When Thomas the Tank Engine no longer keeps the kids enthralled, it's time for a mini train ride.
Small-scale, passenger-hauling railroads offer kids live encounters with the romance of the rails, often on meticulously crafted and historically accurate trains. It's "all aboard" for kids and grown-ups alike at these five pint-size rail rides.
Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad in Los Gatos, CA
The nearly mile-long ride on Billy Jones Railroad winds through Oak Meadow and Vasona Parks and features 1/3-scale steam or diesel locomotives, an engine house, a depot, and a bridge spanning Los Gatos Creek.
Little Puffer Steam Train in San Francisco, CA
Built in 1904 and one of only three 22-inch gauge steam engines left in the world, Little Puffer hauls four passenger cars for a one-third-mile ride around the San Francisco Zoo.
Griffith Park & Southern Railroad in Los Angeles, CA
One of two miniature rail operations in sprawling Griffith Park, the GP&S runs 1/3-scale reproductions of classic American trains of the 20th century—including Pullman-style coaches—on a mile-long track.
Redwood Valley Railway in Oakland, CA
Established back in 1952, the 15-inch gauge Redwood Valley Railway takes passengers on a 1.25-mile steam train ride in gondola cars along a scenic wooded ridge in Tilden Regional Park.
Balboa Park Miniature Railroad in San Diego, CA
Built to a 1/5 scale and operated by the San Diego Zoo, this railway offers three-minute, half-mile rides through a grove of eucalyptus trees.
This article was first published in October 2014 and last updated in February 2019. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.