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Get railroaded

You won’t regret going to the Washington State History Museum

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Rarely do kids and grownups agree on entertainment. Usually, activities that make kids squeal with excitement grownups find, at best, irritating. Kids like cartoons and playgrounds. Grownups like John Malkovich movies and the Jim Lehrer News Hour. Finding something that kids and grownups can agree on is usually a tall task.

The Washington State History Museum next to Union Station in downtown Tacoma has an answer. For the past 12 years the museum has been home to the largest permanent model railroad layout in the state of Washington. Measuring an astonishing 1,800 square feet, the Washington State History Museum’s model railroad display is as big as it is detailed — depicting 1950s era Tacoma and several styles of locomotives, and consistently bringing a smile to the face of kids and grownups alike.

But it gets even better.

Running from Wednesday, Dec. 26 through Tuesday, Jan. 1, the Washington State History Museum, as it does every year, will host the 12th Annual Model Train Festival. Besides the museum’s aforementioned permanent display, every floor of the museum will be packed with exhibits and activities designed to celebrate model railroads and provide entertainment for the whole family. According to the press release, “Temporary displays will include a variety of holiday-themed layouts and dioramas, including a LEGO display featuring a wintertime scene of a 1930s village complete with street cars and lit buildings. There will also be a play area where kids of all ages can make their own LEGO creations.”

The epicenter of the annual model train festival will, as usual, be the permanent model railroad display. The display is controlled and operated by the Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers. Gary Frederickson proudly owns the job title of Chief Engineer.

“The (Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineer’s) charter with the museum is to build, operate and maintain the display. The layout we have depicts this area in the 1950s. Everything on the layout looks exactly the way it did, at least as much as possible,” explains Frederickson.

“It’s always really gratifying to see people’s reactions. The display also serves the purpose of showing how railroad contributed to the economic development of our regions.

“The museum hosts a lot of school kids. The younger kids are thrilled to see anything moving. The adults and old timers appreciate it because it helps them remember things they’ve lived through and experienced. The best part of my job is the satisfaction of creating something that depicts historical accuracy, and interacting with the public.”

Without a doubt, there will be something for everyone. Whether you’re an old timer who remembers when steam locomotives helped build Tacoma or a youngster who just likes LEGOS and things that move, the Model Train Festival is an event worth dropping in on. Bring the whole family.

[Washington State History Museum, Dec. 26-Jan. 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, until 8 p.m. Thursday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, $6-$8, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 888.238.4373]

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