A couple of weeks ago, we went to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD. It’s a nice little museum that’s perfect for an outing with children.
I actually learned a lot myself! All I knew about the B&O (and honestly, most railroads) was from a childhood addiction to Monopoly. I guess growing up in the South, the railways weren’t emphasized much. Maybe I just wasn’t interested? But anyway, I found out several things on our visit. The first being that B&O stands for Baltimore and Ohio! This line ran across many states and was extremely vital for the transportation and commerce. During the Civil War it played a key role and notably transported President Lincoln’s funeral train.
The main building of the museum is the roundhouse. It was really neat to see how all the trains had spaces in the domed, nearly circular room. (The B&O roundhouse is the world’s largest 22-sided building!) A round panel in the center of the room rotated to let trains out. Ingenious!
This museum is definitely child-friendly. There are several activities for kids to do throughout the museum and a large play area with a dress up center, train tables and more. I enjoyed relaxing in the wooden rocking chairs while the kids played.
They also had a few demonstration tables set up. This one gave instructions for building a rubber band propelled car for the tracks.
There’s also a carousel and electric train displays. The kids really loved those electric train scenes and really wished they could touch!
There are many different types of coaches and trains all throughout the roundhouse. In the other museum rooms, there were more artifacts and displays of model trains. We passed through those rooms quickly, but they would be of more interest for older children and adults learning more about history. In one of the small rooms, we found a neat telegraph display. Communication has come a long way.
A few cars in the roundhouse are set up for visitors to walk through. You can see engines and mail rooms and imagine what travel was like 150 years ago. The most impactful car display was the one showing segregation on the railways. Visitors can see how the passenger car was divided into the more luxurious Whites and more basic Blacks sections. I think today we can’t imagine how something as awful as segregation was a part of the daily norm. That’s why it’s so important to see our history and understand how it’s impact is still a part of our society.
The B&O Museum also offers various informative tours and an actual train service. We didn’t ride, but we might try it another time. Last year, we rode the New Hope Valley train (near Chapel Hill, NC) and it was a great experience.
One of the reasons we decided to check out the museum was because we actually got in for free! Maryland Zoo members get free admission to the B&O (and the Baltimore Museum of Industry) during the months of January and February when the zoo is closed most of the week. I’m so glad we went and we will definitely go back.
Oh and of course they have a neat little gift shop that we couldn’t resist. I share what we bought there (along with our other favorite train toys) tomorrow!
Welcome to Train Week. It’s going to be a week-long train extravaganza!