All aboard for the best train adventures this side of the Mississippi. From museums and short rides to daylong excursions, we’ve got you and your little engineer covered. Check out some of the best train activities for kids around Des Moines this summer.
Boone and Scenic Valley Railway
225 10th St, Boone, IA 50036 • (800) 626-0319
History comes to life on the Boone and Scenic Valley Railway. This line runs just north of Boone and makes a round trip to the old coal mining town of Fraser. Choose your own adventure by selecting a 20’s era coach, an open-air car or experience what it was like to ride the rails in a caboose. The Railway hosts special excursions and events such as a Picnic Train, A Day out With Thomas and a Santa Express. Before or after your train ride, be sure to check out the James H. Andrew Railroad Museum and History Center.
Departure Times: Monday thru Friday and Sunday 1:30 pm; Saturday 1:30 and 4:00 pm.
Museum Hours: Monday thru Thursday and Sunday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm; Friday and Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Price: Basic Excursion: Under 3 FREE, Kids 3 -12 $13.00, Adults $25.00; Museum: $8.00 Adults and $3.00 Children
3135 IA-117, Colfax, IA 50054 • (515) 674-3813
Every day is the best day of the week to take in this amazing collection of model trains and railways in Colfax. The train enthusiasts who designed the set-ups have recreated the development of the railroad across the United States. This exhibit represents three eras of time; frontier, steam, and diesel in incredible detail. In addition to the model railroads, Trainland U.S.A. also features original railroad memorabilia and old toy trains dating from 1916 to 1976.
Hours: Memorial Day thru Labor Day 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily
Price: Adults $7.50, Kids 12 & Under $5.00, Kids Under 2 FREE, 55 & Over $7.00
The Restored Burlington Northern Depot & WWII Memorial Museum
305 South 2nd Street, Red Oak, IA 51566
Chug on out to Red Oak to check out the Restored Burlington Northern Depot and WWI Memorial Museum. The railroad was a major influence in Red Oak starting in 1869 when the first tracks were laid. Kids can learn about the railways history and impact on the area and will enjoy the miniature train exhibit. The museum features permanent and traveling exhibits, has a theater room where visitors can enjoy an orientation to the museum and a gift shop.
Hours: By appointment any day of the week, including holidays and weekends.
High Trestle Trail
The High Trestle Trail runs for 25 miles from Ankeny to Woodward and was built on a former railroad bed, previously owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. The area has a rich coal mining history which brought the railway and there are many communities along the trail with old depots and museums sharing information about trains. At the Woodward trailhead sits a renovated historical depot where visitors are welcome to browse. The Madrid Historical Museum features many old pictures of trains chugging through the region and has an extensive collection of information about the railway, High Trestle Bridge and trains.
Hours: All hours
Madrid Historical Museum: Open 1st and 3rd Saturday from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon or by appointment.
Last but not least, why not take a ride on the real deal? A real passenger train capable of taking you on endless adventures. The closest Amtrak station to Des Moines is in Osceola. If you’re planning a vacation or weekend to Omaha or Chicago this summer hop on a train and it will be a trip your little train enthusiast will never forget. One of my favorite birthday parties I attended as a kid was to ride Amtrak from Osceola to Ottumwa. I will also never forget riding the rails from Osceola to Rochester, NY the summer before I was in third grade. It’s a bit slower than other modes of transportation, but isn’t that what vacation is all about?
Departures: Westbound from Osceola 8:09 pm; Eastbound from Osceola 7:40 am
Price: Varies depending on destination. Round trip ticket to Omaha for family of four is $168.00.
What is your favorite place to see, ride, or play with trains?