Connecticut, also known as The Constitution State is never short on places to visit. It is one of those should-not-miss states in the U.S. but in such a large state with so many attractions to see, what places are truly worth visiting anyway? You’ll be surprised at the attractions in Connecticut but to get the full state experience, you need to visit the places that hold a special spot in history. As such, one of our recommended historic spots to explore is none other than the Valley Railroad. To further narrow down your search, we want you to visit the ever-iconic and ever-historic, Essex Steam Train.
The Valley Railroad is a heritage railway that services attractions including the Essex Steam Train and the Essex Clipper Dinner Train, the North Pole Express, and the Santa Special. The visions of the Valley Railroad began in the 1840s with the help of Charter Oak Life Insurance Company President James Clark Walkley and his friend, Horace Johnson. The actual process into building the railroad started on July 17, 1868. Several years later and thousands of dollars in investment later as well, the Valley Railroad was finally completed.
During 1868-1869, the survey crews for the train line finally worked to map out the line from the Hartford to Saybrook Point. The line’s construction officially began in 1870. At the time, the task to build the lines was tough as resources were pretty limited but the team was able to persevere and finish everything on time. The first ceremonial train was able to run over the 45 mile line on July 29, 1871. Two days later, the first regular train run. The train circuit was officially opened on August 24, 1871.
Over a century since it ran, the railroad system was no longer being used as a means of transporting people or goods. However, the state of Connecticut found it necessary to preserve the state’s solid history of railroading and it has since turned the Essex Steam Train into one of the top attractions in the state.
While it may seem odd to visit a state solely for a train running on an old track, you’ll be surprised at how amazing the entire experience would be once you try it out. Before you plan your trip to the state of Connecticut, it might be great idea to first understand a few things ahead of the trip. Here are some of the essentials that you need to know.
- 1 How to Get to Essex Steam Train
- 2 Schedule and Far of the Essex Steam Train
- 3 Best Time to Visit the Essex Steam Train
- 4 Essex Steam Train Local Attractions
How to Get to Essex Steam Train
Your best bet at getting to this attraction is by driving to it. Luckily, there are several routes you can take to get to it which are all provided by the lovely people over at the Essex Steam Train.
From Interstate 91
If you’re coming from Interstate 91, take Exit 22S (Route 9 South) then take Route 9 South to Exit 3 (Essex). At the end of the ramp, take a right. You’ll see Essex Station is on the left
From Interstate 95 North and South
On the other hand, if you’re coming from Interstate 95 North and South, take the Exit 69 (Route 9 North). Then Take Route 9 North to Exit 3 (Essex). At the end of the ramp, take a left. From here, the Essex Station is approximately 1/8 mile on the left.
From Route 9 South
Meanwhile, if you’re from Route 9 South, take Route 9 South to Exit 3 (Essex). At the end of the ramp, take a right. Keep an eye out to your left as it is the side where you’ll see the Essex Station.
From Route 9 North
If you’re from Route 9 North, take Route 9 North to Exit 3 (Essex). Then take a left at the end of the ramp. From there, the Essex Station is approximately 1/8 mile on the left.
From Interstate 84
if you’re going to the Essex Steam Train from the Interstate 84, take I-84 to Exit 27 (I-691). From I-691, head to Exit 11 (I-91 North). Then take I-91 to Exit 22S (Route 9 South). Once you’re in Route 9 South, head into Exit 3 (Essex). At the end of the ramp, take a right. You’ll see the Essex Station on your left.
Schedule and Far of the Essex Steam Train
The Essex Steam Train isn’t always available and there are schedules to follow. During spring, it will be available from May 11-June 9 but it will be around during Sundays and Memorial Day only. During the summer season, it will be available from June 15 to August 25 daily. During fall, it will be available from August 30 to September 22 during Friday to Saturday and Labor Day. During autumn, it will be available from September 27 to October 27 daily.
The rates are as follows:
- Adults: $30.00 / Seniors (65+): $27.00
- Children (2 – 11) : $20.00
- Infants (Under 2): Free
Steam Train Only
- Adults: $20.00 / Seniors (65+): $18.00
- Children (2 – 11): $10.00
- Infants (Under 2): Free
Special and Extras
- First Class Car: $12.00 per passenger
- Open Car: $7.00 per passenger
- Caboose: $5.00 per passenger
Best Time to Visit the Essex Steam Train
According to travelers and those who have been to the Essex Steam Train, one of the best times to visit would be during Autumn or from late September to late December. Since the train is only opertional during September to October, you need to make the most of your trip. One of the reasons why this is so is because the weather is perfect for the train and for you as well. As it is running on a steam engine, the train will need to stop if the machine gets too hot. In winter, slowdowns are less common meaning you’ll get to enjoy the trip more.
On the contrary, the worst time to visit would be during the summer season. The summer season in Connecticut can get a bit toasty and this is bad news for the steam train and its passengers. Not only is there bigger chances of the steam train’s trip being postponed, you’ll also have to bear the hot Connecticut summer as well.
1Inside the Essex Steam Train
Essex Steam Train is one of the most popular attractions in Connecticut for many locals and tourists alike. This is because aside from the fact that it is dedicated to preserving the region’s rich industrial heritage, visitors also love it because of the unique travel experience that it can give. Here, you can relax aboard, ride the rails, and see several significant landmarks in New England and Connecticut. It’s not just inspiring and educating. Let’s take a closer look at the kind of experience that it provides.
The Train Ride
Essex Steam Train usually takes its visitors on a ride that would take 2.5 hours to complete. As the steam train runs, there are tour guides who will narrate a bit of the sights’ history that the train passes through. Over the course of the 12-mile train ride, you will also get to see some of the historic landmarks in and near Chester and Deep River. You will get to see sites that are only accessible by boat as well.
Inside the Essex Steam Train, you can also get to have dinner. And it’s not just an ordinary dinner. Rather, it’s a 2.5 hours ride wherein you can get to experience a luxurious dinner and feel what it feels like in the roaring twenties. With more than two hours of such a unique dining experience, you have ample time to savor every bite of their gourmet chef-prepared meals and take in all the unforgettable and breathtaking sights to see in the region.
Essex Steam Train also offers a number of special programs created to make every season all the more perfect for its visitors. And so, don’t miss out on these events as you can get to experience more unique rides.
Essex Steam Train Local Attractions
Essex Steam Train travels through Deep River and Chester. And so there’s really a lot of sights to see. In case you’re planning to explore them, here is a list of some of the top attractions that Essex Steam Train passes through as well as the sights around it that are easy to get to.
Before you head to Essex, you might want to enjoy nature more first at The Preserve. This attraction offers a vast 963-acre forest preserve that will surely make you feel a lot closer to nature. Here, you can get to see numerous birds as well as different mammal species. And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, The Preserve offers its visitors some nice hiking trails for people craving for some outdoor adventure.
3Clark Community Park (Also known as the Town Park)
Also located in Old Saybrook, this place also offers a more laid-back atmosphere that’s a perfect side trip before or after your Essex Steam Train excursion. Here, you have nearly 200 acres of open space with a basketball court, ball fields, and a picnic area that are perfect if you’re traveling with your friends and/or family. The Clark Community Park also has a playground for kids to enjoy and a Crystal Lake for those who want to fish.
Once you’re in Essex, you can also try out the shaded hiking routes that Canfield Woods can offer. And as you explore the trails, you can also get to see a nice view of lush nature preserve, streams, plus rocky outcrops. Like Old Saybrook’s The Preserve, this attraction is perfect for when you crave some outdoor adventure.
5River Valley Junction
If you’re traveling with kids, the River Valley Junction will keep them entertained more. This is because River Valley Junction is apparently a museum that is filled with interactive displays that kids will love. And, of course, it’s not just all fun but it also guarantees that you will learn something too.
Essex Village offers a lot too. It has shopping boutiques where you can buy stuff to take home with as a memorabilia or gifts for your loved ones back in your home town. This place also has good restaurants. In addition to that, it has Connecticut River Museum filled with amazing collections that will entertain and educate visitors at the same time.
Once known as the “Queen of the Valley,” this place boasts of unique shops and eateries too. So if you’re looking for some one-of-a-kind stuff to take home with you, this is the best place to be. Its eateries are worth talking about too. Deep River has a lot to offer for people of all ages. In addition to that, you can also get to enjoy a nice view of the river. If you plan to visit this charming town, make sure to allot at least two hours to enjoy the place. With this, you can already get to have lunch and explore its shops.
If you are more into arts, Chester Village is a must visit. This is because it has art galleries that artsy people will surely love. Like the Deep River and the Essex village, Chester Village has a lot of boutiques and restaurants too. And if you’re planning to add this to your itinerary as you visit the Essex Steam Train, might as well allot at least 2 hours for this place too. With this, you can take your time exploring the beautiful art galleries that it has.
Pratt Cove, like The Preserve and Canfield Woods, also lets you feel nature even more. But unlike the two, this place boasts or a marshy nature preserve. And because of that, you can try out kayaking and canoeing. In addition to that, you can spot a diverse bird life as well. Pratt Cove is also a nice place to be to relax and a perfect side trip for your Essex Steam Train excursion.