Feel the heat from the firebox. Hear the bell and whistle. Smell the hot steam and oil. Feel the ground vibrate under your feet. See the one ton drive rods turn the wheels. Hear the chuff-chuff-chuff of the smokestack. Today, you can relive the era of steam as the engines come back to life. The cinders, grease, oil, steam, people and stories of railroading have returned.
The "Scranton Limited" short train rides are $3.00 per person all ages 6 and older.
My family visited the Steamtown National Historic Site on a Saturday afternoon in October.
While we did not take the excursion train, it did return back to Steamtown during our visit to the site. It looked like there were a lot of families enjoying the excursion train to Moscow, PA in peak fall foliage. We did take a shorter trip with the neighboring Trolley Museum (which requires no prior reservations) along part of the route. it was a nice scenic trip - especially in comparison to other excursion trains that we have taken.
With a five year old boy, usually we skip the movie or introductory film at historic sites - especially if they are more than 15 minutes long. I am glad that we took the time to watch this one. It tells the story of a little boy that grows up to have a career in the railroad industry. It's not the most modern or informative video, but it is a good one for kids.
For the most part, the museum exhibits require reading skills are not very interactive. Train-lovers, like my husband, might find a room of steam engines organized by date of manufacture and type interesting, but there was little to inspire younger kids.
However, there were a few highlights. An archeology exhibit where kids dig through coal/rock to find objects was a hit with my five and six year old. A cut out of a steam engine, a postal rail car and a caboose were also highlights.
Trains and the Roundhouse
The Roundhouse (and train engines inside) is the highlight of the historic site. It is worth a walk through for anyone visiting the area. It is easy to step back in time and imagine the sights, sounds, and smells of the steam/industrial era.
My husband loves trains - so we visit lots of train museums. I've never seen anything quite like this roundhouse. It is really special.
There is also a train engine just inside the entrance to Steamtown that visitors can go inside and ring the bell. Of course, this was a highlight for my five year old boy.
There are few interactive exhibits at the Steamtown National Historic site that young children will be drawn towards. A Junior Ranger booklet is available. The Roundhouse is unique and really transports visitors back in time to the era of steam and industry in Northeast PA.
Railroad buffs of all ages won’t want to miss Steamtown. Occupying fifty-two acres of a working railroad yard in downtown Scranton, Steamtown traces the history of railroading in the region and throughout the country. The structure, opened in 1995, includes a visitor center, a theater, an operating turntable, technology and history museums, a renovated roundhouse, and a museum store.
Watch the eighteen-minute film Steel and Steam to learn about the history of American steam railroading. At the history museum meet the people (actually lifelike statues) who worked, used, and depended on the railroad. Visit the roundhouse to see several examples from the Steamtown collection of locomotives and railroad cars. Learn about locomotive design and railroad communications at the technology museum.
From Steamtown you can board a rail excursion along the Pocono Mainline or ride the Heritage Valley Station Stops on the former D&H Mainline ($$$ for adults, $$ for seniors and children) or to the historic Radisson Lackawanna Hotel (included in general admission). According to one park ranger, children are “glued to the window or fast asleep during these trips. Either way, it’s great for parents!” Call the park for current information and train schedules.
The Steamtown site is wheelchair accessible, and there are restrooms with changing tables. The excursion is accessible, but prior reservations are required. There are chemical toilets on the train, and snacks are available during a brief stop at Moscow.
After touring Steamtown, walk up the long ramp to the mall at Steamtown. (On rainy days, or when little ones are tired, it may be better to drive to the mall and park in the lot there.) There’s a food court with fast food for every taste. If you prefer a more leisurely dining experience, head downstairs, or into town where there are many restaurants to choose from.