Have you heard about the Hobo Railroad? It’s celebrating its 35th year! This incredibly popular attraction is a one-of-a-kind train experience that you can have during spring, summer, fall, and winter right in the beautiful White Mountains region.
In honor of its anniversary, we sat down with Jennifer Franz to learn all about it.
The Beginning of the Hobo Railroad
The track that is currently utilized by the Hobo Railroad dates back to the 1800’s. At that time it was owned by the Boston, Concord, and Montreal Railroad.
Franz says, “It was used as one of the primary routes north for tourists making their way from cities like Boston, Hartford, and New York to the pristine lakes and mountains of northern New Hampshire as well as to points further north including the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and Montreal, Canada.”
She continues, “In the early 1900’s the rights to the rail line were sold to the Boston and Maine Railroad who kept the line active between the Lakes Region and Lincoln, New Hampshire in support of the paper mills and other businesses that depended on passenger and freight service.”
However, the passenger service level dwindled with the rise of automobiles and the creation of highways in the 1950s, and by the 1970s when the paper mills closed, freight service was no longer needed and shut down completely. At that point, the rail line was purchased by the State of New Hampshire and eventually offered for lease.
The railroad lease opportunity was music to Ed and Brenda Clark’s ears! In the 1980s the couple reached an agreement with the State of New Hampshire and created the Hobo Railroad, which opened in Lincoln, New Hampshire on June 15, 1987.
Franz says, “The Clarks have continued to operate and grow the railroad operation successfully for the past 35 years. Brenda, Ben, and Jennifer share the responsibilities of daily operations. The economic development of this area was completely due to the development of the rail line.”
The Past and Present
Many have ridden the rails over the years and it may interest new riders to know that back in 1987 a ticket cost just $5! Today, the costs are still very affordable. Adult tickets are $22, child tickets are $17, and toddlers (age three and under) are absolutely free.
Other changes include the addition of two other locations in the Lakes Region and a fourth location called Rail Bike Adventures.
While some things like costs and locations have changed, much hasn’t. Franz says, “We pride ourselves in keeping with a traditional, vintage railroad experience.”
The Hobo Railroad uses restored vintage coaches to take passengers around the area. The first four cars did some traveling on their own all the way from Hoboken, New Jersey! Then other 1950s MBTA cars from Boston, Massachusetts joined the team.
Franz says, “All the cars were restored on property in Lincoln, New Hampshire by the Clark family and their employees.”
So Much to See
Have you heard the song “Over the River and Through the Woods”? Well, that’s essentially the route that the Hobo Railroad runs. Riders are taken quite literally over the Pemigewasset River and through the stunning woods.
“Along the way, passengers can expect to see trees, the river, and if you’re lucky, the wildlife in the area,” says Franz.
But there’s more! Franz continues, “You also get glimpses of the mountains, wildlife, campers, kayakers, and canoers.”
There’s a lot to see and each season offers something new and special.
Train Experiences by Season
The Hobo Railroad operates from late May through October and again from Thanksgiving through mid-December. We recommend you come back during each season because there are advantages to each.
The season of renewal is all about fresh sights. Franz explains, “Passengers get a ride through the forest and watch as the trees and plants emerge from their winter slumber. In the spring the wildlife becomes more active, especially the birds.”
While in spring the Railroad sticks to weekends only, summer really heats up with seven-day service and Nature by Rail on select Thursdays throughout the season.
“Passengers will see the trees and flowers in full bloom. Many people are out fishing, tubing, or kayaking in the river. People enjoy camping along the riverbed. In the summer, the wildlife you may see includes birds, deer, turkey, and bear,” says Franz.
Unsurprisingly, fall is a favorite time to ride the rails! The foliage views in New Hampshire are legendary and the Hobo Railroad offers a whole new vantage point.
Franz says, “The fall foliage season allows passengers to see the changing of the leaves. In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the foliage colors are vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and greens.”
As the temperatures get lower, the Hobo Railroad begins to offer a special kind of winter magic. Franz explains, “During the winter, passengers watch as the river freezes over, the mountains become snowcapped, and we begin to get light dustings of snow.”
And as winter moves toward the holidays, there’s even more fun to be had. Franz says, “During late November-December, we run our Santa Express trains (weekends only) which offer a unique experience to visit with Santa and enjoy some good old-fashioned family time. At the beginning of the ride, elves go through the cars and hand out letters to Santa. On the ride back towards the station, Santa goes through the cars and hands out gifts to each child, and collects the letters to bring to the North Pole. After the ride is over, there is a family photo opportunity with Santa.”
A Perfect Souvenir
If you want to bring home a piece of the train ride, there’s no better place to get one than the Hobo Railroad’s very own gift shop. Franz says, “Some of the most popular items in the gift shop include: die-cast toy trains, hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments, and sweatshirts/t-shirts.”
Be a Part of the Hobo Railroad’s Future
Customers can’t get enough of the Hobo Railroad. Franz says, “We have many repeat customers. We have generations of families who come back to visit us.”
Whether you’re a first-time rider in this, the 35th season, or a seasoned one from 1987, we hope you’ll join the Clarks starting on Memorial Day Weekend 2023.