History 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! Be sure to see the largest permanent public model train layout in Washington. And don’t miss your chance to DRIVE THE FREIGHT TRAIN simulator!
Model Train Festival admission is free for members. Not yet a member? We’re offering a SPECIAL BONUS: Buy a membership in December 2019 and receive three months more! Your 15 month membership will provide FREE admission to the 2019 Model Train Fesitval and the special 25th anniversary edition of the Model Train Festival in December 2020, plus admission to the early 2021 exhibition The Animation Academy: From Pencils to Pixels, and everything in between, along with all the other great member benefits. Click here to become a member today!
Pick up a free, collectible Model Train Festival button and museum map at the admissions counter (while supplies last).
Admission discounts and library passes are not accepted during Model Train Festival.
Santa 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 (and at our special Members Appreciation Night, Dec. 21). 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 22 is also Teen Tix day! Show your Teen Tix card and get in for just $5.00.
Location: Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA. Paid parking is available at the museum, and street parking is also available nearby. The museum’s café, Anthem, will be open for refreshments, and there are restaurants and shops nearby along Pacific Avenue.
Dates: Friday, December 20, 2019 through Wednesday, January 1, 2020.
CLOSED December 24 and 25. OPEN January 1.
Hours: 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
Special guest: The jolly gentleman from the North Pole, Santa, will be here for visits and FREE photos on December 21, 22 and 23 from 11:00 AM-3:00 PM.
Member Appreciation Night
Saturday, December 21, 5:00-7:30 PM
FREE for WSHS members!
We are delighted to show our appreciation to members with this festive evening! Members can have the run of the museum, plus delicious treats, photo opps with Santa from 5:30-7:30 PM, and other surprises! Please join us Saturday, December 21 from 5:00-7:30 PM.
Members, kindly RSVP by Saturday, December 14 to Julia.White@wshs.wa.gov or 253-798-5894. 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 PLUS amazing exhibitions all year long for FREE, 10% off at Anthem cafe on the plaza, discounts at other local stores and restaurants, and our quarterly history magazine, COLUMBIA delivered to your home. Sign up today!
See featured railroad artifacts in the Great Hall of Washington History during your visit. Learn how the railroad industry influenced the growth and development of Washington State and see train-related artifacts from days gone by.
Parents 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.
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 20, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
- Saturday, December 21, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM, Santa visits and free photos 11:00 AM-3:00 PM
- Members Appreciation Night: Saturday, Dec. 21, 5:00-7:30, with Santa and surprises
- Sunday, December 22, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM, Santa visits and free photos 11:00 AM-3:00 PM
- Teen Tix cardholders get $5 admission on Dec. 22
- Monday, December 23, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM, Santa visits and free photos 11:00 AM-3:00 PM
- Tuesday, December 24, CLOSED
- Wednesday, December 25, CLOSED
- Thursday, December 26, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
- Friday, December 27, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
- Saturday, December 28, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
- Sunday, December 29, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
- Monday, December 30, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
- Tuesday, December 31, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
- Wednesday, January 1, New Year’s Day, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
Coupons, discounts and library passes (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
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 email@example.com.
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.
Model Train clubs and exhibitors participating in the 24th annual Model Train Festival include:
- Boardroom – Boeing Employees Model Railroad
- History Lab – 4D PNR NMRA – N-TRAK
- McClelland Gallery – 4D PNR NMRA – HO MODULAR
- McClelland Gallery – Drive the Freight Train Simulator
- Mezzanine – Mount Rainier N-Scale
- Grand Lobby – Pierce County Lionel Club
- Education Lobby – Kitsap Live Steamers
- Activity Room – Hands-on play area
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.