track views with a chain link fence or other barrier. The result was a park designed with three athletic fields and “the esplanade,” a 15-foot high stone walkway next to the tracks that extends north and south about 300 yards. It’s fabulous for shooting trains in afternoon light, as well as watching wildlife in the nearby wetland (including eagles and ospreys), and planes landing and taking off from National Airport. But for the railfan, the big show is CSX freights, Amtrak, and VRE. [Written by John Fuller, via Railpace Newsmagazine, via Long Bridge Park web site].
Irondale Viewing Platform - A covered, elevated platform located along the Norfolk Southern Railway. Amtrak's Crescent passes twice daily. Trains move slowly entering or departing the Norris Yard. Switching action is visible from the platform. Several benches are provided for sitting. Access to the platform is from First Avenue North. Adequate free parking is available.
Ringgold Train Watching Platform - This platform/pavilion was built in 2008. Its located across the tracks opposite the Ringgold Depot. This new park has a paved parking lot with a paved walkway to the platform. This is along the north/south CSX W&A (Western & Atlantic) Subdivision. If you have a scanner radio the frequencies used are road channel 161.370; dispatcher is 161.520. Ringgold is located about 15-miles north of the busier railfan location of Dalton, GA (also listed on this site). This link to Waymarking.com has additional information and pictures from the area.
Plant City Train Viewing Platform - Although this can't be considered busy "hot-spot" do to the small amount of daily trains; the diamond in downtown Plant City offers a great place to watch the trains. CSX & Amtrak operate usually no more than 20 trains during a 24-hour period. More pass during cover of darkness then in daylight. The city built a great place to watch the action. The train watching platform is covered to shade visitors from weather and includes a tower which has a second story to watch trains from an elevated vantage point. A free parking area surrounds the platform and plenty of local shops are within walking distance. One thing the site doesn't include is restroom facility. Plant City is located near Tampa, FL. It may be worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Park Forest Rail Fan Platform - Another Train-Watching park that opened in 2013 was the newly created Park Forest train watching platform. After CN took over the EJ&E Railroad, a new connection between the former Illinois Central mainline and the EJ&E mainline was created. The Village of Park Forest choose the newly cleared land along the new connecting track to build the railroad park. A long walkway was built to the top a mound which is the location of the viewing platform. The elevated viewing platform will have views of the connecting track and the IC mainline. I'm not sure if you can view trains on the EJ&E line. A sound wall was built right up to the south end of viewing platform which may hinder the views of trains approaching from the EJ&E, and may block any views of the EJ&E line completely. Not sure why they built it so close to the viewing platform. We plan to visit Park Forest in the near future and will write a complete review soon after our visit! In the meantime you can visit the official Park Forest web site here. Their web site boasts 32-trains daily pass the train-viewing platform. I've been told about 20-25 freight trains per day use the IC main, and a similar amount use the EJ&E line. Its said only 30-35% of the traffic use the connecting track between the two lines.
Selma Historic Union Station - Selma Union Station is a museum, Amtrak station, and a great place to spend some time and watch trains. Located about 2-minutes from Interstate 95 Exit # 98, the train station sits in the north west corner of a diamond where the Norfolk Southern H-Line crosses the CSX north-south mainline. Its a great stop for folks driving between the northeast and southeast. 30-40 trains pass Selma each day. Afternoons are best lit for photographs. Free parking.
Tehachapi Depot - The famous railroad engineering marvel Tehachapi Loop is on the bucket list of many train buffs world wide. For those that make the trip be sure to stop by the Historic Tehachapi Depot (and museum). The depot is not only one of the best places in the area to watch trains, the depot property is now a city park and has been set up as a 24-hour train-watching park! A deck around the depot complete with benches, picnic tables and a great view of the railroad.
You can visit their web site here: http://www.TehachapiDepot.com
*** For those who are familiar with, or have been informed about the gazebo in Austell......Its GONE! I went to Austell's City Hall, and I was told Norfolk Southern had the city of Austell remove the gazebo, and tree's / greenery around it due to the train crews view of the nearby railroad crossing. NS is also installing a 3rd track, which will likely be where the gazebo was. City Hall told me I was free to watch train's in the area where the gazebo was (now an open grass area). Although photography is improved due to the wide-open area, its still not the same experience of when the gazebo was present. Standing out on the lawn in the center of this busy town can attract a lot of attention. The local police department is right down the street, and they were use to railfans in town, but the NS Police now has more of a presence in Austell since the new intermodal yard opened in town. As many fans know, not all RRPD officers understand railfanning. Although you would still be on public property, it may not stop an officer from asking what you are doing. Until the gazebo was removed, Austell was once a popular gathering place for railfans, with 50+ trains a day during a 24-hour period. This is where the Chattanooga main and the Birmingham main meet for trains running to and from Atlanta.
For those who wish to visit Austell. The former gazebo location was on Broad Street, to the east side of the railroad crossing of Austell Powder Springs Road. Free, street side parking is available, and usually not a problem getting a spot (my last visit, no one was parked on that street). Norfolk Southern owns both lines, the Birmingham main hosts Amtrak trains # 19 + 20, plus a couple on KCS run-through trains, usually with KCS power. The Chattanooga main is the busier of the two-lines, and can see Powder River Basin Coal trains (and westbound empties) operating with BNSF power, most of the time in DPU mode! Throughout the day, yard trains switching long cuts of cars may come east of Powder Springs Road. There is a park just east of the former gazebo location (Washington Park), although its a more realistic spot to park and wait for trains, the railroad view isn't the best. Additionally, you are on the north side of the railroad which is slightly elevated along the park - making photography almost impossible on sunny afternoons.
For those looking to railfan the Atlanta area, I recommend DALTON, GA (listed on this page). Located one and a half hours north of Atlanta, Dalton sees the NS traffic on the Chattanooga main, plus about 20 CSX trains a day. Its a safe place, railfan friendly, and worth the drive!