Many kids find trains fun, but some kids take their interest to the next level. If your train-obsessed kids have exhausted all the train fun Massachusetts has to offer, I’ve found three other train museums in the Northeast that are worth visiting.
My kids can definitely be labeled as train obsessed. They’ve both gone way beyond a mild interest in “Thomas and Friends.” Thanks to them, I can’t remember what I served for dinner last night but can tell you the intricate details of a steam engine. In our recent travels I’ve found three awesome spots that are must-visits for the train-obsessed child.
Steamtown is a national park dedicated to the preservation of steam locomotives, and there are historic trains to ride and explore. The three-mile, 30-minute Scranton Limited Yard Shuttle is led by a volunteer guide who provides interesting historical tidbits, and the train allows you to see a lot of downtown Scranton (there’s a lot more than “The Office” ever talked about!). The Caboose Experience is a shorter ride and explains what a caboose does.
You can also walk through a roundhouse and turntable, watch a movie, and view exhibits. There are even trains to see in the railyard. These include a fully renovated Union Pacific Big Boy, which is extraordinarily large and a sight to see in person. Train enthusiasts will also love the Canadian National No.47, which is a steam locomotive that worked with no tender (something my oldest son finds very impressive). It is the only Baltic tank locomotive in the U.S.
Steamtown is inexpensive, and if you’re a national park enthusiast, it will check one off your list. You can make a full day of it by visiting the Electric City Trolley Museum next door (it shares a parking lot with Steamtown, though it is operated separately). That museum has its own rides and interactive exhibits just about trolleys.
Does your kid love the Green Line or the trolley in “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”? Then Seashore Trolley Museum is the spot for you. Calling itself the “first and largest electric railway museum in the world,” this museum is dedicated to public transit, with streetcars from most U.S. cities that have had streetcar systems. In three buildings you can see historic streetcars on display, as well as artifacts from those vehicles. One area shows streetcars in various stages of repair. Enjoy a ride on one of the historic streetcars, and then take in various exhibits about the history of public transit in the U.S. Also, according to my son, this museum has the “best ever” gift shop, with train toys galore.
Seashore Trolley Museum has a limited season and is only open from May until October. I advise visiting at the bookends of their season to avoid the crowds of tourists that hit coastal Maine mid-summer. This museum is a short enough drive from the North Shore of Massachusetts to be a day trip, and for everyone else, there are many types of lodging options nearby. The museum also has well-maintained grounds and a picnic area, so if you want to bring your own lunch or snacks, you may. (If you don’t want to travel to Maine, they also have a satellite location in Lowell, MA, that is open weekends year-round.)
If you are one of the many Western New York transplants in Massachusetts (like me!), you need to work in a visit to the Medina Railroad Museum on your next trip to see family and friends. For everyone else, add this museum to your itinerary when you visit Niagara Falls — trust me, you won’t regret it.
The Medina Railroad Museum is housed in a lovingly preserved railroad depot. You buy your tickets and check in at an antique ticket station, then walk through the hallway to the most impressive model train display you will ever see. This display runs the length of the entire museum, and takes about 45-60 minutes to walk around in its entirety. And even then, you’ll want to walk around again to see the details you may have missed! Kids are given step stools to borrow so they can more easily see the entire display, and there are buttons for them to control various trains, crossings, and lights. The display has an amusement park, a parade, loading docks, trolley systems, freight trains, passenger trains… I can’t even describe it all. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
If that isn’t enough, on the walls of the museum are displays of old train toys dating back to the late 1800s, different pieces of railroad memorabilia, and a giant, human-sized pickle. Yes, a pickle. You’ll have to visit to hear the reason why. At the top of the walls, you will find an alphabetical display of firefighter helmets from nearly every fire district in New York state.
The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They also have a variety of special events throughout the year, including fall foliage and holiday train rides.
Beyond these three, there are tons of railroad museums and parks around the U.S., as well as train shows and shops worth visiting. If your child loves trains, lean into it! There are great places to visit to encourage this hobby across the country.