Delight is in store at Model Train Festival

The Washington State History Museum’s 23rd annual Model Train Festival runs Dec. 21 through Jan. 1. The event features fun for the whole family. Santa will be at the festival Dec. 21 through Dec. 23 for free photos. PHOTO COURTESY OF WASHINGTON STATE HISTORICAL MUSEUM

Welcome to a journey through the marvelously detailed world of model trains! The Washington State History Museum’s 23rd annual Model Train Festival rolls into town Friday, Dec. 21and runs through Tuesday, Jan. 1 (closed Dec. 24-25). The state’s largest permanent model train layout is always featured at the museum, operated by Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers, and every winter the Model Train Festival brings additional railroad clubs from around Puget Sound to share their incredible layouts. Visitors can travel among the many displays, watch dozens of tiny engines rolling across trestles and through tunnels, talk with the train operators, and make their own train creations in the hands-on South Sound Magazine Activity Room.

New for 2018, visitors can drive a model train simulator. “We think the simulator is going to be fun and also eye-opening in regard to safety around train tracks,” said Mark Sylvester, director of museum support services. Operation Lifesaver’s exhibit will also educate the public about safety at railroad highway crossings.

The Model Train Festival wouldn’t be complete without Santa. Meet the jolly fellow Friday, Dec. 21 through Sunday, Dec. 23, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and take advantage of a free digital holiday photo opportunity.

Dec. 23 is Teen Tix day. Youth who are registered with Teen Tix can get in for just $5 with their Teen Tix card.

“We really look forward to this festival every year. It has become an annual holiday outing for many families who bring visitors and friends year after year. We have a lot of second generation visitors – people who came as kids and are now continuing the tradition with their own children,” said Molly Wilmoth, the museum’s lead program manager. “The museum is filled with the sounds of trains and excited visitors. It’s also an opportunity to highlight the Historical Society’s railroad artifacts and the railroad history in this part of the country. The Activity Room is stocked with toy trains, LEGOs and Lincoln Logs so kids can play and adults can engage or take a break.”

In addition to the model trains, in the Great Hall of Washington History visitors can see artifacts and find out more about how the railroads influenced growth and development in Washington State. You’ll hear some tap-tapping at the Telegraph – Morse Code Club’s interactive display chronicling the history of the telegraph as it relates to railroading. The Tacoma Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) will be on-site too.

Also new this year, a night just for Washington State Historical Society members. “We’re hosting a special Members Appreciation Celebration this year on the first evening of the Model Train Festival. Members will enjoy exclusive evening access to the model trains, special holiday treats, and pictures with Santa on the evening of Dec. 21,” said Julia White, membership coordinator. Not a member? Visit to find out about membership.

Bring the railroad buffs and train lovers in your life to the Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, for this annual celebration of holiday cheer and history. Details at

Model railroad clubs and exhibitors include: Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers, Boeing Model Railroad Club, National Model Railroad Association Pacific Northwest Region Division 4 HO and Division 4 NTRAK, Mount Rainier N-Scale, Pierce County Lionel Train Club, Kitsap Live Steamers, National Railway Historical Society – Tacoma Chapter, Telegraph-Morse Code Club, and Operation Lifesaver.

Hours and Pricing:

The museum will be closed on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24 and Christmas Day, Dec. 25.
Model Train Festival is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Dec. 21-Jan. 1, except for December 24 and 25 when it will be closed.

• Free for Washington State Historical Society members
• Family rate $40 (up to 2 adults and 4 children under age 18)
• Adults $14 (age 18 and over)
• Seniors (age 65+), students, active and retired military (with proof of service) $11
• Free for children ages 5 and under

Washington Quest EBT Cardholders (card required) and Washington Foster Parents (with foster license and ID): admission is $1/person and $2/family

Free digital Santa photos: Dec. 21-23, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Member Appreciation Celebration: Dec. 21, 5:30-8:30 p.m., exclusively for WSHS members.

Model Train Festival is generously supported by the Port of Tacoma and South Sound Magazine.

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