Last fall my son was very into trains and wanted to ride on one for his birthday. We were happy to read right here on LouFamFun.net about the Kentucky Railway Museum, not far from home, which offers regular excursions in addition to a little museum and an expansive collection of rail cars and engines outside. To make it even more exciting, the weekend we wanted to go when grandparents were in town happened to be a special event, a Train Robbery. We had no idea how much fun it would be and what a perfect celebration my son would have!
We hopped in the car and took a pleasant just over an hour drive on I65 and several interesting country roads to get to the train station in New Haven, KY. The regular excursion, shop, and museum have been reviewed before HERE, so I will focus mainly on what made this themed excursion so special.
We arrived early and were excited to see all kinds of activity happening at the far end of the parking lot- people in period costumes, horses, and a general bustle of preparation. My son loved the authentic unused ticket window inside and was happy that the people in costumes were in full character by now and interacting with each other and the small crowd. They kindly posed for photos and asked my son numerous times if he was interested in being sworn in as a deputy. Another little boy eagerly accepted, but my son already thought something suspicious was happening so declined.
We still had some time, so walked outside to check out the collection of train cars and engines lined up on nearby tracks, as well as lots of authentic train memorabilia outside of the main building. My soon-to-be five year old really got into examining these cars, including what was on the underside and what made each operate.
Then we went to the platform to watch them ready the train and hear the announcement whistles and messages. We knew from the website that the old steam engine that usually pulls this train was out of commission for some TLC, but loved the fun yellow engine that pulled us too. We chose our seats after walking through every car and settled in for the scenic ride, passing over a couple of bridges and some pretty scenery, mixed in with some country homes and yards. The conductor punched our tickets, an important thing to my son for this to be a real train ride. The characters made the great view and authentic train details almost secondary because they were so much fun and deeply involved in the scenes they created and getting the audience to participate. Before we knew it, 45 minutes or an hour past and we were at our halfway point.
You can stay on as they turn the train around or exit to watch and take a stretch/bathroom break at the little store. We purchased some delicious biscuits and candy for the return trip- snacks & drinks are allowed except popcorn- and went back outside to watch them turn the train. To our delight, the actors had exited too and put on a great show of arresting the suspected bootleggers (they referred to the stuff in their truck as apple pie the whole time so you do not have to explain this to your kids more than you want to- my son still talks about apple pie months later!). Please note that they use the guns they’ve been carrying and the sound does sound awfully authentic, so if you have very young or noise sensitive kids or just prefer not to be around gun replicas, you might want to skip this part or wait until they are older to enjoy this excursion.
On the way back, some of the sweet actresses heard we were there to celebrate our son’s birthday and gathered all of the actors and actresses together to sing to him and gave him several bills of recreated period money, which he promptly hid when he caught one of the “bad guys” eyeing it. This became another fun element with the Sherriff talking about it and my son even hiding it from him, who was clearly the leader of the “good guys.” Soon we saw shady looking characters on horseback outside and realized we were under threat of robbery! They even came on board and tried to take actresses as hostages and rob us riders. We realized later, this was a collection for Crusade for Children, so made sure to leave a donation before leaving the station. In the end, the Sherriff and his team overpowered them and we were all safe. We said our goodbyes and thanked them all for making my son’s day so very special. Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, they told us to come to the front parking lot after a few minutes once the horses returned because they’d lead the kids on some horseback rides. My son was THRILLED and they even let him wear a hat and hold some weaponry.
While we waited to do that, we were able to take a peek in the back shop at the L&N 152 that would have normally pulled our train and visit the small but really interesting museum, which is loaded with artifacts and has a few interactive features, like a giant chalk board engine to sign, as well as two stocked train tables. My son looked quickly through the exhibits and then played, which gave the rest of us a chance to really read and enjoy the displays. We bought a few small things from the cute little shop, made note of other special events coming up, and then went to a good lunch and ice cream at nearby Short Line Diner which lured us with a great smell from the outdoor smoker. Next, we made a short impromptu stop at Lincoln’s Boyhood Home at Knob Creek not far from the Railway Museum, and even stumbled upon a neat gathering of vintage American automobiles on our meandering way back to the interstate. They cruise the square every 3rd Saturday in Hodgenville. My son loves all things cars too, so this was a wonderful end to a perfect birthday celebration and day trip!
The Train Robbery looks to be scheduled monthly through November this year and I highly recommend it. Check their website for more information, fare prices, to pre-purchase tickets, and a calendar of other special events, as well as regular excursions, all of which happen on weekends. They offer several discounts too, so be sure to see if you qualify for any. If my son is still interested when he is old enough, we will bring him back and pay extra for the very special locomotive ride up front with the engineer!
By guest contributor: Angela