The area around Lancaster, PA, has no shortage of stuff to do with the little ones. We recently spent a weekend in the area and devoted most of a day to the wonderful world of trains. Strasburg, PA, about 15 minutes to the southeast of Lancaster, is also known as Traintown, USA.
And for good reason. It’s home to the Strasburg Railroad, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, the National Toy Train Museum, the Choo Choo Barn, and the incredible Red Caboose Motel.
The adorably named Choo Choo Barn certainly lives up to the cuteness of its name. Located just down the street from the Strasburg Railroad, the Choo Choo Barn is essentially an enormous model train layout.
It’s every little boy’s fantasy. At 1,700 square feet and with 22 operating trains, it certainly puts my childhood model train layout to shame.
The layout includes 150 hand-built animated figures and vehicles (nothing here is from a kit), and it re-creates the surrounding Amish countryside. Included are miniature versions of the Dutch Wonderland amusement park, an Amish house-raising, a traveling big-top circus, mid-century Main Streets, a ski resort, and on and on.
There’s even a small version of the amazing (and nearby!) Red Caboose Motel, which is where we stayed while in town.
One of the definite highlights of the layout is a working fire rescue. A fire engine pulls out of the station, drives up the street to a smoking house, small firefighters rush toward the house, rescue some people inside, and spray real water onto the roof. It’s remarkable.
Unfortunately, my video of this animation was lost to some technological demons. (So, check out this other person’s video if you want to see it. It’s worth it.)
Every 15 minutes or so, the lights go down, and it becomes “night.” That’s when even more magic comes to life. The intricate lighting and technical details involved in nearly every scene is remarkable. Everything looks brand new.
Around the holidays, they decorate the whole layout for Christmas. We might just have to return for that.
The Choo Choo Barn was an unqualified hit. The kids loved it. If you have little ones and find yourself in the Lancaster area, yours will too.
Admission costs $7.50 for adults and $4.50 for kids age 3-11. Do note that the entire thing is closed for annual cleaning every year from early January through early March, so make sure to check the hours on their website.