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“Essex Excursion - NOT for a hot day!”

Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
Ranked #1 of 14 things to do in Essex
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: Take one or both tours in combination for a delightful sightseeing excursion through some of the most scenic areas of Connecticut: scenic train ride in restored railroad cars pulled by a coal-fired locomotive and a ride up the Connecticut River by riverboat.
Reviewed July 9, 2013

I had relatives visiting from Florida this past weekend (July 6-7). Since they used to live in CT, and had never gone to the Essex train/boat, they were really excited to do it. Well, great idea.....for Autumn, not July. CT got up to about 95 on Saturday and the train ride was much less than enjoyable. We went for the pricier tickets....$36 for first class (note: if you order 5 or more, you get the family discount, which brings the price down to $32 & change). The swivel seats are very nice, it's like a fabric covered wing chair on a swivel base. They had beverage service, which was great, any kind of soft drink or alcohol you would want, even champagne. I only wanted a soda, which would have been better with more ice, but they were running out of ice so they had to limit it for everyone. NO Air Conditioning on the train!! NO Fans on the train! And on a humid, sticky, unbearably hot day like last Saturday, basically NO Breeze on the train! Even when it was chugging along on the not so scenic route to the boat ride. The windows were open, of course, but they are small and offer no relief. There is a more open car, with huge windows, which would be better on this type of day. We arrived at the boat ramp and they hadn't unloaded the previous guests from the boat, so we waited.....in 90+degree heat, in the blazing sun, no shade, for about 15 minutes. Terrible. The least they could do it put up an awning or canopy or something; particularly for the seniors as they wait on this gravel surface in sweltering heat. On to the boat, finally! There is a lower area where the bar/food is, then a middle area, where you are also in the shade and have a pretty good view. Then, there is the top deck, where there is no seating, but a spectacular view of the CT river. Man, was it hot up there! Needless to say, very few people went up there. We sat in the middle area, which was pretty nice. Drinks were good on this little cruise; I recommend the pink lemonade. Amazingly, they have a very good, pretty roomy ladies rest room, with three stalls, on the lower level. They also had a nice young college guy who gives you a good narration about the area; he does this from middle level, so if you really want to be able to hear him & understand everything, sit there. Once that was over, we got off and got back on the train for the short return trip. I likened being on this train on this particular day to being a baked potato cooking in an oven...because that's just how it felt. I really think they can do more with several things here....the train depot area is pretty run down, they need to spruce that up a little. The snack "car" is so cute, but so, so small and again, on a hot day, difficult to enjoy. We were there about 1 pm before we boarded the train and they were out of some things on the menu. They serve cold pre-made sandwiches which you can have heated if you want. I had a cold turkey on wheat and it was good, simple but good. They have outdoor picnic tables & limited indoor seating. The gift shop was small but cute and the museum area was very entertaining and informative, but, again, on this day, so, so miserable to be in. There was ONE room that had A/C with some beautiful photos on the walls....many of us were huddled around this one A/C just looking for relief. All in all, I think on a cool Autumn day, this trip would have been much better. But, I also think they should do something about trying to cool down that 1st class train car for this kind of CT summer day. Install some "working" fans.....BTW, they DID have 2 fans in 1st class, mounted on the wall of the car near the entrance...but, according to the conductor, no, they don't work, they are antique fans, just for "show". Great, really helpful. So, to sum up, if you can pick an Autumn day, or a cooler summer day, that would be the way to go.

3  Thank donnam57
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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415 - 419 of 532 reviews

Reviewed July 8, 2013

This is a short (1 hr) steam train ride along the CT River from Essex. Great for beginners and for small children. They have 1 open car ride, which is more interactive, but you cannot hear the narrative - which might have been interesting. The park does not have any trains that you can explore on your own - a caboose for children to see would have been exciting for them. This train connects with a fake paddleboat for another ride (you can take just the train ride if you wish).
They have a small museum, but it is not very good - 3 year olds can play with a small wooden train set - but not interesting for anyone over 5. Essex Train Park has been there for quite a while, I would have thought they would have made some improvements. The ticket person made a mistake in the amount she charged me, but corrected it when I discovered it. Parking lot is big enough - & there is not charge for parking.

1  Thank NikkiS909
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 7, 2013

Family wanted to go but thought it would be a bust. Bought the tickets online which was the way to go. Very easy check-in. Bought the round trip in first class. Seating was great and comfortable. You could get water, soda and juices for $1.50. Train ride about 40 minutes each way. Riverboat ride about 1 1/2 hrs. They serve hot dogs, burgers and other sandwiches on the boat. Seating on the boat was tight, but you can move around. Except for heat of 95, it was a great cheap afternoon. Very relaxing and enjoyable.

Thank Skygem
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 6, 2013

My kids has a blast. 3 kids all took their first train ride and they had a great time. The employees were great and they had period conductors who talked to the kids and gave them stickers. The entire train ride was narrated and they played a game for the kids on the return trip. I thought its was a bit pricey but worth it! We will definitely return.

Thank Alison I
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 30, 2013

This is a great day out, train and boat ride. Take time to explore the starting depot area.

plenty of old cars and trains to look at, indoor exhibition and model rail layout, cafe car worth a visit , small shop and toilets.

we took the first class ticket, comfortable rotating armchairs, take time to see the loco being moved from back to front before the train leaves.

on board refresh good at $1.50 for a can, wine and beer is also available. better view on the right side as the train moves out, definate experiance of old steam train travel, although a lot of the time you are in trees and cuttings with little view.

boat ride good as well with guide explaining the river and its buildings. snacks and drinks available on the boat.

free parking at depot as well.

all in you could spend up to 5 hours here. also only 4 miles from Tanger outlets for some shopping.

1  Thank fozzie555
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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