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B&O Railroad Museum

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Average: 5 (2 votes)
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Make the B&O Railroad Museum your next stop. Take a nostalgic journey into America's past at the oldest continuously operated railroad facility in the world. Five historic buildings, more than 150 pieces of full size equipment on 37 acres, small objects collection and exhibits for all ages.

Contact Info
410-752-2490
Price: Free (members); $16/adult; $10/child ages 2 to 12
Age: All ages
/bo-railroad-museum
B&O Railroad Museum
901 West Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21223
5
Average: 5 (2 votes)
2 comments

Make the B&O Railroad Museum your next stop. Take a nostalgic journey into America's past at the oldest continuously operated railroad facility in the world. Five historic buildings, more than 150 pieces of full size equipment on 37 acres, small objects collection and exhibits for all ages.

Contact Info
410-752-2490
Price: Free (members); $16/adult; $10/child ages 2 to 12
Age: All ages
/bo-railroad-museum-ellicott-city
B&O Railroad Museum - Ellicott City
2711 Maryland Avenue
Ellicott City, MD 21043
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We just went for the first time for the Chuggington special and my 4 yr old loved it! It was perfect! definitely going back!

Fri Jul 15, 2016 by BerriosFam

My kids loved the train ride and Frosty was a bonus! The entire family had fun checking out all the trains and making arts and crafts. I would highly recommend going over the holiday. The entire museum was decorated. Parking is free too!

Thu Dec 11, 2014 by sandrai

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by Beth Meyer
February 22, 2011

At the B & O Railroad Museum: Ellicott City Station, your child can sit in an actual red caboose. This small, unprepossessing museum is steeped in history. The Ellicott City Station is the oldest surviving railroad station in America. Built in 1831, it was the original terminus of the first 13 miles of commercial railroad in the United States.

Pay your admission in the Main Depot Building, pick up a self-guided tour map and explore on your own. The Main Depot Building was constructed in 1830 to 1831. On the first floor, you will find the Freight Agent's Quarters & Office. It was originally designed to hold freight but around 1840 was converted into living quarters for the freight agent and his family. All of the furniture in the Main Depot Building is period but not original to the building. Signage tells the history of Ellicott City and the significance of the B&O during the Civil War.

Upstairs, you will find the Office of the Superintendent of Construction, the Ticket office, and the Freight Room/Main Waiting Area. Of these, only the Telegraph and Ticket Office held any interest to my daughters, ages six and 10. They were fascinated with the clicking and transcribing of the telegraph and learned all about the Morse code. My husband and I, in contrast, found the story of the Viaduct, the biggest bridge then in America quite interesting. The bridge was constructed by Benjamin H. Latrobe, Jr., the foremost railroad engineer of the 19th century and son of the designer of the White House. This temporary exhibit on the Viaduct called Roads to Rails will be on view until April 3. It will be replaced by Civil War 150th Anniversary: The War Came by Train from April 16 through November 6, 2011.

Directly, outside the second floor of the building, kids are invited to ring the bell (once only). The path outside the building runs directly along the train track. The girls were exhilarated to be running alongside a train and came to life. They loved the 1927 Red Caboose, especially sitting in the upstairs cupola seats. It was truly a magical moment for them.

Afterwards, we went to the Freight House, built in 1885 and designed by Francis Baldwin. On request, you can see a 12-minute film The Great Railroad about the beginnings of the B&O. The Freight House also stores a 40 foot "HO" scale model train depicting the first 13 miles of the railroad track as it would have looked in the 1830s. At the end of the film, there is a light show highlighting different landmarks along the track.

The entire museum took only an hour. My six-year old had to revisit the caboose. The girls described the museum as "really neat." Back at the entrance, there is a small shop with train-related toys, postcards, books, and T-shirts.

Note: There is stroller parking on the first floor. The entire Main Depot Building and Freight House are handicapped accessible through outside ramps.

We decided to make a day of Ellicott City. We had a very good lunch at Johnny's Bistro, which had tasty sandwiches, soups, and pizzas. Although my husband and I remembered Ellicott City for its Antiques Mall, we were amazed by the number of kid-friendly boutiques including Sweet Cascades Chocolatier, Silver Arrow Homemade Fudge and Candy Shop, Forget- Me- Not Factory (an enormous store almost entirely devoted to fairies), and Mumbles & Squeaks Toy Gallery. I am already planning a return trip to Ellicott City for my kids' birthday presents.

Additional Information

  • The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Closed on major holidays.
  • Admission is $5/adults; $4/seniors (60+) and $3/children (2 to 12). Combination tickets are available when you visit the B&O Museum in Baltimore. Rates are $16/adults, $14/seniors (60+) and $10/children (2 to 12).
  • Restrooms are on site and both have changing tables.
  • Directions and Parking: Located at 2711 Maryland Avenue in Ellicott City, MD, the Station is adjacent to Main Street in the historic district of Ellicott City, Maryland and is easily accessible from Interstate 95 and the Baltimore Beltway, I-695. There is 2 hour metered parking across the street from the Museum and 8 hour metered parking further along the railroad tracks.
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by Kathleen Seiler Neary
December 4, 2012

My 7-year-old son dreams of having an awesome train set to run around our tree at Christmas. But until I'm sure my 3-year-old son won't destroy it, going to see holiday train displays is my current solution. And of all the holiday model train displays I've seen over the years (Union Station, Brookside Gardens, College Park Aviation Museum, U.S. Botanic Garden, ZooLights, Sandy Spring Museum), the train extravaganza at Baltimore's B&O Railroad Museum is the place where trains are center stage, not just an add-on to other holiday offerings.

The B&O Railroad Museum is easy to get to. It's about a 10-minute drive off I-95. It's not in the heart of the Inner Harbor, which means that parking is free in the museum's large lot. It wasn't completely full on our visit, and helpful employees were directing cars to open spaces. Several old train cars are also parked on tracks in the lot, the first glimpse at the history entrenched in this 40-acre site, deemed the birthplace of American railroading.

The museum has a permanent exhibit gallery with lots of model trains and artifacts, but my family quickly moved on to the main attraction: the roundhouse. With a 60-foot wooden turntable and 22 bays, the 1884 roundhouse was used for building and repairing locomotives and train cars. In the immense, circular room, you can't help but look up at the gorgeous wooden beams on the roundhouse ceiling. Dangling from it are lighted snowflakes. Two huge nutcracker figures (about 20 feet tall in my estimate) guard the roundhouse's bulls-eye. Jutting out from the center point are more than a dozen historic train cars, some of which are open for visitors to explore.

There are a few holiday train layouts that stay on display throughout the festival, however, some of the most fantastic exhibits are set up by local train clubs who take turns showing their setups. During our visit, a LEGO train club had set up an incredible LEGO train display. My family slowly circled the display a good 10 times, noticing more details on each lap (my 3-year-old is currently obsessed with fire trucks so the fire house, trucks, firefighters, and flaming house were visited many times). The display easily took up more than 20 tables, all at a height that was fine for my 7-year-old but too high for my little one. He had to be lifted to see anything, and I really wish they had stools.

The Schedule and Display

The LEGO setup was only there for Thanksgiving weekend, but other train clubs get their turn at erecting the main display. The display schedule:

  • December 8-9: HO-scale model train layout by the Western Maryland Historical Society
  • December 15-30: N-scale model train layout by the Baltimore Area NTRAK Club
  • December 22-30: O-scale model train layout by the National Capital Trackers

Next to the main display, a larger train set (G-scale) is on the floor, making it easy for little ones to see. Percy (from Thomas the Tank Engine) was zooming around full-size Christmas trees on our visit. And near the entrance to the roundhouse is a nice display that's also lower and easier for kids to see, with trains zipping past lots of bridges, buildings, and toy cars. Both of these displays are on view every day of the festival.

The roundhouse is very festive, with roughly life-size stuffed penguins in Santa hats, giant wrapped gifts, and elves among the displays. Bring a camera as photo ops are everywhere (including just past the lobby where we snapped a photo with a Rudolph statue). Civil War Santa and Mrs. Claus were wandering during our visit, and we stopped to chat with them and snap a picture with my camera. Professional portraits with Civil War Santa, Railroad Santa, or Frosty the Snowman cost $12 for two 5x7 prints, and are only on select dates (full schedule: www.borail.org/HFOT.aspx).

One area of the roundhouse has tables set up with coloring pages and thin wooden train ornaments ($1 each) to decorate. Nearby is the kids play area, with a table for writing a letter to Santa, and a mailbox to make sure it gets to the North Pole. The most popular part of the (permanent) play area on our visit was the three train tables, which frustrated many kids in their lack of actual trains to play with. Next to the train tables is a large carpet and lots of LEGO DUPLO blocks for building with. The area also includes another carpet with about 20 train books; a pretend train depot with a couple dress-up outfits; a small pop-up Thomas the Tank Engine tent; and a small table with affixed cars and trucks that can be pushed around a track.

In another part of the roundhouse kids can hop on a carousel for $2. The carousel is on the smaller side, allowing only about a dozen passengers at a time to sit on its horses and train cars.

If you head outside from the roundhouse and go left, you will come to a couple platforms with train cars you can wander into. One holds an HO model train display behind Plexiglas (you can stop saying "don't touch" for a bit) and with a bunch of stools (you can put your toddler down for a bit). The scene is of Baltimore and offers lot of tiny details to discover (a crane unloading a container ship, construction trucks, Thomas the Tank Engine). We checked out the inside of a few more old train cars, but they were chilly so we moved on. A car shop with a bunch of old trains is nearby, but we glanced in and decided to skip it.

If you turn right coming out of the roundhouse, you will find an outdoors model train layout, with lots of rocks and live bushes. Also in the area is a playground train set; a small train kids can ride around a track ($1 per three-minute ride); and another amusement park-type ride that wasn't operating on our visit. A separate building housing a cafe is nearby. No outside food can be eaten in the cafe (but can be at picnic tables outdoors). Cafe hours are listed online.

Right outside the roundhouse is the platform for train rides with Civil War Santa, Railroad Santa, or Frosty the Snowman (weekends only; full schedule available online). Tickets are $3 for adults and $2 children 2-12, and are for sale where you buy admission tickets in the museum's lobby and also near the exit door in the roundhouse. Train rides are also available at select times on weekdays, Nov. 28-Dec. 31, but sans Santa/Frosty. The museum also has special train rides with Santa that include a holiday story time or a breakfast buffet; these events tend to sell out, so buying tickets early is recommended. The trip takes about 25 minutes. On my recent visit, the tickets had sold out for the earlier part of the day so we decided to skip the ride. Last year, I took my then-two-year-old son. The train is an old commuter train, the route is far from scenic, and my restless toddler was hard to keep in his seat. For some kids, a ride on a real train would be exciting enough to make it worth doing, but my family found the museum's other offerings were more than enough to fill our visit.

Back inside the museum, the gift shop is right beyond the lobby. A free raffle of tickets to Day Out With Thomas can be entered. A 25-cent train to sit in, a train table, and a make-your-own stuffed animal machine grabbed my kids' attention (along with all the toys and souvenirs for sale).

After we got in the car to head home, I looked closer at a museum map and realized we missed an antique train display, art exhibit, and more holiday decorations in the Education Station, located in the same building as the cafe. There is truly too much to see here on one visit (especially one that is time-limited because of children's stamina).

The Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys runs through December 31, 2012, and is included with museum admission ($16; $10 children 2-12; $14 seniors 60+). The museum and exhibits are open Monday through Saturday 10am to 4pm, and Sunday 11am to 4pm. The museum is closed Dec. 24-25, and Jan. 1.

Tips

  • The roundhouse can be chilly so you might want to keep your coat on during your visit.
  • The museum also has a branch in Ellicott City, which also has a holiday train display -- don't confuse the two! For a few dollars more than the regular admission price, you can get a combo ticket to visit both museums (expires in sixth months from purchase).
  • Bring a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots through December 16 and receive 50 percent off admission.
  • The festival includes music and dance performances on some weekends. View the schedule online.
  • The museum sometimes offers coupons for admission. Try a Google search for "B&O Railroad Museum coupon" and you might find one.
  • The large size of the roundhouse, and the obstructed sightlines from the old train cars stationed in it, make it easy to lose track (pun intended) of kids in here. Keep a close eye on them, and/or designate the roundhouse's center as a meeting spot -- it's easy to see from most of the roundhouse.

Photos by Kathleen Seiler Neary

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