Model Train Festival

Join us for the 23rd Annual Model Train Festival!
December 21, 2018 through January 1, 2019

Purchase TicketsHistory and holiday magic unite at the Washington State History Museum during the Annual Model Train Festival in December. Bring your family, friends, and the railroad enthusiasts in your life to see this showcase of the most spectacular and detailed model railroad scenes in the Pacific Northwest! Don't miss the largest permanent model train layout in Washington. 

Santa Claus with childrenSanta Claus will be available for FREE pictures with you and your family on December 21, 22 and 23 from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM. The pictures will be instantly e-mailed to an address of your choosing, so bring the kids and let the magical holiday memories commence.

Sunday, December 23 is also Teen Tix day! Show your Teen Tix card and get in for just $5.00.

Please note, the Washington State History Museum is closed December 24 and December 25.

New this year: 

Drive the Freight Train Simulator!


Member Appreciation Night
Friday, December 21, 5:30-8:30 PM
FREE for WSHS members!

Washington State Historical Society is excited to show our appreciation for our members with a special festive evening. Members can have the run of the museum on the first night of the annual Model Train Festival! Join us for delicious treats and fun and be ready for special surprises, too.

Members, kindly RSVP to  

Find out more about membership here. It's a great deal! Family membership is just $75.00, roughly the cost of two visits to the museum. Membership gets you into the Model Train Festival and amazing exhibitions all year long for FREE, 10% off in our terrific new gift shop and our cafe, discounts at other local stores and restaurants, and our quarterly history magazine, COLUMBIA delivered to your home. Sign up today!

More train fun in the Great Hall and the Activity Room.

See featured railroad artifacts in the Great Hall of Washington History duirng your visit. Learn how the railroad industry influenced the growth and development of Washington State and see train-related artifacts from days gone by.

Be sure to pick up a free, collectible Model Train Festival button and museum map at the admissions counter (while supplies last). 

Child with LegosParents and grandparents, need a break? Bring your children to the Activity Room and let them explore, create, build (and destroy) their own train creations with LEGOs, Lincoln Logs and more. Play with toy train sets and other kid-friendly activities. The 2018 Activity Room is sponsored by South Sound Magazine.

Hours and Pricing:

The History Museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We are closed December 24 and 25.

Model Train Festival Hours:
  • Friday, December 21, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Santa available for free photos 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM) and 5:30-8:30 PM for the Member Appreciation Evening (members only during these hours)
  • Saturday, December 22, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Santa  available for free photos 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM)
  • Sunday, December 23, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Santa  available for free photos 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM, and Teen Tix cardholders get $5 admission)
  • Monday, December 24, CLOSED
  • Tuesday, December 25, CLOSED
  • Wednesday, December 26, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Thursday, December 27, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Friday, December 28, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Saturday, December 29, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Sunday, December 30, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Monday, December 31, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Monday, Jaunuary 1, New Year's Day, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM


Coupons and discounts (Chinook Book, AAA, etc.) do not apply during Model Train Festival

    • Admission for Historical Society Members is always FREE
    • Adults (Age 18 and over)  $14
    • Seniors (Age 65 and over) $11
    • Students (Ages 6-17 years) $11
    • Active and former military personnel (with ID or proof of service) $11
    • Children (age 5 and under) FREE
    • Family (up to 2 adults and 4 children under age 18) $40
    • Washington Quest EBT Card Discount (must show card) is $1/person and $2/family

The 2018 Model Train Festival is made possible in part by the Port of Tacoma, South Sount Magazine, and The News Tribune. Thank you for your support!

Logo_Port of Tacoma.jpg  Logo_SouthSoundMag.jpg  Logo_TNT.jpg


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

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

Just Around the Bend: Model Train Festival

The magic of the Model Train Festival ... You may wonder why the Washington State History Museum has been doing this for more than two decades. 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, 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.