Railway museums in the US never cease to capture the imagination.
Trains, from the big steam engines of the 19th and early 20th century to the diesel chuggers of today, train museums in the USA exhibit all of the fascinating, lumbering velocity these iron megaliths represent.
Trains are thoroughly ingrained in American history and folklore.
Even the long-abandoned railroad tracks scattered across North America hold a rich, vibrant, and sometimes violent history deep within their iron tracks.
That's a huge part of what makes railway museums in the USA so intriguing. It's one thing to exhibit an ancient mask or an old book.
Fascinating as they are, those things are nearly singular in their historical roots. Trains transcend that singularity, deeply entrenched in American culture and society.
Searching for 'train museums near me'?
Believe it or not, there are museums throughout the country wholly dedicated to trains.
Like any good museum, they feature multiple exhibits, general activities for visitors to engage in, and a plethora of historical knowledge.
Some of the best train museums remain actively engaged in local preservation efforts—mostly to do with trains, but also the preservation of historical records, down to the paper record keeping of train stations in the area, well over a century old.
One of the most impressive things about the museums on our list is the trains themselves.
As you can imagine, the exhibits are huge. Even the old steam engines were gigantic and incredibly heavy. Even for a non-train aficionado, it's hard not to be impressed.
Let's start exploring the best rail museums in the US.
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The California State Road Museum ends up in a lot of number-one spots on lists of the best railway museums in the USA.
That's probably because it is one of, if not the best, in the country.
This particular museum is run by the state, and they do an outstanding job conveying the history of the railroad connections that brought California that much closer to the rest of the world.
The best part, however, is the engines. The California State Road museum has 20 of them, all of which are restored to their original, pristine condition.
These aren't just any engines, either. Some of them are over a century and a half old.
Historians and amateur historians alike will appreciate the infamous Donner Pass scene.
Address: 125 I St, Sacramento, CA 95814
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Sacramento
Colorado almost seems as if it should be the beating heart of locomotive history in the United States.
It certainly helps that they have one of the more fantastic railway museums in the USA.
The Colorado Railroad Museum has been in place since the late fifties and offers a ton of history and spectacle.
Of course, the main attractions are the large, refurbished locomotives; though the museum is replete with old photographs, train models, and rich displays, they even have a roadhouse, just like in the old days.
If you're interested in how these vintage engines and historical artifacts are restored, a full demonstration is one of the displays there.
Be sure to check their calendar while you visit since the museum frequently puts on displays specific to certain times of the year.
Address: 17155 W 44th Ave, Golden, CO 80403
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Colorado
Union, Illinois, sounds like the perfect place to have a train museum. It also happens to have the largest railroad museum in the USA.
It has to be fairly large since it contains eleven storage barns, all of which house miles of railroad tracks.
The train depot at the Illinois Railway Museum is completely original, and it has been there for over a century and a half.
As far as interactive activities go, there are two train rides at the museum, one electric and one diesel.
However, you can only ride them in the summer months. The best part is, despite its size, its been in operation for 73 years.
That alone is a testament to the success of the Illinois Railway Museum.
Like most railroad museums, their primary theme revolves around the history of the railroad and its local effects.
Address: 7000 Olson Rd, Union, IL 60180
Founded in 1956 (it seems like all of these train museums were founded in the 50s), the National Railroad museum is one of the best railroad museums in the USA.
You know you're dealing with long-term quality when visiting a museum that is over half a century old and still running strong.
It's also one of the oldest museums in the US and has one of the largest collections of rolling stock.
The National Railroad Museum isn’t just a collection of refurbished trains.
They stock antique locomotives with a deep history, both in the local area and without (including the Union Pacific Big Boy # 4017).
Like most museums of any kind, there are a ton of exhibits to visit and pour over.
It's not the biggest railroad museum, but it can easily take a day to browse through, especially if you're really interested in trains from a historical perspective.
Address: 2285 S Broadway, Ashwaubenon, WI 54304
The Kentucky Railway Museum is steeped in the history and lore of Kentucky railroads since the day the first rails were laid down in the state.
Opened in 1954, it's two years older than the National Railroad Museum, which is one of the oldest.
The only difference is this museum started elsewhere, originally constructed in Louisville and later moved to New Haven.
The museum sits on top of one of the country's oldest railroad stations, built in the 1850s.
One of the most popular exhibits in the Kentucky Railroad Museum is the 3,000 ft² train model.
The museum is full of steam and diesel locomotive exhibits, along with a large number of railcars, many of which are open for guests to walk through.
Address: 136 S Main St, New Haven, KY 40051
The Danbury Railway Museum is probably one of the most convenient railroad museums in the USA. It sits right next to an already existing railyard.
The railyard has long since closed down, but it still serves as the perfect and most convenient aesthetic a railway museum could ask for.
This museum also separates itself from the rest because of its different approach to traditional museum exhibits.
The focus is less on history and more on the architecture of various railway stations, along with the design features of historical and modern locomotives.
There is a specific focus on the local history of the region.
But, of course, no railway museum would be complete without the local history part.
However, it's unique and sets itself apart with a slightly different but just as interesting approach.
Address: 120 White St, Danbury, CT 06810
New York has more than one train museum, and the Medina version is more popular in the entire northeast region.
That's because the Medina Railroad Museum is history wrapped in history.
What we mean to say is the museum is housed within the vast wooden freight depot, which happens to be one of the oldest such depots in the United States.
As railroad museums in the USA go, that makes this one pretty special.
The exhibits here are also incredible, displaying several historical photos, refurbished locomotives, interactive displays, viewing displays, a ton of historical literature on the local railroad history, and a model railroad display.
Address: 530 West Ave, Medina, NY 14103
There’s something special about the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. The fact is, it's considered to be the birthplace of American Railroading.
How did this area receive such a distinction? For starters, the railroad (not the museum) was built in 1829. Second, the very first passenger station was built there.
Though the commercial long-distance track that came next wasn’t a first, its combination of commercial and private enterprises certainly was.
The B&O Railroad Museum is where the biggest railroad history enthusiasts should go.
There is more history, railroad collections, historic trains and buildings, and artifacts at B&O than anywhere else in the country.
Address: 901 W Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21223
Also Read: The Best Museums in Baltimore
You would think that “New York” central would be located in New York.
But, one of the more popular railroad museums in the USA is named after New York and built in Indiana.
The National New York Central Railroad Museum is almost entirely focused on the New York Central Railroad.
While Elkhart is certainly not the beating heart of the modern railway system in the US, there is a lot of history, and the city was once a prolific part of the whole.
The outdoor displays are impressive and easily the biggest attractions of the museum.
You'll love this museum if you love steam engines or the technology behind steam-propelled locomotives.
It features several completely refurbished steam locomotives.
For those who prefer indoor exhibits, there are plenty of them, and they are impressive enough on their own.
Address: 721 S Main St, Elkhart, IN 46516
If you've never been to Chattanooga before, you owe it to yourself to take the trip. It's often said that cities are ugly, and Chattanooga is anything but.
It's a gorgeous, sprawling metropolis set along a backdrop of riverfront views and the southeast mountains of Tennessee.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum belongs to the area rather than just existing as a landmark among the masses of steel, concrete, and asphalt.
The museum was built to preserve and display historic steam locomotives, but it also offers much more.
Unlike many museums on this list, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum offers a six-mile trip aboard a fully operational steam locomotive.
It's a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the luxury of a passenger train ride in old-school style.
Address: 4119 Cromwell Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37421
Also Read: The Most Scenic Train Rides in the USA
The Laws Railroad Station and Railyard no longer exist, at least not as an operating entity.
The Law Railroad Museum and Historical Site were built to both preserve these no longer operational entities and educate people on the history of the local railroad industry.
Most of the newer museum buildings were strategically placed next to the older business buildings to bring together history and preservation.
There are tons of things to do and see here, both inside and outside.
Like most train museums in the US, Laws has preserved trains on display in their museum, along with a ton of history via documents, photographs, artifacts, and multiple display booths throughout the facility.
Address: Silver Canyon Rd, Bishop, CA 93514
The Galesburg Railroad Museum is a repository for many historical, railroad-related artifacts, documents, photographs, and other materials from long ago.
Like most train museums in the US, Galesburg is replete with exhibits, including the "Pullman Meath" rail car and a railroad post office rail car.
It's not the most ancient railroad history since most of the museum is a collection of artifacts from the 70s onward.
However, trains are fascinating no matter their age and origin.
The fact is, Galesburg has a ton to offer even the most generalized train enthusiast. There’s something here to interest just about anyone.
Address: 211 S Seminary St, Galesburg, IL 61401
Another of the best train museums in the US, located in Indiana, the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum is just as impressive as its sister museum, up in Elkhart.
This one is located in North Judson, which makes a lot of sense.
North Judson was once a huge railroad town—not the biggest railroad town by any means, but definitely an essential landmark in the railroad industry of its day.
Like Huntington Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, MS, the railroad in North Judson employed almost everyone in the town.
The existence of the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum is as much a tribute to the local population as it is to rail enthusiasts.
The museum houses a refurbished steam locomotive and many artifacts with immense value to the local community.
Address: 507 Mulberry St, North Judson, IN 46366
There’s more than just gambling casinos and open land in Nevada.
The Nevada Northern Railway Museum is one of the best-preserved railroad historical landmarks in the country.
The most popular attraction is a reenactment exhibit featuring an old west train robbery.
In fact, the audience is welcome to participate in the train robbery as well, making for tons of interactive fun, especially for the kids.
The plethora of viewable exhibits is outstanding and easily one of the best-organized displays in the country.
If you happen to travel through the state of Nevada and have even a smidgeon of train fascination within your soul, you have to stop in at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum.
Anything else would be a disservice!
Address: 1100 Ave A, Ely, NV 89301
Though it may technically be the sister museum to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum is actually in California, though it bears the Nevada name.
Since both states are intrinsically linked, it hardly matters.
Engine number 5, an engine that is frequently used in Hollywood for movies, television series, and documentaries, is on display at the museum.
The Nevada Narrow Gorge Railroad was in operation for over 70 years, so the museum and station are rife with history.
Like most museums, tons of artifacts and historical photographs are sprinkled throughout the exhibits.
Though that sounds mundane, it's incredibly exciting because it's intrinsic to the area's history, which is anything but boring.
Address: 5 Kidder Ct, Nevada City, CA 95959
The Oklahoma Railway Museum features an exciting display of four massive diesel locomotives and their respective rail cars.
They also allow visitors to ride the trains throughout certain parts of the year, which is always an exciting adventure for families and kids.
Oklahoma Railway Museum also features several annual events that revolve around railroad themes and the local railroad history.
Though they feature four diesel engines, the museum holds ten engines, all steam and diesel.
For Halloween, the museum features a train ride on "Sadie", a steam engine that only transports guests in the month of October.
Since Sadie was manufactured in 1931, you get to ride on a piece of technology that's nearly a century old.
Address: 3400 NE Grand Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73111
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Oklahoma City
No list of train museums in the US would be complete without throwing in the state of Texas. The Museum of the American Railroad. It didn’t always go by that name.
The Museum of the American Railroad used to be the Age of Steam Railroad Museum.
It's a vast museum featuring many steam and diesel engines and a very open and accommodating walk-through for guests.
You can walk in and out of most of the compartments and really get a feel for the operation of the trains.
The museum was only very recently completed, and some of the older buildings in the area are currently under renovation.
The Frisco Library only opened recently, while the Discovery Center is being renovated.
For tours, you'll have to join a waiting list for now.
Address: 8004 N Dallas Pkwy #400, Frisco, TX 75034
Steamtown is both a museum and a heritage railroad, making it a top tourist destination and a historic site of tremendous value.
Located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Steamtown National Historic Site sits on the old Scranton railyard.
Some of the original materials that went into building the railyard were repurposed to construct the roundhouse and turntable, the most prominent features of the entire museum.
Like the other USA train museums, there are several steam and diesel engine exhibits. The museum also allows a lot of hands-on observation.
Guests can climb up, through, out, and around many train exhibits, including the engines and cars.
Passenger cars are always fun to explore, and Steamtown has plenty of them on display.
Address: 350 Cliff St, Scranton, PA 18503
Another railway museum in Maryland, Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum, features the Hoosac Valley Train Rides, which run on Saturdays, Sundays, and the occasional Mondays.
The best part about the train rides is that they always feature a seasonal theme.
A major part of the Railway Museum is the Lenox Station Museum, where you will find all the most interesting historical artifacts.
Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum offers guided tours throughout the day, along with Yokun Station.
Yukon Station is a rebuilt, refurbished rail station where guests can learn the operation of historic rail stations.
The level of authenticity is incredible, and it's one of the more popular attractions.
If you haven't Googled "train museum near me" and tracked down Berkshire, there's no better time than the present.
Address: 10 Willow Creek Rd, Lenox, MA 01240
This USA train museum is located in California, making three California railroad museums on our list.
It's named after the company that ran the station - Pacific Southwest.
It's entirely run by volunteers, and one of the museum's most popular attractions is the train excursions.
This museum also includes electric locomotives, which is something that a lot of train museums don't feature.
However, they also have diesel engines as well. But if you're looking for steam engines, you won't find any here. Another big attraction is hands-on exploration.
Guests are free to touch many of the artifacts and get up close to some of the railcars and engines.
Address: 750 Depot St, Campo, CA 91906
If you like trolleys, there's much to appreciate about the world's oldest trolley museum in East Haven, Connecticut.
It's one of those rare transportation museums in the US that exerts a huge focus on their namesake.
There is an extensive history of trolley cars here, and much of the learning is hands-on.
Guests are free to explore many of the trolley car exhibits on their own, climbing in and out and getting a feel for trolley cars and how they operate.
Many exhibits are interactive, including a mile-and-a-half trolley ride featuring a rebuilt and restored historical trolley.
The trolley ride is more than worth it, as the surrounding scenery is beautiful.
Address: 17 River St, East Haven, CT 06512
Train Mountain Railroad Museum is one of the most fascinating USA train museums in any state.
American rail museums often feature historical railcars, steam engines, diesel engines, and the occasional electric engine.
However, Trail Mountain is entirely a training model. In fact, it's the largest miniature train model in the world.
There is a building on-site, which is the museum itself, housing a number of small exhibits and artifacts for the guests to see.
The primary attraction is the trained model, however, and it travels across over 2,000 acres, providing rides to families all throughout the year.
They even have a massive snow plaw that weighs over 100 tons.
Address: 36941 S Chiloquin Rd, Chiloquin, OR 97624
The National Museum of Transportation contains nearly 200 huge exhibits, and when it comes to the smaller exhibits, the number is many hundreds more.
On-site, you'll find the Boston & Providence Coach, constructed in 1833. You’ll also get to explore the Daniel Nason “Big Boy,” constructed in 1971.
The Daniel Nason is a 6,600-horsepower giant locomotive. In fact, it's the largest, most successful steam engine ever made.
One of the more unusual but pleasant surprises about this museum is the three gardens, which constitute a significant part of the entire experience.
These botanical gardens are phenomenal, especially after an hour of staring at steel and steam.
Address: 2933 Barrett Station Rd, St. Louis, MO 63122
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in St. Louis
The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania maintains over a hundred pieces of historical artifacts, including various locomotives and rolling stock.
Plus, Strasburg has one of the coolest-looking locomotives around.
It may not come with a nationally historic name, but it's still an impressive outdoor locomotive exhibit.
One of the biggest attractions at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is the interactive simulator that allows guests to operate an engine.
Though the day of the caboose is long behind us, the museum has one that guests can walk through for a more hands-on exhibit.
Souvenirs and tourist gifts are packed into a quaint little shop with even more interactive exhibits to set your sights on.
Address: 300 Gap Rd, Strasburg, PA 17579
While it might be a mouthful, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum is an incredible museum, full of displays that go well beyond just a railroad-centric theme.
This museum includes antique airplane exhibits, aquariums, and exhibits from the trucking industry.
One of the more unique aspects of the museum is the number of donated artifacts.
Families in the local area and within the state have donated hundreds of items to the museum, most of which are associated with railroads and some that are not.
Another impressive feat of the museum is a staff that is highly educated in railroad technology, both modern and antique.
Anyone you ask can accurately answer and even break it down into historical context.
Address: 303 Norfolk Ave SW, Roanoke, VA 24016
The Virginia Museum of Transportation is built around a train station over a century old.
That's an impressive attraction to general historians, not just rail-specific historians.
Plus, this museum's owners and managers have dedicated themselves to gathering and preserving rail-related artifacts, and they've dutifully carried out that dedication since the early 60s.
The model train exhibit is fantastic to look at, and the museum includes an automobile gallery, an aviation gallery, an African American Heritage Group, a rail gallery, and an up-close and personal view of the Norfolk and Western J Class #611 train.
Address: 479 Main Ave, Durango, CO 81301
The Southeastern Railway Museum is Geogia’s official transportation museum, meaning you will find far more than just trains.
For the train enthusiasts out there—no need to worry. There are plenty of train-centric themes here. Plus, it's a fairly popular area with Hollywood, major brands, and the media.
There are two trains currently in operation, and your regular admission ticket entitles you to one ride on either the historic train or the park train.
One thing the Southeastern Railway Museum emphasizes (which many other railway museums do not) is railway ballast.
Railway ballast is a crushed stone material used for bedding under the rails.
Address: 3595 Buford Hwy, Duluth, GA 30096
The Chatham Railroad Museum is probably one of the prettiest, in terms of just pure aesthetics, railroad museums in the US.
The red and cream aesthetics of their historic train depot are just cheerful and reminiscent of trains.
It helps that there is a large caboose parked out front as well.
The train depot finished construction in 1887 and has since been beautifully restored to all of its former glory.
There are hundreds of exhibits here as well. One such exhibit features several locomotives that were feature locomotives at the 1939 New York World's Fair.
The above-mentioned caboose was constructed in 1910 and restored to the tiniest detail.
Address: 153 Depot Rd, Chatham, MA 02633
The Arkansas Railroad Museum got its start in 1955 when a steam locomotive (locomotive 819) was donated to the city of Pine Bluff.
Cotton Belt Railroad was responsible for the donation, and the Arkansas Railroad Museum was born.
Since the initial donation, local and state residents have continued to donate train-related historical artifacts to the museum.
As a result, they have grown into a sizeable museum, with many more locomotives on display at the various exhibits throughout.
Now, it's one of the more impressive museums in the south, and it's grown to 70,000 ft² of floor space.
You can literally spend a day here and not quite catch everything.
Address: 1700 Port Rd, Pine Bluff, AR 71601
Last but not least, we have the Great Plains Transportation Museum of Wichita, Kansas.
One of the more unique aspects of the Great Plains Transportation Museum is the annual Kansas Railfest, which drops the admission fee to $7.
It also includes train rides for $5 per passenger, age three and up.
The museum charges an extra cost for the train rides because those fees are used to restore all their train artifacts on display, so it goes to a good cause.
The museum includes two huge exhibits - the Santa Fe steam locomotive #3768 and the Santa Fe FP45 diesel #93.
Address: 700 E Douglas Ave, Wichita, KS 67202
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Wichita
The National Museum of Transportation (TNMOT) in St. Louis, Missouri, has been named the number one railway museum in the country.
Located in Union, Illinois, the Illinois Railway Museum is the largest train museum in America, covering over 100 acres of land with more than 450 pieces of rolling stock on display.
One of the top train museums in the World is the National Railway Museum in York, England. It boasts an impressive collection of over 100 locomotives from different eras and countries, making it one of the largest collections globally.
There you have it, thirty of the best railway museums in the USA. Railroad museums never fail to impress. These massive trains are a sight to see, even for those who aren't all that interested in trains, to begin with.
Whether you're a train enthusiast, have a general interest in trains, or just want to be a part of something quintessentially American, put one of these train museums on your list. You won't be disappointed!