Last year in September, we took advantage of The Museum Day Live! day that is hosted by the Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors for FREE to anyone with a Museum Day Live! ticket.
I had thought that to take advantage of this event we would probably need to drive to Pittsburgh, but after doing a quick search, I found a museum participating fairly close to us (well, at least a lot closer than Pittsburgh) called the Railroaders Memorial Museum (America’s only interactive railroaders museum). Admission to this museum is normally $10 per adult and $8 per child, so on a normal day we would pay $28 for our little family. I debated going because I figured it would probably be really crowded since it was a free day, but I am definitely glad we still went because there were no crowds at all and free is definitely better than almost $30!
For those of our who aren’t familiar with Pennsylvania and it’s history, the railroad industry at one time was HUGE in various parts of Pennsylvania. One area in particular, Altoona, was key to the railroad industry. Over 6,000 steam locomotives were built in Altoona and the area is also home to the Horseshoe Curve “an engineering marvel”. The railroad industry is of course still present in the area, but it is not nearly what it was 150 years ago. So it was awesome to be able to go to the museum, watch the historical videos, do the interactive exhibits, read all the historical facts and learn more about this area that we’ve been living in for the past year! An area I hadn’t ever even heard of until a few months before we moved to Pennsylvania. 🙂
Inside the museum there were three floors of various exhibits that talked about everything from what working on the railroad was like and how the community grew in the area due to the railroad to how a train wreck once left tons of circus animal wandering the town.
Of course, one of my favorite parts was watching all of the short video presentations they had. We were able to watch one about the birth of the Horseshoe Curve and another about how the Era of Steam in Altoona began and grew to what is was at it’s peak. It was fascinating to me to learn how transportation changed in the state from horse drawn wagons, to boats in the canals and finally to the fastest method (at the time) the train!
The movies weren’t Titan’s favorite, but he humored us in them and actually ended up learning quite a bit from them.
His favorite parts of the museum were all the interactive displays and seeing how people used to live. He especially liked checking out how different kinds of candy used to be packaged years ago. 😉
At this station you got to see what it takes to run a train yard and to move around the tracks so that each train gets to where it needs to go each time. Titan (after finishing it), “Ok, whoever has that job has to be really organized!” LOL Of course, then we talked about how today most of it is run by computers, but yes, 100-150 years ago, it would have taken a lot of organization and man power to keep things operating smoothly.
Another fact Titan found interesting was that when the Horseshoe Curve was built, the workers were only paid $0.25 per day! And they worked 12 hour days!
Once we finished with everything inside of the museum we moved outside to where they had a few train cars that you could walk through and look at up close.
Last but not least, a quick treat we grabbed on the way home from the outing. At the museum Titan kept asking for a treat in the Gift Shop because he was apparently “starving”. Like most gift shops though everything was way overpriced so we promised Titan we would grab some frozen custard at The Meadows. On this visit I tried the Turtle custard and it was REALLY good! Some of the best custard I’ve ever head.
And that was our afternoon. Overall, it was a really fun and interesting museum and we all learned a lot about trains, railroads, and the history of Pennsylvania.
Don’t live in the area (or not planning a vacation to Pennsylvania anytime soon ;))? The Railroaders Museum has an awesome website where you can look at photos and do some quick virtual tours of the museum. I know it’s not as fun as doing something in person but if you’re kids are learning about trains at school or have an interest in trains, it’s a great resource filled with lots of facts and information in an easy to read and understand format! 🙂