Railroads played a crucial role in making America what it is today, and it may come as a surprise to many visitors and residents of the Washington, DC area that Baltimore was the birthplace of the American railroad. The many railroad advances and rich history of railroading in America are expertly chronicled in a variety of railway and transportation museums throughout Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. Many are kid-friendly, with exhibits and attractions tailored toward children and families.
B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore
901 W. Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21223
If you are looking for a museum that will be equally entertaining for all members of the family, the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore may be your best bet. Offering a wide selection of activities throughout the museum, kids will be able to sit in authentic antique rail cards, and for older kids, they can be entertained by the roundhouse of full antique trains and real train cars that they can enter. If you are feeling a little lost trying to navigate, the blue steam engine character Choo-Choo Blue is there to help your family identify areas around the museum that are specifically tailored to be kid-friendly.
Brunswick Railroad Museum
40 W. Potomac St.
Brunswick, MD 21716
If you are looking for a deeper dive into the history of early railroading in America, check out the Brunswick Railroad Museum. Geared toward highlighting the lifestyle of the people living in the early railroad towns throughout America, exhibits feature period clothing, photographs, furniture, toys and other artifacts from railroading life at the time. The museum also has a great hands-on activity room for the kids, featuring a scale model railroad of the route from Union Station in Washington, DC to Brunswick.
B&O Railroad Museum, Ellicott City Station
2711 Maryland Ave.
Ellicott City, MD 21043
As the first railroad station in America, the B&O Railroad Station at Elliot City is a perfect fit for your family to get a glimpse at an early railroad it its authentic state. While the museum itself is small, there are still a variety of activities and things for you and your family to explore. The kids will love the antique trains, the scale model trains and, if you are lucky, a guide may appear dressed in period costumes to talk about early railroading in America and the model train village showing the original first 13 miles of track ever laid in the US.
Fairfax Station Museum
11200 Fairfax Station Road
Fairfax Station, VA 22039
The center of local community life in Northern Virginia until modern highways and rail transportation made local train depots obsolete, a visit to the Fairfax Station Museum will take you and your family back in time. Kids will be able to explore the various model trains and rails in the station and learn about the important role the station played in the American Civil War and promoting railroading in the US. If you check with the museum ahead of time, you may be able to take part in its annual historic Civil War tours, which it sponsors once or twice a year at the station.
O. Winston Link Museum
101 Shenandoah Ave. N.E.
Roanoke, VA 24016
If you and your family are up for the ride, the O. Winston Link Museum located in downtown Roanoke, Virginia is well worth the car ride. The museum is dedicated to the photography of O. Winston Link, considered to be one of the premier 20th century railroad photographers and a master of capturing the contrast between steam railroading and rural culture. The museum offers a series of guided tours and educational sessions highlighting the hundreds of prints and interactive displays including audio that provide background on Link’s many photographic subjects and extensive portfolio. The museum also offers a program for children ages three to five, “Me At The Museum,” every Friday with varying themes every month.