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All aboard!

Sitting in the southwest corner of the Raleigh area in New Hill is one of the area’s best-kept secrets for anyone interested in trains, history or just an off-the-beaten-path adventure.

The North Carolina Railway Museum & New Hope Valley Railway is an all-volunteer museum dedicated to the preservation of railway history in the state. The attraction grew organically over the years from a handful of passionate individuals who simply loved trains and history.

N.C. Railroad Museum and New Hope Valley Railroad

When you visit, you’ll be treated to fascinating exhibits that include several vintage cars and locomotives as well as a collection of historic memorabilia. For model train lovers, there’s an amazing 600-foot, G-scale, garden model railroad.

North Carolina Railway Museum & New Hope Valley Railway

The museum exhibits are great complements to the star attraction—the New Hope Valley Railway. Guests can hop aboard a passenger car and rumble through scenic pine forests as they enjoy a one-hour ride behind a real locomotive. There are several vintage locomotives that pull the cars including a 1927 steam locomotive originally built for a logging railroad. Tip: The passenger cars, while covered, are also open air, so dress accordingly.

North Carolina Railway Museum & New Hope Valley Railway

Special events include Operate-a-Loco where visitors can sit in the engineer’s seat and take control of the throttle for an eight-mile round trip. Bring your own engineer’s cap! There are also regularly-scheduled Brew ’n’ Choos with local beer and wine, often paired with themed food and music—a fun alternative to your standard movie and a dinner. If you’re visiting during the holidays, rumor has it that Santa himself will be passing through to join all the boys and girls on a special, once-in-a-lifetime ride.

Because the museum and railway are 100-percent volunteer run, check their website for schedules and times. The museum is open most Wednesdays and Saturdays and is always free.

Get more details and a train ride schedule, here.

Train ride photo: Chris Richman