Children seem to have an abiding interest in trains. (Well, so do most adults.) As a boy, Walt Disney was no different. For him, the fascination began with a train ride from his native Chicago, Illinois, to his new home in the small town of Marceline, Missouri. That ride spurred Disney’s interest in trains and his love for locomotives carried on into adulthood.
A visit the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, housed in the restored train depot in Marceline, will excite train lovers – especially when they hear real trains whizzing by just outside of the museum. It was a sound Disney loved, and Marceline residents still enjoy ... dozens of trains pass through town daily.
The Walt Disney Museum isn’t the only train-related attraction in Marceline. In 1898, the Santa Fe Railroad donated land to the City of Marceline for a park to be named after E. P. Ripley, the president of the railroad. In that park, a Santa Fe locomotive and caboose bear the name: Santa Fe and Disneyland Railway.
Folks developing an interest in trains find other areas of Missouri to be a wealth of train activity. Ride trains through the Kansas City Zoo, the Saint Louis Zoo and Springfield's Dickerson Park Zoo, all while learning about the large variety of animals that live in Missouri's major zoos. Hop aboard the Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train, at Silver Dollar City, in Branson, and enjoy a beautiful 20-minute steam-train ride through Ozark country.
In St. Louis, City Museum is a fun-filled destination, packed with exhibits like MonstroCity, Enchanted Caves, a Tiny Train Town Model Railroad and the City Express. The Express, which departs at the whim of the engineer and at the request of the shorter-than-48-inch crowd, is a one-eighth size replica of an American Company Locomotive. The ride takes kids under a bridge, through a cosmic tunnel and to an even tinier train that depicts a section of the Missouri Pacific Line from 1963.
Want more? Twenty-five miles west of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, in Glencoe (Wildwood), is the Wabash, Frisco and Pacific Railroad. Every Sunday, May-October, rain or shine, this 12-inch-gauge miniature steam-train travels on a two-mile round trip along the scenic Meramec River.
If toy trains are what you want, the World’s Largest Toy Museum, located in Branson, offers a trip down memory lane with toys ranging from the 1800s to now, including toy trains. The Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City has a large collection of timeless toys and trains.
Take in the sights of the beautiful Ozark foothills in restored 1940-50 railcars, aboard the Branson Scenic Railway. This 40-mile, round-trip excursion takes you through tunnels and across high bridges, all while giving passengers a narrated history lesson on the area surrounding Branson. Food and concessions are available.
In southeast Missouri, a full-size passenger train takes you back to the era of passenger rail-transportation. The St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern Railway, in Jackson, allows passengers to relax in a coach pulled by Pennsylvania Diesel #5898, which was built in 1950.
The Museum of Transportation, in St. Louis, has a large variety of railway equipment, including freight cars, passenger cars, rail maintenance pieces and test cars. The museum includes a miniature train ride for the kids.
In Sedalia, the Katy Depot and Railroad Heritage Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1896 by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway, it is one of the largest depots in Missouri. The Katy Depot, restored to its original beauty, is splendid a museum for train enthusiasts. Exhibits portray working on the railroad and describe the new beginnings the railroad brought to Sedalia.
Trains . . . what a way to go. Enjoy the show.