As soon as kids can navigate Netflix, they are choosing the popular train show Thomas & Friends, complete with catchy British tunes, famous narrators, and train drama from the Diesels versus "Steamies." Historic train memorabilia may seem lackluster to your typical preschooler or toddler but anytime it involves the #1 Tank Engine, Thomas, they are sure to be on board. Thomas the Tank Engine is coming to the Oklahoma Railway Museum (3400 NE Grand Blvd, OKC) the last weekend of September and first weekend in October for its popular annual tour of "Day Out with Thomas." The Oklahoma Railway Museum has other popular train festivities coming up this fall and winter, along with daily museum exhibits sure to keep the whole family entertained.
Wandering the Railways
The Oklahoma Railway Museum was created by a group of local railroad enthusiasts "as a chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 1972," said Anne Murray, administrative assistant for the museum. "They had some train equipment on display for a while behind the Kirkpatrick center and in 1987 they moved a portion of the train equipment to Watonga,where they had the Watonga Chief Dinner train and passenger cars in operation until 1991," Murray said.
In the mid-'90s, the chapter ran trains from Altus to Tulsa and worked with Union Pacific on some other passenger trains stemming from Oklahoma City, all the while hoping to someday have a permanent museum home. The profits they made from the Union Pacific endeavor were used as seed money to assist in planting a home for the Oklahoma Railway Museum. In 1999, the chapter purchased land, where it sits today, just a half mile west of I-35, on historic Grand Boulevard in Oklahoma City. They then leased an abandoned train line that travels from 50th to 10th streets and had it refurbished to run passenger trains. The Oklahoma Railway Museum is a 501c non-profit and is an "all-volunteer museum, including the train crews," Murray said.
All Aboard! Day Out with Thomas
The Oklahoma Railway Museum truly has something for everyone, even the littlest wannabe train engineers. Each year, the Oklahoma Railway Museum hosts "Day Out With Thomas," from the popular kids' TV show, Thomas & Friends. This fun-filled event allows little ones and their families the opportunity to ride the 15-ton replica of Thomas the Tank Engine. Thomas will be making his appearance at the Oklahoma Railway Museum on September 28-30 and October 5-7.
In addition to the 10 Thomas Train rides per day, there are a variety of other activities. They will be having toy trains set up, arts and crafts, two moon bounces, mini golf, videos, storytelling, clowns, performers, and even the chance to meet Sir Topham Hatt! It is free to go and enjoy the Thomas festivities, with the only cost being the train ticket. There will also be food vendors set up to make a full day of it at the museum.
According to Murray, last year alone "there were 11,000 Thomas Train tickets purchased for the six days when the event was going on." The event usually runs the last weekend in September and first weekend in October. This is "Day Out with Thomas" tour's 17th year in operation and it will make stops in 45 total cities across the US. Train tickets for ages 2 and older are $16 if purchased online and $18 at the door.
Halloween and Christmas Trains
In addition to "Day Out With Thomas," the Oklahoma Railway Museum will also be running a Halloween train and Christmas train this year. The Halloween train runs at five scheduled times on Saturday, Oct. 27, and costumes are welcomed for the kiddos. The train will be "decorated for Halloween and they will have other activities, such as Dental Depot (an established train-based Dental Company in OKC) and the clown Smiley O'Riley," Murray said.
Smiley brings with him some old trucks that were used in conjunction with the railroad back in 1872. And of course he has some killer balloon animals. Halloween Train tickets can be purchased day of, at the door. The Christmas train at the museum this year runs on Saturday, Dec. 15. Santa will make an appearance, and there will be hot cocoa and cookies. Singing Christmas carols and a reading of Polar Express will complete the event. The Christmas train runs four times that day, starting at 10:30am and ending at 3pm. Tickets for the Christmas train will go on sale November 1 and can be purchased by phone at 405-424-0504.
Beat the Crowds
If you don't like all the crowds and prefer to check out the museum when there's not a special occasion or holiday trains running, they still have plenty to see and do. Every first and third Saturday of the month, April through September, they run trains up and down their leased railway line. And even when the train is not running, they still allow spectators to get in the train and explore. They have a display car with memorabilia for the train lovers and a playground for the young ones.
The display equipment is varied and historic. Most of the equipment was used in Oklahoma at some point, the oldest being a caboose from 1878. The exciting news at the museum right now, Murray said, is they just had a Santa Fe steam locomotive and caboose donated to the museum. It is currently being held at the fair grounds in Oklahoma City. The museum will be responsible for providing a location ready for display on site and to refurbish the equipment, which will be ready for display sometime next year, Murray said.
The museum is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9am to 5pm, and is free, other than the cost of a train ticket. The museum is outdoors, so it may be closed for inclement weather.
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