HISTORY OF THE CAPE COD CENTRAL RAILROAD
Cape Cod Central Railroad is part of Cape Rail, Inc., which also includes the Massachusetts Coastal Railroad “Mass Coastal.” Cape Rail covers approximately 100 miles of track between the two railroads. Mass Coastal is a freight line, and the Cape Cod Central is a heritage, passenger railroad that operates primarily on 27 miles of former New Haven Railroad tracks on Cape Cod.
In 1848, the railroad service in Massachusetts first extended to the town of Sandwich on Cape Cod. Originally, it was the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company that made freight service on the Cape necessary. Eventually, the desire for passenger transportation resulted in the expansion of the line. Between 1854 and 1959, the line was owned and operated by the Cape Cod Railroad, the Old Colony Railroad, and the New Haven Railroad. The current operation is the namesake of the Cape Cod Central Railroad, which ran from 1861 to 1868, although there is no relation between the two companies. By 1887, 39 years after the railroad first ventured into Cape Cod, it connected 14 of the 15 towns on the Cape.
In 1935, the current Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge was completed. It is the second longest bridge of its kind in the world. The Cape Cod Dinner Train often crosses over the historic Cape Cod Canal via the Buzzards Bay train bridge. The Cape Cod Canal celebrated its centennial in 2014. The West Barnstable station (1911) and the Buzzards Bay dispatch tower and depot (1911) are all historic buildings. In 1892, the Gray Gables Station was constructed. It was named for President Grover Cleveland’s nearby summer home. That station was retired from use in 1940, but it still remains standing as a museum.
By 1959, after World War II, year-round passenger service was discontinued on Cape Cod. It wasn’t until 1999 that the current Cape Cod Central Railroad was founded. Much of the track on the Cape has been removed and replaced with the Cape Cod Rail Trail and the Shining Sea Bikeway. However, the Cape Cod Central Railroad still runs on approximately 27 miles of track from Hyannis to Buzzards Bay.
Currently, the Cape Cod Central Railroad runs from May through October. It offers narrated excursions, brunch trains, dinner trains, and various special events. Departing regularly from Hyannis, with select additional departures from Buzzards Bay, the Cape Cod Central Railroad is a popular tourist attraction. Guests depart the mid-Cape in Hyannis, travel through West Barnstable and Sandwich, and travel down to the Cape Cod Canal. On the way, they travel through sand dunes and salt marshes, see glimpses of the bay, and have the opportunity to enjoy parts of Cape Cod that are only accessible by rail.
Cape Rail currently has five freight locomotives in total: the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, all of which are painted in a Cape Cod cranberry color with yellow highlights. New for 2019, Cape Cod Central Railroad has purchased two FL9 passenger locomotives, the 2011 and 2026. These engines are historically significant as we run on former New Haven Railroad tracks and these engines ran on this line in the 1950s and 1960s. We are excited to welcome them back to the Cape for the 2019 season. There are two consists; the Cape Cod Central dinner train set is cranberry colored, and it has three Canadian National coaches that are table cars. These are named the Sandy Neck (1937), Great Island (1937), and Race Point (1942). There is also a historic Illinois Central lounge car named the Cape Codder (1917) and a kitchen car on that train. The Cape Codder Club Car was built as a Pullman Car in 1917 and was later rebuilt into the Mid-America Club Car by the Illinois Central. It was later sold into private ownership and was used on the Sunday River Ski Train in Maine prior to Cape Cod Central purchasing it. This beautiful car is used for Platinum Class dining on our Cape Cod Dinner Train. The scenic consist has two C1 Long Island cars (built in 1990), an Atlantic Coastline Car (built in the 1950s), and also feature our former Santa Fe full-length dome car (built in the 1950s), which was used on the Santa Fe Super Chief passenger train between Chicago and Los Angeles. It was also used on the Alaska Railroad.
We invite you to get up close to the hidden beauty of the Cape aboard the Cape Cod Central Railroad! Our classic two-hour excursion ride brings passengers up close and personal with the beauty of the Cape, including woodlands, sand dunes, cranberry bogs, salt marshes, and the famous Cape Cod Canal. The onboard narration adds another dimension, keeping guests informed and entertained throughout the duration of the journey. Our three-hour Cape Cod Dinner Train is a true culinary journey. This train travels through quaint villages accompanied by romantic music and soft candlelight. As guests soak in the splendor of the seaside community, a fresh, delicious meal is prepared. We look forward to welcoming you aboard!
More Information About Cape Cod Central Railroad:
If you have questions about our historic scenic railroad that are not answered on this site, please call us toll-free at 888-797-7245.
Due to the historic nature of our equipment, we are unfortunately unable to accommodate wheelchairs on our excursion trains.
We gladly accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and various ATM cards.
For more information on freight services, please contact Mass Coastal Railroad at 508-291-0685.