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Spark your Kids Enthusiasm for Model Trains with a Visit to the Choo Choo Barn

The animals in the Traintown Zoo are ready for Christmas. Can you spot the Santa?

We are continuing our Weekends in Lancaster series with a stop to the Choo Choo Barn.

If you have train lovers in your family, it’s possible to spend an entire weekend immersed in trains and related activities in Strasburg. The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania across the street had a Home for the Holidays event taking place on the first two Saturdays in December, as well as Polar Express Parties for kids 3 and older that required additional admission and advanced reservations. I’ll definitely keep that in mind for next year, since The Polar Express is one of our holiday favorites. Tickets go on sale in October.


While we didn’t have time for the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, or the National Toy Train Museum this trip, we did visit the Choo Choo Barn on Sunday.


Santa and his reindeer fly over the fire scene, one of my favorite animations.

Since I have a family of model train enthusiasts, I wanted to give us as much time to explore as possible and not rush the visit. They recommend spending between 30 minutes and 2 hours viewing the display. We went around the room twice and probably spent about an hour before the baby fell asleep and we lost our little guy’s attention. I wasn’t ready to leave. Every time I see the 1,700 square foot display full of 150 animations and hand-crafted scenes, it inspires me to come home and get to work on my husband’s attic train board. The fire scene, my absolute favorite, has 11 different actions and uses real water to put out the fire. 22 trains move throughout the board, including a replica of the engine switching at Strasburg Railroad. I am awestruck by the amount of work, artistry, and electrical engineering it must take to pull off a display like this.



Sneak Preview of the Choo Choo Barn Fire Scene


As if there weren’t enough to see and captivate visitors already, at Christmas the Traintown scenes take on a festive holiday magic with the addition of 51 hidden Santas. This year the hidden Santas, include a Where’s Waldo Santa wearing a red and white striped shirt, represent one Santa for every year of operation. The search provides a challenge for all ages. Some of them are really tiny. Some move around the board. Some appear readily at first glance, while others seem impossible to find. I lost count, but I think we found around 45. Murmurs and whispers of people counting and pointing out Santas echoed throughout the room as everyone compared how many Santas they found.


Another coin-operated Thomas ride for my obsessed boys.

Tips to Enjoy Your Visit at the Choo Choo Barn:

  • The Choo Choo Barn Holiday display is open until December 31st, when they will close for annual renovations. The attraction reopens March 9.
  •  The Choo Choo Barn is open 7 days a week (10am- 5pm).
  • Keep your receipt for re-admission all day!
  • Monday and Friday are the least crowded days. If your visit allows, plan for one of those days.
  • Stools are available for little ones upon request, although we found ourselves lifting up our son more than we used the stool.
  • Make sure you grab a green flier by the entrance with “Did you know?” facts and information about little details to look for throughout the display. You can also find this on the Choo Choo Barn’s Facebook Page or in our previous article about the Choo Choo Barn.
  • At Christmas, look for the 51 Santas hidden throughout the display, but don’t ruin it for everyone else and give away their locations.
  • If your visit inspires you to start your own train board, visit the train shop next door to stock up on supplies.
  • Spend some time visiting the Choo Choo Barn’s You Tube Channel or browsing the website for unique and interesting stories about how Tom Groff creates the board and animations.
  • Pick up the June 2007 issue of Amish News titled, “Choo Choo Barn, A lot to “Choo” On!, near the cashier to read more about the history behind the attraction or visit the Choo Choo Barn’s website for interesting facts and tidbits.
  • A coin-operated Thomas Ride is located outside the shops, bring quarters.
  • Thomas and Chuggington wooden train tables are available for kids to play with upstairs in Thomas’ Trackside Station.


Consider visiting during Canned Food Fridays this year.

The 24th annual Canned Food Fridays event returns December 14 and 21, 2012 from 10am – 8pm. Admission is free if you donate one non-perishable food item per person.


This year, food collected will be donated to the Lampeter United Methodist Church Food Cupboard and the Chester County Food Bank. After exploring the display, children can visit Santa Claus on the second floor of The Shops of Traintown, from 3:00 p.m. – to 8:00 p.m. After their visit with Santa, children will receive a special treat from the Choo Choo Barn and a coupon for a free cookie at Isaac’s Restaurant & Deli in Strasburg.


When deciding what to bring as your “canned good”, please note that the following items are the most highly demanded, per the food banks: peanut butter, canned meats (tuna and chicken), healthy cereal, pasta and rice. Please give generously – admission is at least one item per person!


Why we love the Choo Choo Barn:

  • It never stays the same. New features and animations are added each year when they close for renovations. Come back and see if you can tell what’s different.
  • Model railroading is a fantastic and educational hobby to encourage your children to learn a variety of skills and the Choo Choo Barn is an excellent way to spark their interest and instill a passion for the hobby.
  • The Choo Choo Barn began as one father’s hobby, then became the family business and a tradition for countless other families, both locals and visitors.
  • Many of our favorite Lancaster County attractions are represented in miniature.
  • Details, Details, Details. The Choo Choo Barn truly is a work of art.

Choo Choo Barn Admission Rates

  • Adults (12 and older) $7
  • Kids (3 to 11) $4


 Choo Choo Barn Hours of Operation

  • From March 9 – December 31, 2013 Choo Choo Barn is open daily 10 am – 5 pm.
  • Admission to the displays stops at 4:30 pm or 30 minutes before the Choo Choo Barn closes for the day.


See More Choo Choo Barn Photos from Our Visit in the Facebook Gallery.


Read more about the Choo Choo Barn from our earlier visits.


Want more ideas of what to do in Lancaster visit our Weekends in Lancaster series.

Visit Lancaster

In full disclosure, this post was sponsored in part by the Choo Choo Barn who provided us with tickets to make our article possible. We were responsible for our own travel costs. Lodging for our trip was provided by the Doubletree Hotel. As always our opinions are honest and our own and based on our experiences at the Choo Choo Barn.

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