We talk a lot about transportation and transit here at streets.mn. Trains are ever and always in the mix, what with Hiawatha and Central Corridor Light Rail, Northstar Commuter and Amtrak in late-stage construction or in operation — and with other lines under consideration.
Trains are not toys. Yet, they are absolutely and totally toys. Ask any 3-year-old, and they will testify. And the Twin Cities offers loads of train fun for the kids (and their associated adults). In fact, most of these museums and exhibits are such you needn’t even borrow a child, if you lack one of your own, to show up and blend right in. After a week of love, I thought I’d show some love to the amazing rail museums of the Twin Cities.
- Greater Midwest Lego Train Club exhibit: Open the second Saturday of every month at Brickmania, in NE Minneapolis, the GMLTC have an incredible display of exactly what you think they have an incredible display of — Lego trains. (duh, right?) They also have fun tables full of Duplo and Lego for the kids to play with when they aren’t staring in delight at the trains. The site is easily accessible by bike, transit, or car, and is also near a variety of child-friendly eateries to fuel up or settle down with. (Free!)
- Jackson Street Roundhouse: Open weekends and Wednesdays, this is a classic train museum full of restored equipment and rolling wrecks. On Saturdays, you can take a classic bus or caboose ride as part of your visit. Get a volunteer to take you to the back shop to see the steam engines undergoing restoration. ($)
- Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum: Located in Bandana Square, which was assembled from the old Northern Pacific Como Locomotive Shops, the centerpiece of this museum is a gigantic O-scale exhibit. The exhibit features iconic Twin Cities landmarks, and the classic streetcar line. Kids can check out the Toy Train Division and get certificates for driving various of the trains there. During the winter, the museum offers “Night Trains” exhibits on Saturdays. ($)
- Mill City Museum: Okay, this isn’t really a train museum. But the lobby features an old box car, and from the tower you can sit and watch the Mississippi River, the Stone Arch Bridge, and watch some trains too. Several installations within the museum include rail history or wooden trains for the kids. Trains were a critical piece of the milling industry in Minneapolis, and the museum does not neglect their role. Go on a Saturday, and you can breeze through the Mill City Farmer’s Market for some delicious baked goods (or produce, in season). ($)
There are a variety of other places to get one’s train on in the metro area, including the Minnesota History Center, the James J. Hill House, and more than a few great hobby shops.
Because trains are more than just a core piece of a transportation strategy. They’re toys. Get out and play!
I’d like to mention the Hennepin Overland Model Train Museum, located at 38th Street and 26th Avenue in Standish Ericcson, Minneapolis. Very nice display.