The Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum operates steam train rides that travel 14 miles between the towns of Elbe and Mineral near Washington State’s Mt. Rainier National Park. Weekly steam train excursions operate annually during the months of May through October. The train carries passengers from the depot in Elbe and travels through a forest and foothills before arriving at the logging museum in Mineral. Once at the museum, guests can get off the train to explore the exhibits. Museum admission is included in the train ticket price.
Along the Route
The route from Elbe to Mineral features views of the thick forest and foothills south of Mount Rainier. The route begins in the small town of Elbe (population 29). A tiny historic church, the second oldest and second smallest church in the United States, is located next door to the train depot. Volunteers operate the church and on sporadic occasion offer complimentary tours throughout the summer and fall months. The highlight of the train journey is crossing the Upper Nisqually River. The river is fed from a glacier at Mt. Rainier National Park. It is here at the river crossing that passengers can see the mountain from the train. The view of the mountain features the Paradise side. Even though the tracks are down at an elevation of just 1,470 feet, on a clear day guests can see the soaring peak of Mt. Rainier high above at 14,416 feet, and it is often sporting a year-round coat of snow. The train will cross the river once on the way to the museum and again on the return trip back to the depot.
Our winter trips feature an exciting special event, THE POLAR EXPRESS ™ Train Ride. Welcoming guests late November through December, the train travels from Elbe to the “North Pole” located at our museum. Guests remain on the train at the museum to observe the lighted display, enjoy decorations and visit with our special VIP guests, Santa Claus and his elves. This 90-minute special event includes live entertainment, hot chocolate, cookies and a special gift from Santa for those who truly believe.
Important Travel Tips
The Mt. Rainier area weather conditions can change throughout the year. It is always a good idea to be prepared for rain any time of the year and potentially snow in the winter months. Except for severe weather conditions, the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum will run as scheduled.
If you’re driving in Washington State, you can find current road conditions by visiting the Washington Department of Transportation’s website at http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts/
For recorded phone information please call: 1-800-695-ROAD (7623).
What to Wear:
Considering how unpredictable the Pacific Northwest weather can be, we recommend you check the weather report and dress accordingly. Though the train is covered and heated in the winter months, we suggest layers of clothing. There is little cover at the depot. Guests may want to bring sunscreen during sunny weather and carry an umbrella or wear rain gear when showers are in the forecast.
Elbe’s elevation in the valley is 1,214 feet above sea level and Mineral sits comfortably at 1,470 feet of elevation. If you have any health concerns, check with your physician for advice.
Originally known as Brown’s Junction after the Tacoma & Eastern Railway was built in the region, the town of Elbe was founded in the 1890s. In 1904, the Tacoma Eastern Railroad laid tracks through the area and created a logging boomtown. The town once boasted a hotel, hospital, school and store. When a post office was requested a shorter name was demanded. A meeting of settlers decided to honor the pioneer settler Henry C. Lutkens who had come from the valley of the Elbe in Germany. In 1924 the Tacoma Eastern Railroad ended passenger service from Tacoma to nearby Ashford; Elbe began losing residents and shrunk to a shadow of its former self. Click here for more information on the history of the Elbe area.
Today Elbe is the small town that’s big on trains! The town features a roadside motel made out of cabooses, a diner, lounge and pizzeria in train cars and of course is home to the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum depot and gift shop. Trains depart from the depot. Elbe is located 13 miles from the Nisqually entrance (open year round) to Mt. Rainier National Park.
Located in the northwestern part of Lewis County the town of Mineral, Washington began as a mining town. While the early settlers were hoping to strike it rich during the gold rush they were disappointed to find instead an abundant supply of coal and arsenic. While the early mining operations failed, the logging industry boomed. Logging camps and a sawmill provided hundreds of jobs and were once the mainstay of the economy. Today there are an estimated 200 year-round residents in Mineral. Tourism is the primary economic driver. In addition to hosting the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum exhibits, Mineral Lake is home to the famous “10 Pound Trout!” During fishing season the population quadruples. Abundant elk and deer are often sighted around town and the locals are quick to boast about the great fishing. A former Elementary school is now home to a new event center hosting artists and authors from around the country for select year-round special events.