The Valley Railroad Company, operating the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, has been serving the lower Connecticut River Valley since 1971. Our company’s mission is to keep alive the rich mechanical, industrial, and transportation heritage of our state through the ongoing operation of vintage steam and diesel locomotives, passenger coaches, and the facilities and infrastructure to support these. We welcome visitors from throughout the state of Connecticut, the New England region, and from all over the world to ride our railroad, relax aboard our riverboat, and visit our unique facilities.
Our best-known excursion, the iconic Steam Train & Riverboat ride, operates from May through October, with daily operation during the summer months. We’re the only Steam Train & Riverboat connection in the country, with two operating steam locomotives, and multiple classes of passenger service – Coach, First Class, a seasonal Open Air Car, and one weekend a month, aboard our Caboose or Cabin Car. The Becky Thatcher riverboat can be chartered for private cruises, dinners, and event.
Another venerable institution is the Essex Clipper Dinner Train; a romantic and nostalgic journey aboard a First Class dining car, with top notch food and beverage service. Operating weekends throughout the spring, summer, and fall season; we also offer mid-week lunch excursions and make our dinner train available for private events.
In addition to our ongoing operations, we operate seasonal events and excursions to take advantage of our natural setting and holidays:
- Eagle Flyer – Our “cabin fever reliever”, a rare opportunity to ride the rails in winter (Two February weekends), and catch the majestic Connecticut River eagles in their natural habitat.
- Day Out with Thomas – Every child’s favorite blue engine comes to visit with many friends in the springtime (Three weekends, April – May). Toot! Toot!
- Friday Night Sunset Cruise – An adult oriented extended riverboat cruise, throughout the summer. In the fall, we schedule the cruise to catch the Connecticut River swallows as they roost on Goat Island.
- North Pole Express – Our evening holiday adventure as we journey to the North Pole. Track-side decorations, festive rail cars, hot chocolate, in car entertainment, and Santa Claus. Get tickets early!
- Santa Special – A daytime holiday ride with some special passengers – Santa and Mrs. Claus, and friends.
We take our mission of “keeping steam alive” seriously; and each year conduct several Hand on the Throttle sessions, teaching participants the fundamentals of steam locomotive operation, and allowing them to take our Steam Locomotives (and Diesel Locomotives) out for a spin. And yes, you can sound the whistle!
We also host School Field Trips during the spring, a perfect opportunity to incorporate science, history, technology, and culture – while engaging kids with a real train ride! And in August, we invite historical figures to ride the rails and engage our guests through our Passengers from the Past program
Finally, we make our beautiful facilities, equipment, and catering staff available for weddings, reunions, meetings, and other events. Contact our events coordinator to discuss your event, and arrange for a tour of River Valley Junction, the Oliver Jensen Gallery, the Becky Thatcher Riverboat, or the Essex Clipper Dinner Train.