Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Desert Destination: Utah State Railroad Museum and a Real Train Ride

Desert Boy still loves trains, so we decided to make the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden, Utah one of our destinations on Memorial Day weekend. 
 The museum is part of Union Station, a beautiful building with an impressive main hall. We stopped briefly in the train store and then got our tickets for the museum.

 For the entrance, we walked under trestles from the very long Lucin cutoff, which was built in 1903 across the Great Salt Lake to shorten the train route. It was quite an engineering feat. In the 1950s the trestle was replaced with a causeway, which separates the lake into a northern and southern section with very different salinities, which support different lifeforms and thus cause the lake to be different colors.

I spotted a golden spike in a vault--the golden spike used for the bicentennial celebration of the meeting of the Transcontinental Railroad (coming soon to a Desert Survivor blog near you!).

I was excited to see this Gandy Dancer handcar, as I recently read Frank Wendall Call's book Gandydancer's Children: A Railroad Memoir. It talks about life on the railroad in rural Nevada and Utah during the Great Depression and is fascinating.

We got up on the handcar for a family photo. We still have troubles getting everyone to smile at the same time, but at least we're all looking in the same direction!

 Desert Boy found toy wooden trains in a corner and happily played for a few minutes. To my surprise, he didn't protest much when I said it was time to keep going.

 Maybe because he could go into a real train car and pretend to drive it.

 Then we went out in the hallway and found the model trains. The kids kept running to figure out where it had gone once it had entered a tunnel. The train was running towards us, against traffic flow, so we spent quite a bit of time in the hallway.

 All the detail that went into the scenery surrounding the model trains was amazing.

 Union Station not only houses the Utah State Railroad Museum, it also holds the John M. Brown Firearms Museum, which my husband found fascinating. The kid weren't too excited, so I took them to the next museum.

 We went right next door to the Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum. All three museums are included in the ticket price, so we had to check them out! The classic cars were stunning. I particularly liked the hood ornaments--much more elaborate than today's!

We still had a little time, so the kids wanted to go back to the train museum. Desert Girl was so excited that she could climb up and down to the cupola in the old caboose.
 She also had a turn "driving" a train.

 The trains outside were quite a sight, with the massive machines exuding power.

We really enjoyed looking at the trains. While we were there, a FrontRunner commuter train passed by. I had picked up a schedule inside and glanced at it. Then I looked at it a little more carefully. An idea was forming--perhaps we could actually ride a real train. The commuter train doesn't run on Sundays or big holidays, like Memorial Day, so if we were going to ride it, we had to ride it that day. We made a plan: we could take the 5:16 train from Ogden to three stops away, at Layton. We would get off, wait 15 minutes, then get back on. Total time: about one hour.

So we bought our tickets ($7.40 each for the older three, Desert Girl was free, so this wasn't the cheapest diversion around, but the kids really wanted to do it). We boarded the train and the kids got to pick where they wanted to sit.

 Desert Boy was all ready for this grand adventure.

 Desert Girl didn't look so sure.

 The Front Runner is relatively new. It's clean, shiny, and has double-decker cars.

 The weather was perfect for a short wait at the station. Plus the kids then had the anticipation of waiting for the returning train. I'm a big fan of making them wait--it's a good life skill!

We got back to Ogden just fine. A twenty minute ride each direction was just the right amount of time for them.

So if you're in the Salt Lake area, you could easily make a trip up to Ogden, walk two blocks to Union Station and see three museums. There's also a great cafe nearby, Karen's Cafe on 25th Street, just a couple blocks from Union Station. A nice lady on the train had suggested it, and we were very glad--great food, reasonably priced, and a great way to finish our train adventures for the day.

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