Trains have long been a fascination for many, from the model ones which run around Christmas trees to the ones that crisscross the tracks of North America. If you have an enthusiast in your house, then take a trip to Strasburg, Pennsylvania. It truly is a railroader’s paradise!
Nestled in the heart of Lancaster County, Strasburg is what is known as a “linear village” since it was built along the Great Conestoga Road. This two-mile stretch later became known as the Strasburg Railroad which is one of the main reasons it is nicknamed “Train Town USA.”
The Strasburg Railroad is the oldest short-line in America and celebrated its 175th birthday on June 9, 2007. Visitors can climb aboard an old-fashioned steam train and literally take a step back in time as you take a 45-minute ride through the peaceful Amish countryside. The ride actually takes you to paradise and back; Paradise, Pennsylvania that is!
After traveling aboard one of the comfortable coaches or enjoying a meal in the dining car, train lovers can take a tour of the mechanical shops and view the current restorations which are under way. The railroad is open year round, but does take a hiatus from New Year’s through Valentine’s Day, so be sure to check their website before heading out.
Another added attraction at the Strasburg Railroad is a Day out with Thomas. Yes, Thomas the Tank Engine visits three times a year in June, September, and November to pull his fans on a 30-minute excursion. When the ride is concluded, children and their parents can enjoy many Thomas and train centered activities which are set up in and around the station. The activities are included in the ticket price. You can also purchase a combination ticket that lets you board Thomas as well as the signature steam train. Thomas is an extremely popular attraction. So, buying your tickets and booking lodging ahead of time is strongly recommended!
Located just across the street from the railroad is the magnificent Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania which houses restored engines, freight and passenger cars from various stages of America’s history along the tracks. Visitors can climb aboard many of the engines and cars in order to get an up close and personal view. There are also trains outside the museum and exhibits which offer detailed accounts of life on the rails. It is a must stop for any train lover and historian.
Just up the street, is the Choo Choo Barn which houses a 1,700 square-foot model train layout that is guaranteed to delight both young and old. If offers over 150-hand-made features such as a fire truck putting out a blaze on an Amish barn as well as 22 operating trains. The lights even dim to let the trains show what they can do in the dark!
The National Toy and Train Museum is also nearby and a visit here will complete your railroader’s weekend. Its building is reminiscent of a train station and once inside you will be treated to five operation layouts as well as displays of toy trains dating back to the 1880’s. Children will be mesmerized by the trains; many of which offer interactive buttons.
If you want to top off your visit to “Train Town USA,” you can with a night spent in an actual caboose. The Red Caboose Motel is located down the road from all of the train attractions. It offers 38-fully restored cabooses which include showers and television. The motel which opened in 1969 features a restaurant that is housed in two dining cars. There is also a petting zoo, Amish buggy rides and a small playground on site.
Be forewarned though! If you are looking for a five-star sleeping experience, this isn’t it. This one is for the kids and your train lover at heart.
Now, for the partner who is all railroaded out after seeing and doing everything train related, don’t worry. Strasburg is home to other welcoming attractions as well. It is a short-drive from several fantastic outlets that are designed to stimulate the economy.
Their downtown offers quaint bed and breakfasts along with wonderful antique and quilt shops. Many of the restaurants feature traditional samplings of Pennsylvania Dutch food.
Since you are located smack in the middle of Amish country, visitors can experience an actual working Amish farm as well as sample breathtaking examples of quilts, furniture, and homemade deserts.
It doesn’t matter what season you plan on visiting Strasburg, from trains on down; there truly is something for everyone!