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Model Train Festival

More than two decades of model train memories...

Purchase TicketsHistory and holiday magic unite at the Washington State History Museum during the 21st  Annual Model Train Festival from Saturday, December 17, through Sunday, January 1. This museum-wide event for families, railroad buffs and model train enthusiasts showcases the most spectacular and detailed model railroad scenes in the Pacific Northwest – including the largest permanent model train layout in Washington. Please note, the Washington State History Museum is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Santa Claus with childrenVisit on December 21st, 22nd or 23rd between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and you'll be treated to a visit from the head elf himself! 

Santa Claus will be available for pictures with you and your family in the Community Gallery area inside the Museum Store. The free pictures will be instantly e-mailed to an address of your choosing, so bring the kids and let the magical holiday memories commence.

New this year are featured railroad areas of the Great Hall of Washington History. Be sure to pick up the free (and collectible) Model Train Fest button and area map at the admissions counter to find your way back into the Great Hall. Learn about how the railroad industry influenced the grown and development of Washington State and see train-related artifacts from days gone by.

Child with LegosParents and grandparents need a break? Bring your children to our activity room on the second floor and let your kids explore, create, build (and destroy) their own Lego train creations! 

We've got thousands of Lego bricks just waiting to be snapped together any way your child's little heart desires while you take a seat and recharge for more Model Train Festival fun. Or, if you're feeling more hands-on, get down on the floor and join your kids for playtime with our toy train sets and other kid-friendly activities.

Hours and Pricing:

During Model Train Fest, the Washington State History Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when it will be closed.

    • Admission for Historical Society Members is always FREE
    • Adults (Age 18 and over) are $12
    • Seniors (Age 60 and over) are $8
    • Students (Ages 6-17 years) are $8
    • Active and former military personnel (with ID or proof of service) are $8
    • Children (Ages 5 and under) are FREE
    • Washington Quest EBT Card Discount (must show card) is $1/person and $2/family

Model Train Fest supporter badgeGet Involved

For information on how to participate in the Model Train Festival as a vendor or model railroad display, please contact Mark Sylvester, Support Services Director, at 253-798-5891 or e-mail mark.sylvester@wshs.wa.gov.

If you'd like to partner with us and help promote the Washington State Historical Society's annual Model Train Festival event, please download this logo and display it on your organization's website with a link to www.modeltrainfestival.org.


Just Around the Bend: Model Train Fest 2016

Another Model Train Festival is in the works, which begs the question of why the Washington State History Museum has been doing this for 21 years now. After all, grown adults playing with tiny trains all day doesn’t exactly seem historic...or does it?

Look deeper and the connections begin to reveal themselves. You’ll find Amtrak passenger trains and Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight trains on the tracks at the History Museum between December 17 and January 1, and they look just like the trains we wait for at railroad crossings every day. You’ll also find the streamlined trains of the past century as well as the historic diesel and steam engines that launched the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s.

When you see these model train layouts, pay particular attention to the level of historic detail artfully showered upon them by their creators. The tiny signalman beside the tracks doubtless carries a period-authentic lantern in his hand. Note the postage-stamp-size advertisement inside the model railroad depot. The passenger rates listed for various destinations are probably historically accurate, having been meticulously researched by model train club members. These model railroad folks are nothing if not thorough.

The history of Washington is inextricably intertwined with railroading. The Pacific Railroad Surveys followed close on the heels of the first Oregon Trail immigrants. Manifest Destiny and the great westward expansion were facilitated by the transcontinental railroads, which brought the people and products that made it possible for Washington to become a roiling melting pot of culture.

When you visit the Model Train Festival, you get to rediscover the stories behind the history. Our friends from the Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers will be on hand to answer your questions about model railroads, as will representatives from model railroading clubs around the Pacific Northwest. Join us - bring your whole family - and experience history in a way you’ll never forget.