PA Railfan Guide: The Best Places for Train Enthusiasts in Lancaster County
Are you a train buff looking for a PA railfan guide of places to explore? Lancaster County has a variety of activities for stream train enthusiasts to enjoy.
From museums and model train displays to train rides on operational steam locomotives, the following railfan guide outlines some of the best train attractions in and around Lancaster County for train lovers of all ages.
Choo Choo Barn
It started with a $12.50 Lionel train set in George Groff’s basement in 1945. Since then, it has grown into one of the most unique places to go in PA for train lovers.
The Choo Choo Barn has 22 operating model trains that travel along the miniature rails of their 1,700 square foot train layout. Throughout the display, they have 150 hand-built animated figures that make their model train display come alive.
With its custom model display, the Choo Choo Barn is the perfect trip for old and young rail buffs alike. There is so much of this miniature train town to explore — and pictures are welcomed!
Day passes can be purchased for entry, or you could consider investing in a yearly pass. A yearly pass to the Choo Choo Barn pays for itself in just three visits, so it may be beneficial to look into if you plan on going back.
Railroad Museum of PA
If you’re looking for an educational experience, add the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania to your list of things to do for steam train enthusiasts. It houses more than 100 world-class locomotives — all built or operated in Pennsylvania.
Though it’s called the “Museum of PA,” its collections do not highlight Pennsylvania’s railroad history exclusively. The museum’s purpose is to preserve and share the stories of the railroad industry with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In addition to locomotives, the museum exhibits over 17,000 artifacts related to railroading. This includes tools, uniforms, tickets, station signage, and many more historically significant items.
For all the curious adults, there is a library located within the museum. Visitors can schedule an appointment to page through the museum’s thousands of books and other archives.
The museum also offers some interactive exhibits specifically designed for children of all ages. Your kids can practice shoveling coal into a mock locomotive or sorting mail in a Railway Post Office car.
Though they don’t offer train rides at their location, they do schedule special events throughout the year, so be sure to check out their events page if you’re looking for an additional opportunity to visit.
Strasburg Rail Road: A Railfan Guide Favorite
If you’re planning a visit to the Railroad Museum of PA, you might as well book tickets for a train ride to round off your trip! The Strasburg Rail Road, which is independently owned, is located right across the street from the museum.
If you’ve done your research, you’ve probably discovered the Strasburg Rail Road on other railfan guides. It’s known for being America’s oldest operating railroad and is popular among train enthusiast groups because of its authentically restored steam locomotives.
Their equipment roster includes five working steam engines and 20 operating passenger cars. Within this lineup, we offer visitors seven different seating options to experience. Guests can book tickets to ride the rails in our coach cars, first-class lounges, and more!
Strasburg is unique because of its abundant list of train attractions for kids and adults. We offer seasonal train rides for Easter and Christmas and other popular events for families like our Escape Room train ride and our Day Out with Thomas™ event.
Looking for a fun weekend activity with friends? Book tickets for our Wine & Cheese train rides, which operate Friday and Saturday evenings. Take in the scenery of Paradise, PA while relaxing with carefully selected specialty cheeses, and wines from Waltz Vineyards.
With endless opportunities to experience, Strasburg Rail Road is the best place to explore for train lovers.
National Toy Train Museum
Also located in Strasburg, PA is the National Toy Train Museum. It is the home of the Train Collectors Association (TCA), an organization that’s grown from 68 train buffs in 1954 to over 30,000 members today.
Their collection of toy trains is one of the largest in the world, with models on display that date back to the 1800s.
It’s an exciting place to visit for those who are new to toy train collecting, or those who have been collecting for decades. They have seven operating train layouts with hundreds of toy train locomotives scaling the tracks.
Similar to the Railroad Museum of PA, the National Toy Train Museum has a research library located within its facility. Their selection includes a range of publications: books, repair guides, photographs, magazines, children’s books, and more.
The interior of the museum is designed to replicate an old-time Victorian-era train station. Visitors can travel back in time as they explore the exhibits. It’s a truly unique experience, which makes it an important addition to the Railfan Guide.
Make sure to visit the Toy Train Museum gift shop on your way out. They have a high-quality collection of toy trains, apparel, and books to choose from. Grab a gift for your train enthusiast friend, or add to your personal collection instead.
All proceeds from gift shop purchases go to the TCA’s mission to preserve the education of railroad transportation.
Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad
If you’re looking for another opportunity for a train ride, the Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad offers an 11-mile train ride along the Swatara Creek. Learn the history of the surrounding areas as you travel along the rails.
Passengers can travel in one of their 3 1920s vintage locomotives. Regular train rides – referred to as the “Milk and Honey Express” – are scheduled throughout the year. Special events like the Mothers Day Dinner Train or Santa’s Surprise Train are scheduled seasonally.
During the summer months, they host a number of Ice Cream Sundae Caboose rides. Those who reserve a spot will get to experience a two-hour ride in an authentic caboose with an ice cream sundae!
If you plan to reserve a spot on the Ice Cream Sundae Caboose ride, be aware of their accessibility options. Because of the way it was built (and when it was built), the caboose is not ADA accessible; passengers will need to climb steps to enter the train.
Northern Central Railway of York
The Northern Central Railway of York (NCR) is a non-profit organization built on the foundation of education. Formerly known as Steam Into History, Inc., NCR describes itself as an “excursion railroad.” If you view their calendar of events, you’ll see what they mean.
Throughout the year, they launch visitors back in time with their themed train rides and excursions. From the Wild West Express rides and Ales on Rails events to their Princess Express rides and Spring Scenery Excursions, the Northern Central Railway has plenty of things to do for train lovers of all ages
It is a must-see destination for history lovers. The rails that guests will travel along are the same tracks that carried President Lincoln to Gettysburg to give his famous Gettysburg Address.
Plus their equipment, such as their replica Civil War-era Steam locomotive or William H. Simpson No. 17 replica provides railway guests with an authentic train ride experience.
Their popularity over the years has increased the number of events and experiences the Railway can offer rail buffs. In 2021, NCR launched their S.T.E.A.M. Program; a summer camp held at the railroad that aims to educate, entertain, and enlighten children in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
Plus, they offer several yearly membership options that steam train enthusiasts can invest in to enjoy discounted prices of train rides and gift shop purchases.