The entrance to the museum is on the street, rather than in the park. Signs will direct you to the entrance. The tour starts in the small depot house. The first room has items from old trains. China and menus from diner cars are displayed in glass cases along one wall. The china is as fine as any a bride might choose today. Other train paraphernalia, such as a large bell, sit in other cases. A small room to one side contains a display on trains in Hollywood, with posters of movies containing trains and promotional photos of stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis.
The gift shop offers books, games, toys, and plenty of Thomas the Tank Engine material. It's also where you buy your tickets. A self-guided tour comes with a pamphlet which allows you to learn a bit about each train in the yard. We could only identify some of the trains using the pamphlet. The guided tour costs a few dollars more per person. You may find it worth the extra cost.
In the Yard
Out in the train yard, we had a dandy time exploring the open trains. More than twenty trains sat on tracks, some open, some waiting to be refurbished. Most have been donated and the rest have been purchased through donated funds. The only surviving depot from Dallas is there and so is an Interlocking Tower—something like an air traffic controller tower.
Cars ready to be viewed have safety stairways rolled up to the doors. The stairways are painted black and have handrails. The cars without safety stairways may not be safe to enter.
Viewing the Cars
Entering the Santa Fe Railway #3231 Parlor-Club Car from 1914, we met a nice lady who told us about the history of the car and how it would have been used back in the day. Snacks, sandwiches, and drinks were served in the car. Anything more substantial and the passenger would need to go to the diner car next door. Large armchairs swiveled next to trays with cup holders (I suppose they were crystal glass holders back then). Buzzers along the wall allowed passengers to call for service without bringing attention to themselves.
The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad #438 Dining Car from 1937 was closed, but we could see through the window. It looked elegant and ready for fine dining. Other open cars included one of the largest steam engines ever built and a few sleeper cars. Some of the compartments were made up for sleeping and some for day service. I was surprised at how large they were.
The friendly staff made us feel welcome. It was apparent they enjoyed their jobs and wanted to share. A volunteer refurbisher invited us in to a sleeper car only partially completed. He explained the history--it was a research car for many years after it went out of general service--and they were working on restoring it to its original form. Another volunteer showed the kids how to ring the bell on an engine and then let each one ring it.
Touring the entire yard on our own took about an hour. Some of these engines are amazing in their scale and workmanship, so give yourself time to appreciate them.