Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum

Between Lexington Ave. and Snelling Ave. on Energy Park Drive there is a historical-looking building called Bandana Square.   Located in Bandana Square is a fascinating museum…At least for history lovers, train lovers, toy lovers, and nostalgia lovers.

The Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum is located on the 2nd floor of Bandana Square. It is open Tuesday through Sunday. Tuesday-Friday from 10:00 am-3:00 pm, Saturdays, 10:00 am-5:00 pm, and Sundays 12:00 pm-5:00 pm. Admission is $6.00 for anyone over 5. All those under 5 are FREE.

The Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum began as the St. Paul Craftsmen Cluband  has been around since 1934.  Originally, their tracks were laid at the Union Depot in St. Paul, but when that closed, the club moved to various locations eventually ending up in Bandana Square in St. Paul. Meticulously building displays, they showed the history of the railways in the Twin Cities both of the steam locomotive and diesel engines in the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s using O Scale models.

Let me tell you something that I learned while visiting–even if you don’t think you need to know anything about model trains. This is fun to know.

They have different size scales. O is the original size for a model train.  Thus O is for Original.  They made a size that was half the size of O and they called it HO–Half Original.  The G Scale is named because they are much bigger and are for outdoors in your garden.  G is for Garden.  The other sizes I have no idea, but the smallest is Z and I believe that is completely appropriate!

Back to the Twin Cities Model RailRoad Museum–TCMRM.

So the TCMRM was built as a type of historical (even artistic) museum to appreciate the history of the Twin Cities and the railways.  It is a display to admire.  Not touch.

The museum is operated solely by volunteers.

 In 2002, the Toy Train Division opened alluring even more train lovers–younger and older.

On Saturdays and Sundays The Toy Train Division is open located in the Chimney’s Building.  It’s a separate building just across a the road (I don’t even want to call it a road because it is in the middle of the parking lot, but I don’t know what else to call it.)

The Toy Train Division is where we spent our afternoon.  Chad Kono, the museum’s vice president of public relations,  met me there and showed me and my train-giddy children around.  He explained that this was the place to come as a little person because you get to interact with the trains.  He stated that it is also a great place for older generations to come and relive the nostalgia of their train sets as kids with brands like Lionel. It is a great multi-generational facility.

Word of caution:  While it is perfect for children, you must keep your eyes on them at all time.  Chad and I were chatting when one of my dudes decided he needed to rearrange a display.

Here are some of the fun things you can enjoy:

  • Manning the Throttle on your own train

  • The most popular line.  Everything on this display has something you can operate.

  • Brio tracks for the youngest enthusiasts.

  • Different models of varying scales.

And just before we left, there was this model


  • The different sizes of trains, the number of trains, trains EVERYWHERE! 
  • Three layouts of varying tracks available on which to operate your own train.  Two of the layouts were Thomas.  
  • The volunteers were very enthusiastic and eager to help out. You can tell they love to be there. 
There are two different types of membership to TCMRM.  You can be a participating member or a visiting member.  A participating member works on the models and is a part of building the museum.  A visiting member is like a typical membership to a museum.  You pay a yearly rate and get unlimited passes for museum admission.  
During the months of November through February, they have a special engagement on Saturday nights from 6:00-9:00 pm.  It is $8 for anyone over 5, but they have special pricing.
Night Trains is an annual tradition both in the original museum wing and the Toy Train Division.  By turning all the overhead lighting off and turning on the display lights on the models, Night Trains is truly special (at least that’s in the words of Chad Kono).  I didn’t get to stay and see them.  Before I visited the TCMRM for myself, I thought how can turning the lights off be that special?  And even though I didn’t get to see them myself, by experiencing the museum lit up, I could envision it lit only by the light of the trains and I was eager to come back to see them. For many families it has become a holiday tradition.
You will become a child again and be as excited as your children at the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum.  I urge you to check it out.  It’s open all year long!

About giannarae

I am a child of God who has been given the humbling job of being a wife and a mother to 4. Those whom He has given to me are my Sweet Peas and Buddies and one Honey.
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