Lancaster County, Pa., is probably best known for having one of the largest Amish populations in the United States. Drivers here share the road with horses and buggies just as much as with vehicles. And buggy parking spots are offered at many businesses.
But another method of transportation has been luring folks to the area southeastern city for years, particularly the town of Strasburg. Trains have been a part of the town since 1832, when the Strasburg Railroad was founded. Still running daily, the railroad is the oldest in the country. Each regular ride lasts 45 minutes (4 ½ miles out and back) through Instagram-worthy farmland. If you’ve got young kids, be sure to let them ride the Cranky Cars at the station. Harry Potter fans will enjoy the 9 3/4 sign on a light pole. (Make sure the muggles aren’t watching you.)
After taking a ride, head across the street to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, which features more than 100 historic steam and diesel locomotives and vintage railroad cars both inside and outside the facility. While a majority of the trains are for looking only, some can be boarded to explore the vessel further. Look for the signs that specify which ones allow this interaction.
Don’t leave without a trip to Stewart Junction which is full of interactive exhibits for the young and young at heart including a G-scale model railroad switching layout and a Lego train display and building zone.
Less than a mile down the street, folks can venture to the Choo Choo Barn which houses one of the largest model train displays in the country. Guests may circle the more than 1,700 square foot display as many times as they like and several passes will be needed to see the multiple trains and interactive displays in the layout. When you hear an alarm sound, look for the fire trucks responding to a house fire. (The response is a crowd favorite.)
Another can’t-miss site is the National Toy Train Museum featuring models from the 1800s to present day by a wide variety of manufacturers. While some models are on display only, there are seven interactive layouts with different size gauges.
With so many activities, you may want to make the trip an overnight stay. Just steps away from the toy train museum is the Red Caboose Motel, where guests can stay in refurbished train cars. Founded in 1970, the motel has 38 cabooses, a mail car and a baggage car painted to match the logos of the country’s most famous lines. Nestled beside the tracks used by the Strasburg Railroad, the motel also has an onsite restaurant and gift shop.
Whether you chose to visit all or just some, train lovers’ pistons will be pumping after hitting these Pennsylvania sites.
By Gina Gallucci-White