The 23rd Annual Model Train Festival

For the past 23 years the Washington State History Museum has rolled out the train tracks, welcoming kids big and small to the museum to experience the annual Model Train Festival. And this year South Sound magazine is sponsoring a hands-on activity room where kids can build their own train creations.

The festival will chug into Tacoma Dec. 21-Jan. 1 thanks to railroad club members who bring their personal layouts. The personal collections join the Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers’ permanent display that is always featured at the museum and is one of the largest in the state.

Model Train Festival

“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.”

Model Train Festival

Also new this year is an opportunity for people to “drive” a 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.

And if trains aren’t magical enough, Santa will be there from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 21-23 and free digital photos will be given.

Another new feature is 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 December 21st,” said Julia White, membership coordinator.

Not a member? Visit to find out about membership.

is the editor in chief at South Sound magazine.
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