Planes, trains and automobiles aren’t just huge hunks of steel that deliver riders from point A to point B. Trains, in particular, have played a big part in Philadelphia’s history since the early 1800s. While the heyday of the Pennsylvania Railroad, headquartered in the City of Brotherly Love, has long since passed, railroad buffs can’t get enough of old passenger trains sporting names like The Buckeye, Nellie Blye, The Red Arrow and Liberty Limited. Whether you and your kids want to relax and watch the world go by, get up close and personal with a museum’s locomotive, or purchase a Lionel layout for the family to enjoy, here are the top railroad experiences for children in the Philadelphia area.
Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

1 Susquehanna St.
Jim Thorpe, PA
(570) 325-8485

About 80 miles from Philadelphia is this railroad gem. A ride on Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway’s old 1920’s diesel-powered locomotive is just the ticket for mini railroad buffs. Located 90 minutes outside of Philadelphia in Jim Thorpe, the railway offers an old-fashioned train trip through the beautiful Lehigh Gorge State Park. The narrated one-hour route winds along the scenic Lehigh River, passing Glen Onoko and Ox-Bow Curve before pulling into Old Penn Haven. Pick from standard coach, open-air coach or first class cars. Youngsters under the age of three ride free, but bring plenty of water, as the passenger cars are not air conditioned and get pretty sticky in the summertime.

Related: Top Pet-Friendly Getaways Near Philadelphia

Strasburg Rail Road

301 Gap Road

Ronks, PA 17572

(717) 687-7522

About 60 miles from Philadelphia is where you’ll find the Strasburg Rail Road. Strasburg Rail Road’s metal hit the tracks in 1832, making it the oldest short-line railroad in America. Less than 90 minutes from Philly, the rail company offers a lot more than vintage rail cars. A depot filled with shops, restaurants and the pint-sized Pufferbelly steam train ride delights kids of all ages. A selection of events, including Dine with the Amish, The Great Train Cookout, Chocolate Express, Steampunk Unlimited and a vintage Baseball Day are planned for 2013. If your tiny tot is a fan of Thomas the Tank, the storybook steam locomotive chugs into the depot every June, September and November.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

300 Gap Road

Ronks, PA 17572

(717) 687-8628

While you’re in Ronks, don’t miss the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Directly across the street from Strasburg Rail Road, the museum features more than 50 vintage locomotives and rail cars in its 100,000-square-foot facility. Wee ones will want to spend most of the time in the Railway Education Center. The center allows kids to let off steam with hands-on model train villages, demonstrations and play areas. Bring some cash, because your munchkins will also want to make a pit stop at The Whistle Stop Shop for a wide array of railroad gifts.

National Toy Train Museum

300 Paradise Lane
Strasburg, PA 17579
(717) 687-8976

If you want to see your youngster’s eyes really light up, then head to the National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg. It ranks as one of the largest toy train museums in the world. Housed in a Victorian-style train station, the marvelous display of 19th to 21st century toy trains are exhibited in five large layouts, each representing different gauges and time periods. Tiny train fans may run several of the choo-choos themselves, watch videos, view photographs and purchase toys, books and clothing at the museum store.

Related: Top Museums For Kids In Philadelphia

Nicholas Smith Trains & Toys
2343 W. Chester Pike

Broomall, PA 19008

(610) 356-2180

Young train enthusiasts should not miss a visit to Nicholas Smith Toys and Trains in Broomall. Founded in 1909, the HO heaven was the “very first Lionel Train dealer to open shop in the United States.” Today, Smith’s ranks as “one of the largest train stores in the world,” and it has all the bells and whistles to prove it. An entire floor is dedicated to a massive collection of classic electric trains, where kids love to watch the wonderful train set-up that takes center stage.

Susan DeFeo has been a professional writer since 1997. She served as a community events columnist for New Jersey’s “Cape May County Herald” for more than a decade. A writer for numerous online publications, Susan has covered health, fitness, beauty and travel, all subjects that are near and dear to her as a married mother of seven children. Her work can be found at