One hundred years ago, Branson was a newly incorporated town growing around a stop in the White River Line railway that connected Arkansas and Missouri. Today, visitors can experience a taste of historic transportation — as well as the scenery of the unspoiled Ozark mountains — during a ride on the Branson Scenic Railway.
When I took an afternoon excursion on the railway, I couldn’t help but notice how the ‘Ozark Zephyr’ seemed to transport me and my fellow passengers across space and time. The train ride starts at Branson Landing, a modern retail and dining complex on the banks of Lake Taneycomo. But as soon as I boarded the train, I found myself surrounded by a mid-20th century environment. The train features a collection of classic train cars, some of which have been in service for decades, and a couple of special dome cars that offer great viewing opportunities.
Once the train began moving, the business of Branson faded away, and the beauty of the Ozark Mountains came into view. As we chugged our way through thick forest and along the hilltops, we enjoyed the same landscape that rail travelers saw as they rode through this area 100 years ago. Along the way, we passed over a number of high trestles that gave us gorgeous views onto valleys and canyons below, as well as some tunnels carved out of the local limestone hills.
About two hours later, we pulled back into busy Branson and back into the 21st century. I found myself so relaxed by the ride and so enchanted by the scenery that I almost didn’t want the ride to end.
Vintage train cars
Wrapping around a high trestle
A view from the railway’s highest bridge