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Model train festival returns to Washington State History Museum

Children love model trains. Photo courtesy Washington State History Museum

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Kids of all ages are sure to be amazed when the 24th annual Model Train Festival comes to the Washington State History Museum, arriving shortly before Christmas.

There will be seven to eight large model train layouts in the museum, some filling entire galleries. There will be a group that promotes safety around railroads and crossings, and a group that brings a telegraph machine -- something that used to be found at every train station and was vital to communication along the lines.

The museum's Great Hall features railroad history and makes a connection to immigration.

Trains from railroad clubs statewide will be on view, including Kitsap Live Steamers' 7.5-inch gauge railroad engines, Mount Rainier N-Scale layout with miniature scenery of Western Washington, and on permanent display the state's largest train layout operated by Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers. Train operators will be there to answer questions, and kids can make their own train creations.

A special feature will be the freight train simulator. "The train simulator lets visitors step up into a simulation of the engineer's seat. You'll see a virtual track complete with buildings, rolling hills, even cows on the sidelines. As the engineer, you're in charge of moving the train into motion, and you're looking down a virtual track through what feels like a large window surround. You can feel the speed pick up, you're in control of that, and coming to a stop, you get a sense of how long that takes. It's a very interesting and cool experience being the engineer," said Julianna Verboort, museum marketing and communications director.

"Visitors had a great time with the freight train simulator last year," said Mark Sylvester, director of Museum Support Services. "How often do you get to drive a train? It's a unique experience. It is eye-opening, too, in regard to safety around train tracks."

"What I enjoy most about the model train festivals is seeing people connect," Verboort added. "Families come in and from the grandparents to the toddlers, everyone is delighted by watching the trains. Even teenagers enjoy it, so it's a great outing for groups of family and friends with mixed ages and maybe not a lot of overlap in general in interests. Something about model railroads and the fascination of the miniature landscapes is magical and almost everyone connects with it. We see literally hundreds of joyful faces all day long during the model train festival."

Other features include the Write 253 Pop Up Print Shop where you can make your own prints. And Santa will be there. Pictures with Santa will be free Dec. 21-23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and at Member Appreciation Night Dec. 21.

The festival runs through Jan. 1 but will be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

24th ANNUAL MODEL TRAIN FESTIVAL, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Dec. 20-Jan. 1, 2020, Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, $14, $5 for TeenTix cardholders on Dec. 22, free to Washington State Historical Society members,

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