All aboard! 38th Annual Model Railroad Show pulls into to the Science Museum of Virginia

Kick of the holiday season with a Thanksgiving weekend visit to the 38th Annual Model Railroad Show at the Science Museum of Virginia.

Photos by ©Sean DeWitt Photography

When and why did the holidays and model trains become things that go together? Nostalgia? A need to put like with like–the twee with the twee? Or did Santa hop on a steam engine in some version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas that I just don’t know about?

I can’t figure it out, but I’ll tell you this: I don’t hate it. Christmas and model trains go together likes peas and carrots, so says the world, and this fact I will gladly embrace. And you can, too! Just when the holidays “officially” start, no less!

Thanksgiving weekend the 38th Annual Model Railroad Show is scheduled to pull into the Science Museum of Virginia1, bringing with it what looks to be a whole mess of train-centric fun.

Right on the Museum’s first floor you’ll find seven intricate (and, I’m told, “giant”) model railroads featuring layouts ranging from traditional to unique to just plain quirky. The masterminds responsible for constructing these amazing models will be on-hand during the show to run their trains and answer any and all questions you might have about the world of model railroads2. Be sure to also head over to the Challenge Lab to uncover the science of trains (circuits! electromagnets!) and learn more about the “magic” behind making those train models go.

Once you’ve had enough of all that tiny trains business, go out back to the spot once used as Broad Street Station’s loading area for a tour of the Museum’s historic train cars, including Car ONE, a luxury Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad train car that features a sitting room, individual bedrooms (with sinks and toilets), a dining room, and kitchen. The Model Railroad Show is the only time of the year that Car ONE is open for the general public, so don’t sleep on this one, train enthusiasts! Or fancy stuff enthusiasts!

Throughout the weekend you’ll also get a chance to watch a blacksmith in action and pay a visit to a Clydesdale or two–the original iron horses3–and on Friday only junior conductors can climb aboard the Teddybear Express, a fun little trackless train ride treat4.

The 38th Annual Model Railroad Show runs Friday, November 27th through Sunday, November 29th and is included with exhibit admission to the Science Museum of Richmond5. For more information about this event, museum hours, and admission options, visit

  1. An appropriate setting considering the SMV’s digs are the former Broad Street Station, a union railroad station that provided passenger service from 1917 until 1975. 
  2. I just spent a good 30 minutes reading through the scales and gauges section of the rail transport modeling wikipedia page, and now I can’t wait to pretend to know what I’m talking about when I meet these people. 
  3. The term “iron horse” is a nickname for the steam engine. Yeah, that’s a little inside baseball for ya. 
  4. Teddybear Express is the cutest name for anything that can ever happen. Shut it down, guys. 
  5. Free for members; $11 for adults, $10 for kids ages 4 to 12; kids under 3 are free with a paid adult admission. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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