Can You Still Ride The Transcontinental Railroad?

Can You Still Ride The Transcontinental Railroad?

In 1869, the Golden spike occurred, there was the need for better transportation across the United States. Thus the Transcontinental Railroad was born. But with over 150 years passed, is this railroad still operational, and can you get a ticket for it?

Yes, you can still ride the transcontinental railroad. Many people today purchase tickets to experience the historic railroad line. You can also experience the historical line and see what people in the 1800s had experienced.

Not all of the Transcontinental Railroad is intact today. There are many things to consider if you, too, want to experience part of the railroad or the entirety of it.

transcontinental railroad

Can You Still Ride The Transcontinental Railroad?

The Transcontinental Railroad was made in the 1800s, so it is to no surprise that some people think it wouldn’t be operational, but in fact, it is! You can purchase a ticket to ride parts or most of it today.

But not all of the Transcontinental Railroad is still intact. If you were hoping to ride this rail line across the United States, you might need to take other railroads in areas where the Transcontinental no longer runs.

Where Is The Railroad Not Operational?

Many lines are not available or not in working conditions. These places were abandoned throughout the years, whether due to weather, damage, or just loss of popularity. Here are some of those places:


  • Original Union Pacific mainline near Lincoln, NE.
  • Many Original Union Pacific mainlines in Central Southern Wyoming.
  • Connection of the Union Pacific mainline and Central Pacific mainline in north Utah.
  • Donner Pass: Tunnel 12 between California and Nevada.
  • Tunnel Zero in California.
  • The western end of the First Transcontinental Railroad in Sacramento, CA.


Many other locations have been shut down. Many railroads have been abandoned near the California and Nevada border. Don’t worry, though, and there are many alternative routes if you need to get through these areas.

How Long Is The Transcontinental Railroad?

The Transcontinental Railroad stretches from Iowa to Nebraska to Wyoming and California. It crosses six states and even comes close to a seventh. So how long is it?

The Transcontinental Railroad is said to be over 2,000 miles long. This may include the inoperational rail lines as well. There is a lot of ground you can cover when you take a ride across the country this method.

How Long Does The Trip Take?

When the railroad was first created, it took travelers about six months to get from the beginning of the tracks to the end by horse and buggy. With the railroad in place, it cut that travel time down to just 25 days, and then as there were improvements, down to 4 days.

This saved on money and time for travelers. It also made it easier for transient workers to travel from job to job.

How Much Are Tickets?

When the railroad was first created, tickets cost $65 to $135. This took you from Iowa to California. Nowadays, you can make this trip, but it will cost a penny. It could cost $3,000. 

The great thing about this railroad is that you don’t have to ride the entire length of it. You can buy tickets for different stops and reduce the price to fit your budget. This also allows you to stop at amazing places and towns along the railroad. 

Tips When Riding On The Transcontinental Railroad

Riding the Transcontinental Railroad is similar to taking a ride on a newer rail system. It is just one of the first rail systems ever created in the United States. If you decide to take a ride on it, whether it is a short trip or a longer one, here are some tips to help you better your ride:


  • Travel lightly.
  • Arrive early.
  • Dress comfortably.
  • Don’t be afraid to move around.
  • Always have your camera ready.
  • Bring snacks.
  • Don’t forget to have chargers or backup batteries.
  • Have movies and shows downloaded onto your devices.
  • Relax and enjoy the ride.

Travel Lightly

Riding on a train is a little different than taking an airplane or a vehicle. You may have a little more freedom. Yes, you can pack more, but you will have to check it in, and you won’t access it as easily.

The best option is to pack lightly with all the necessities you can access while at your seat. There may be some specific regulations you have to follow, but it won’t be the same as if you were to get on a plane.

Arrive Early

You will want to arrive early for the departure, especially if this is your first time riding on a train. This allows you to learn the station’s layout, get any information you need, check baggage, and just get comfortable.

It also allows you ample time, just in case something happens that delays you from arriving at the station. You may get lost, or maybe you hit traffic on your way to the station. Either way, it never hurts to arrive a little early.

transcontinental railroad

Dress Comfortably

Try not to wear any restrictive clothing. You may be sitting for a while, and you want to be comfortable. Try to dress comfortably.

Move Around

Don’t be afraid to move around. Once you have settled in, you can walk up and down the train. You don’t have to sit in your chair the entire time. It is safe for you to move about.

Have Your Camera Ready

Today, your cell phone is usually accessible at all times but if you have a nice camera, have it ready. You will see so many natural landmarks and cool things that make for some great vacation photos. 

Bring Snacks

If you are going to take a longer ride, bring some snacks. You can bring them on there, and you don’t have to worry about restrictions like going through TSA for a flight. There will be food available on the trains, but bring snacks to save money.

Bring Backup Batteries And Chargers

You should always bring back up batteries or chargers when you travel. It may happen that you left your charger somewhere, and it’s just useful to have backups. You can also get a portable battery that will recharge your phone or other devices while you travel.

Download Entertainment

The railway goes through some beautiful scenery in the mountains, through desserts, and so much more. This means that sometimes you won’t have a signal. Yes, many means of transportation have Wi-Fi, but you have to pay for it.

Download your movies or favorite shows onto your devices before your trip. You never know when the Wi-Fi will go out, or maybe you just don’t want to pay for it. You also don’t know when your device will lose signal.

Relax And Enjoy The Ride

Remember to relax and enjoy the ride. Planning a trip on the Transcontinental Railroad is supposed to be a fun experience. Sit back and enjoy the beautiful view and soak the landmarks and the lovely moments.

transcontinental railroad
The official poster announcing the Pacific Railroad’s grand opening

Best Spots To See Along The Transcontinental Railroad

It is hard to dwindle a small list of visiting places when exploring the Transcontinental Railroad. This railroad has many historical places and national parks along with it that there are endless places to sightsee.

Even if you choose only to complete a short trek of the railroad, you will get to see an ample amount of history and nature that is astounding. But some of the more well-known places that have gone down in history are these spots:


  • Truckee River
  • Carlin Canyon And The Humboldt River Basin
  • Reno, Nevada
  • The Great Train Robbery In Verdi, Nevada
  • Big Four House In Sacramento, California
  • City Of Auburn
  • Golden Spike National Park

Truckee River

Truckee River runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake, reaching 121 miles. It is a wonderful, natural landmark to visit. You can hike around it, or you can go camping. There are so many outdoor activities you can do if you want to stay for a while.

There are many historical locations along this river that tourists love to see. You can see small towns and people used to travel by wagon along with it. It is a beautiful sight to see and gives you various things to do.

Carlin Canyon And The Humboldt River Basin

If you have already seen the Grand Canyon and want to visit something a little lesser-known, the Carlin Canyon is a great natural tourist location to visit. The railroad runs by it to see it from the tracks.

The Humboldt River Basin houses the Carlin Canyon and many other landmarks and places that provide a variety of entertainment. Here are some of those places:


  • Humboldt Wells
  • Elko
  • Carlin
  • Palisade

These places are the perfect spot for history buffs. If you want to know more about the history of those who travel those trails and the railroad, these cities and locations have wonderful museums and attractions.

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Jonathan Lee

Reno, Nevada

There are many wonderful cities you can visit along the Transcontinental Railroad, but one of the most notable would be the city of Reno, Nevada. Not only does it have many historic locations and monuments you can view, but you can also go there for many other entertainment purposes.

You can visit many casinos or shows and other attractions. If you are traveling with your family, there are many things you can do with them like parks, zoos, and more. You won’t be disappointed visiting this city.

The Great Train Robbery In Verdi, Nevada

One of the first train robberies happened near Verdi, Nevada. It happened in 1870, and these robbers obtained about $41,000 worth of gold. You can go to Verdi, Nevada, and learn more about the robbery as well as see the location of the robbery.

Big Four House In Sacramento, California

The Big Four House in Sacramento was named “Big Four” because it was named after the four men who planned, financed, and built the Western end of the Transcontinental railway. You can visit here to learn more about these men and see some more in-depth railway history.

City Of Auburn

Near the city of Auburn, there was the discovery of gold, so many workers and companies flocked here. You can visit settlements that were born here because of the discovery. It also became an important mining town, trading post, and stage terminal.

You can visit the old buildings and museums to learn more about the Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railway when you stop here. It also has a beautiful lake: Lake Clementine. You won’t get bored when you visit this city.

Golden Spike National Park

This park located in Utah is a wonderful natural landmark that you can visit. You can learn about Golden Spike’s ecosystem and how it came about.

The National Park also provides one of the best places to experience the trains from 150 years ago. You can visit old trains and explore the area that hosts Transcontinental Railway history. It is a great experience not only for adults but also for your kids.

transcontinental railroad
Pacific Railroad Bond, City and County of San Francisco, 1865

Popular Stations Along The Railroad

With the Transcontinental Railroad being so old, you know that there are many historic stations along the way that you could visit. Here is a list of those stations that you should at least visit or see on our route:


  • Corrine
  • Quarry
  • Balfour
  • Conner
  • Lampo aka Blue Creek
  • Surbon
  • Promontory
  • Rozel
  • Lake
  • Kosmo
  • Monument
  • Nella
  • Kelton
  • Peplin
  • Ombrey
  • Matlin
  • Terrace
  • Watercress
  • Bovine
  • Umbria Junction

These places have a little piece of United States history. If you can’t make it to all of them, at least try to visit one or two. You can visit the places and experience what others saw hundreds of years ago. It is like walking through time.

The Transcontinental Railroad: A National Landmark

The Transcontinental Railroad is one of the United States landmarks that you can actively experience today. You can take a long trip or do a short one. It is amazing, and there is much you can learn across the country just by taking a ride. So go out there and experience the history!


Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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