This Saturday, May 12, marks the fifth annual National Train Day event across the United States. Created and sponsored by Amtrak, National Train Day has spawned events of all types all with one goal in mind – sharing the fun, history, and learning power of trains with families.

Trains really are a great family past time. Traveling by train is a much more family friendly way to go – yes it may take a little longer than a flight, but you’re adding quality time as a family and avoiding a lot of hassle at the terminal, the fares are great, and you can actually make the travel a part of the trip itself. What better way to teach your kids about the world than to let them see it – not just fly over it. Then there are all of the great excursion railroads where you can take the train not to go anywhere, but just to go!

But without a doubt, one of the greatest family hobbies is model trains. Not only do you share and learn together, but you create something all your own – and a tradition and bond that goes way beyond the edge of the platform. It’s great to see the railroads themselves helping share in that delight and tradition.

From big railroad companies like Amtrak, Union Pacific, BNSF and Norfolk Southern to railroad museums and historical societies, model railroad clubs, even zoos and aquariums – just about anybody with a connection to trains has jumped on board this event. Many of these special programs are offered free of charge and are designed to appeal to audiences of all ages.

For a complete list of what is happening this year, check out the National Train Day website. Amtrak is sponsoring big events in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. These events will include all sorts of train displays, from equipment tours to live entertainment to model layouts. You can check out the Chicagoland Lionel Railroad Club in Chicago’s Union Station. The myriad of additional programs offered are far to great to list here.

How Can You Share in the Fun?

Well for starters, you can take your family to one of these events! But of course there is much more that you can do. Maybe there just isn’t something that close to home or you’ve already made your plans this weekend. (Or did you forget that Sunday is Mothers’ Day? Yikes!) Have your own family train day at home. Set up the trains, work on a building kit together, invite the neighbors over to see your layout… you get the idea!

And while you’re at it, give some thought to National Train Day 2013 – maybe you could help bring an event to your hometown. It’s a great way for local clubs to involve the public. You could also host an event at a local library or community center. Give a clinic on how to set up a layout. Read children’s stories. Help the local scout troop with their Railroading Merit Badge. Invite railroaders, active and retired, to come for a dinner and roundtable discussion – that’s guaranteed to be an evening you’ll never forget!

There are really only two things required for a Train Day event – trains and sharing. We know you’ve got the trains, we hope you’ll share the hobby with those around you. And please, while you’re at it, share you’re pictures and stories from your National Train Day with us!


Here are lists of the major National Train Day events in the big metro areas:





“Photos courtesy of Lionel L.L.C. All rights reserved.”