When I was a kid, we visited Lancaster County A LOT. While most of the exact places we visited and things we did didn’t stick with me, there’s one place that always has: the Choo Choo Barn in Strasburg, PA.
The Choo Choo Barn is located just down the road from the popular Strasburg Railroad and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. This model railroad has been attracting visitors for nearly six decades and is just as much fun for my children as it was for me.
The Choo Choo Barn got its start in the basement of the Groff family home in Strasburg.
Soon, their family hobby, which started with a Christmas gift in 1945, began attracting the attention of locals. As the miniature railroad continued to grow and more and more people wanted to see it, the Groff family decided to officially open the railroad to visitors in a barn-like building on the edge of town.
Over the decades, more and more people came to visit and the attraction grew and grew. Today, the layout is said to be 1,700-square feet in size and to contain 22 different model railroads. New displays are added every year!
After paying for admission in the gift shop, entrance to the display is through a black curtain.
If you’ve never visited the Choo Choo Barn before, expect to be blown away as soon as you walk through the curtain. The entire display is laid out before you and is definitely an impressive sight.
To see the display, visitors walk clockwise along the edge of the room. The walls are low enough that young children can usually see into the display, and there are stools scattered throughout the space to give them an even better look.
The highlight, of course, is the many model trains, some of which have been designed to look like historic railroads that once ran through the region. However, there are also over 150 small moving characters and scenes in the space.
As you walk around the Choo Choo Barn, it’s really neat to notice all the intricate details of the display. In fact, I’m sure you could go around the display 10 times and still see new things on your 11th trip.
A few of my favorite scenes in the space include the incredible circus scene, a car accident, and the firetruck putting out a fire at a home. There are also replicas of local destinations such as the Strasburg Railroad, a Turkey Hill Minit Market, and Dutch Wonderland.
Even cooler is that the display at the Choo Choo Barn cycles into nighttime periodically. When this happens, thousands of small lights come on throughout the display, providing a totally different look to the scenes.
Lancaster County’s Choo Choo Barn also takes on a different look during the holiday season. While the general layout and scenes stay the same (including the summertime baseball game), pretend snow is added to many areas of the layout to make it look like wintertime, and Santa hats are put on top many of the miniature characters’ heads.
Even more fun, there are over 50 small Santa’s hidden throughout the display each holiday season. It can be a ton of fun to walk around and see how many of them you can find.
The Choo Choo Barn in Lancaster County is the type of place that you could breeze through if you wanted to, but you’d really miss a lot of the small details that make this display so great. In fact, I’d recommend going around the display at least twice during your visit so you can see as much as possible, though you could certainly circle the display many more times.
To me, the only problem with the Choo Choo Barn is that the pathways are a bit on the narrow side, so this makes passing slower guests a bit challenging. Because of this, it can sometimes take a little while to get through the display, especially on busier days.
This, however, is a small issue that takes away very little from an otherwise fantastic display.
If you love trains or are looking for a family-friendly destination in Lancaster County, you definitely don’t want to miss the fantastic Choo Choo Barn in Strasburg, PA.
Choo Choo Barn
Hours: Daily: 10a-5p
Cost: Adults: $8.50, Children: $5
Address: 226 Gap Road