We all fell in love with Savannah and this whole coastal area on this trip….much more than I expected. I’d spent some time in Savannah in college because I had a friend in school there, but the Savannah things one does when visiting friends in college are different from the Savannah things one does when visiting as a grown up with a mess of kids. For example, I never went to the train museum at all on my college visits!
The Georgia State Railroad Museum was an unexpectedly big hit for us. I think every one of us ranked it either as the number one thing we did on this trip, or at the very least tied for number one. And we’re not any more interested in trains than the average family; which is to say, we think trains are cool, but we have no special obsession with them. Our toddler has a healthy appreciation of Thomas the Tank Engine, but Blue’s Clues is really his first love. But this museum was just so awesome and so well done that it won over our whole family.
The museum is at the old railroad terminal, and they’ve kept all the old buildings and equipment mostly as is. So it’s essentially an outdoor museum; there aren’t any exhibit halls with things behind glass; instead you wander around, in and out of old train cars and buildings, and there are interpretive signs along the way to tell you about what you’re looking at. There are lots of wide open spaces, and things to touch and climb on, so it’s an amazing space for kids too young to stay interested in traditional museum exhibits, but it has enough to look at and read about to hold the interest of older kids and adults easily. It’s the holy grail of family travel: a destination that’s truly equally engaging for absolutely all ages.
The admission fee (website says $10 for adults and $6 for kids 2-12, but the guy selling tickets asked us how old Abe was and didn’t charge us for him, even though he’s 2) covers seeing all the grounds and exhibits plus a number of guided tours and activities. There’s a short narrated train ride of the grounds with either their diesel or steam engine (depending on the day you’re there); you need to ask for (free) tickets for this when you arrive to reserve a spot. There’s also a guided tour of the railroad president’s private train car, and a handcar demonstration (complete with a chance to operate the handcar). The same guy who was selling tickets when we got there did the train tour, president’s car tour, and handcar demonstration, and he really knew his stuff.
And now here are a million pictures, with minimal commentary.
Adjacent to the gift shop/ticket office, you’ll find a bunch of connected train cars that you can walk through. The first has a couple of small viewing rooms playing short films about the museum and the history of the site:
One of the coolest things about the museum is this still operating turntable; that’s the train that was doing tours the day we were there (behind Abe)–it turns around at least two different times on the turntable during the ride:
We loved how much open space there was here for the kids to run around in and explore:
The kids (umm, and Dave) got a little fixated with posing for “album covers:”
I designed the cover art for this one: a self titled debut album from a hot new band featuring three brothers: Train Museum:
Milo and Gus hanging out in front of one of the train cars accessible only through a guided tour. It was really cool to see the inside, and the tour was short enough that even Abe was fine with it:
And, finally, the train ride! They’re hoping to expand and make the ride more extensive in the future:
And then the handcar demonstration. This guy talked about it for just a couple of minutes and then anyone who wanted to got to take a turn at operating it (there was just our family and a couple of other people there when we were there; I don’t know if everyone gets a turn if it’s a busier day):
A couple of other notes that might be helpful if you visit:
*The museum is run by the Coastal Heritage Society, along with four other sites in the area (we didn’t get to any of the others on this trip, but we definitely want to next time). You can buy a discount combo pass to see any three of the sites for $17 for adults and $11 for kids.
*Two of the other sites, the Savannah History Museum and the Savannah Children’s Museum, are on the same property as the Railroad Museum; we planned to also see the Children’s Museum, but it was closed due to the weather (which was pretty chilly and windy); a sign indicated that weather-related closures are a Sunday specific thing; i.e. you can count on it being open even when it’s cold on other days.
*Speaking of weather, keep in mind that there’s not much to do here indoors; some of the areas are covered, but the vast majority is not climate controlled at all.
*There’s a small kids’ play area with train themed books and toys and a train table. We were only here a few minutes, but Abe would have been happy to stay much longer.