This is my son Logan in December 2000. On the left, he’s outside the Choo Choo Barn in Strasburg, Pa. On the right, he and I are at Strasburg Railroad visiting Thomas the Tank Engine.
Trains were a big part of our life. My young son was obsessed with Thomas – we still have a huge Rubbermaid container of wooden tracks and trains he won’t part with, even at age 14 – and his grandfather (who once had his birthday party ON a train) has just a bit of talent for building model train layouts. Ahem.
We had always meant to return to Strasburg, but never did. So when we were invited to attend a blogger event in Lancaster a few weeks ago, my family was all in. Well, maybe not all… My eight-year-old daughter was less than thrilled to be “looking at trains all day.” But we promised her ice cream and off we went.
The Strasburg Railroad has changed since 2000. The Trackside Cafe has been renovated, the dining car has been fully refurbished, there’s the new Pint-Sized Pufferbelly (miniature steam train ride), and the hand-powered Cranky Cars for the little train fanatic in your family. A kid’s play area with a wooden train, slides and more is slated to open this summer. Parents can relax and enjoy the free wi-fi!
On the Strasburg train ride, you’re treated to beautiful Amish country scenery and an entertaining history of the railroad and the surrounding area. You’ll learn about the many movies that used the Strasburg train, as well as the legend of the Ghost Train. You can pack a lunch and disembark at Groff’s Grove, where you’ll find a picnic and play area. A second picnic area is scheduled to open this summer. Then catch the next train back.
There’s always something exciting going on at the Railroad. Upcoming events include The Great Train Robbery, Wine & Cheese Train, Murder Mystery Dinner, The Chocolate Express, Santa’s Paradise Express, and – of course – a Day Out With Thomas.
Less than a minute down the road from Strasburg Railroad is the Choo Choo Barn. This 1,700 square foot hand-crafted train layout is a spectacular sight. Remember my daughter, who complained about “looking at trains all day?” We could not get her to leave the Choo Choo Barn.
This work-of-art is packed with small-scale local landmarks and detailed scenes from Lancaster County. Every ten minutes, the room transforms from day to night and the town lights up. There are 22 operating trains and more than 150 animations, such as an Amish barn-raising, a circus and parade, a ski resort, real moving water and fish, and a fire crew that comes to put out a house fire. My daughter loved the circus, while my favorite was the house fire, and watching the fire truck drive from the firehouse to the fire, raise its ladder, and spray water on the house. For real.
After looping around the Choo Choo Barn’s massive layout many, many times (admission is $7 for adults and $4 for kids 3-11, and you can stay as long as you want), we headed next door to the Strasburg Train Shop. My son might have spent as much time there as he did in the Choo Choo Barn. Here he is, poring over the huge selection, trying to determine where to invest his money to improve his own model train layout.
Visit the Choo Choo Barn in the month of December to search for 52 hidden Santas and see Santa’s sleigh fly over the train layout. For updates and promotions, visit the Choo Choo Barn on Facebook.