Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Museum for Small Trains + A Motel!

After a one blog respite, we’re back to our late summer/early fall 2011 road trip to upper New York state, Pennsylvania and Virginia…finally heading south towards our home in East Tennessee…

Lancaster County Pennsylvania is not only home to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and the Strasburg Railroad, but it’s also home to yet another railroad attraction…or two!

Yes, this is the National Toy Train Museum near Strasburg in Lancaster County.  Founded in 1954 in an old stone barn in Yardley Pennsylvania, the Train Collectors Association has become the major collecting organization for toy trains in the USA.  This museum opened in April of 1977 with the goal of educating visitors and inspiring others about the hobby of toy trains.

There is a plethora of static toy train displays in showcases and on shelves along the walls and halls of this 6,000 square foot collection.  But, it’s the live action dioramas that really catch the eye of both the children visiting this facility as well as those of us who just come here to imagine and reminisce.

Harry’s Hardware Store is one of the museum’s displays that peaks my memories.  It thankfully predates even my era, as the ‘store’ is set up to replicate a 1920’s hardware store with a replica 1923 Lionel factory built dealer display.  Even into the late 40’s and early 50’s you could find model trains on display and for sale in some independent hardware stores.  

The largest ‘live’ display is the Operating ‘O’ Gauge layout.  It has 3 sections, each modeled in different styles.  When we were there, at least 4 trains were running in this display at any given time.

Earlier, while we were visiting the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, I’d mentioned to a Canadian couple that we were going to the National Toy Train Museum.   They told us of yet another toy train display just a short distance down the road.  The Choo Choo Barn – Traintown USA, is located at 226 Gap Road/PA Rte. 741 East in Strasburg Pennsylvania.  The Choo Choo Barn has a 1,700 square foot train layout featuring over 150 hand-built animated figures and vehicles plus 22 operating trains!  Maybe next time… Phone: 800-450-2920.  Website:

The detail shown in these dioramas is amazing and a bit mind boggling!  I would never have the patience to put anything like this together…but I sure can appreciate the results!

There are various displays throughout the National Toy Train Museum which catch both the collector’s eye and the ‘kid’ in all of us.  These include: a Fort Knox Car; a 1928 Lionel Dealer Display…complete with the pricing; a Streamliner Display; the Postwar Display; Toy Trains from Around the World; European Trains; Trolleys; Marx Trains; 5 other gauges, and; an Early 1900’s Circus Wagon. 

One nice fun feature throughout the National Toy Train Museum is that there are lots of buttons that visitors can push to activate animated trucks, autos, planes, people, machinery and even trains in the dioramas.

The National Toy Museum is located at 300 Paradise Lane in Strasburg Pennsylvania.  Phone: 717-687-8623.  Website:
As an additional point of reference, the National Toy Museum is located right next door to the Red Caboose Motel…

Yes boys and girls, the Red Caboose Motel is actually a motel and restaurant that’s comprised of 38 retired cabooses, 2 baggage cars and 2 dining cars… It all started back in 1969 when the original owner bought 19 old Pennsylvania Railroad cabooses for the grand sum of $100.00!

There are now 48 sleeping cars, each equipped with private baths and air conditioning.  There are family cabooses, small family cabooses, a family caboose for 5, a couples room, a 2 doubles caboose and suites…including a honeymoon suite!  The cabooses have been painted in a variety of schemes, reflecting many railroads around the country. 

For those of you who might not be aware, cabooses used to be required on all freight trains.  However, in the 1980’s, modern technology and electronics had advanced to the point that the Federal government permitted railroads to discontinue the use of cabooses.
The Red Caboose Motel is located at 312 Paradise Lane in Paradise Pennsylvania.  Phone: 888-687-5005.  Website:
Just click on any photo shown above to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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