When I would tell people my son loved trains they would tell me that their child loves trains too, but it takes a certain kind of child to be THIS obsessed about the locomotive. Their kids may have liked trains, but mine ONLY liked trains. One of his first words was choo choo. We could sit in the car and just watch trains go by for an hour. I could put him in his play pen with a train DVD and he would be involved in it for hours. Not just kid train shows, but documentaries on trains. And that was when he was only two. I would be back and forth to the computer to switch shaky homemade video clips of trains going by on YouTube. He can fill the floor of a whole room with all his wooden tracks and accessories.
My other son liked trains, but was not this crazy about it. You don’t know how much a kid could love trains unless you meet Dylan or someone like him. There used to be a boy who visited the public library where I once worked and I thought he was a bit odd for showing up in his train costume, checking out only train books, and visiting the train museum, but then I had that son. He is no longer as into trains as he was. He still loves them more than anything else, but in his five years of life he has developed other interests too. So if you have a train loving son or daughter, here are some of our favorite train places to go to in the area to keep them awed and entertained.
- Model train clubs. There are many local model train clubs. We go to the Chicagoland Lionel Railroad Club in New Lenox. http://www.clrctrains.com/index_user.asp It is almost as good as the train set at the museum of Science and Industry. There are two floors and buttons to press to make objects move around the tracks and tracks of model trains being run by the members. You can spend one hour or more. It is only $8 for your entire family or $3 per person. There is also a club in Elmhurst, but search online for more.
- Train restaurants. There are many around. We go to All Aboard in Frankfort, formerly Choo Choo Johnny’s and Train Car Tommy’s. We also sometimes go to Two Toots in Glen Ellyn. But there is one in Downers Grove and Oak Park and maybe one coming to Brookfield and I am sure there are more if you just search online. They usually have a train deliver your food and other basic train rides or trains to view.
- Train museums. We love the Illinois Railway Museum in Union Illinois. It is not too expensive. You can sometimes get a Groupon or a free pass from your library too. You can ride a train or trolley or sometimes two and walk through large barns/ warehouses of old life-size trains. You can even go in some of the trains. They host the Day Out with Thomas, but it is so crowded and more expensive and my son didn’t want to do any of the Thomas stuff anyway so we prefer to go on another day. It is also close to the Wild West museum which I read also has a train. We have been to the Hesston Train Museum in Indiana, where you can ride small, medium, and large trains through the forest. They have a former Kiddie land and Brookfield Zoo train. We hope to get to the museum in Monticello someday too.
- Train expos. There is one in LaGrange in the fall and one in Wheaton almost monthly. There you can find more information about other clubs and see many train set ups. Last year in LaGrange they even had a Lego train set up.
- Train parks. Many parks have train themes such as the one at the Brookfield Zoo. There is also one in Brookfield on Maple and Orland Park on Wolf Rd. Tinley Park has a train car near a park by their public library. These are not that exciting, but they are free and train loving kids will enjoy them.
- Train rides. Malls often have train rides. The Stratford mall train is the best because it takes you off a track through the whole first floor of the mall. There is kind of a train at Santa’s Village and one at Blackberry Farm in Aurora. Sometimes special events will have trains as well. Some of the fall pumpkin farms and fests will have them.
- Train trips. Why not take a trip to Chicago or another town? My son loves riding on the top level of the Metra. You can also take a subway ride in Chicago. Of course, there are Amtrak trips and other long distance trips you can look into as well if you really want to wow your child.
- The Polar Express. Book a ride on the Polar Express or a Christmas train due to copyright. Here is a web site detailing many of them. http://www.santainchicago.com/santaonthetrain/santaandtrains.htm . We like the Fox River Trolley Museum train best. But we have also tried the Lisle ride. Lisle is great because it is less expensive and easier to get tickets. For Fox River you have to book in June. Others you have to book on the day tickets become available. We just thought the Lisle one was a bit long and we were one of the last cars so we did not get much time with Santa. Places with trains like the Railway Museum and Blackberry Farm turn their trains into Christmas trains for the season. You can also often view the movie around Christmastime at local theaters and libraries sometimes in collaboration with special programs or events.
- Trolley rides. My son thinks a trolley is just as good as a train. You can often find trolley or tram rides at house tours or town special events. The Morton Arboretum has one as well.
- Train depots. These are not as exciting, but old train depots can still thrill your train obsessed child. There is an old one in Brookfield and Lisle and in many other places. Search for train depots in Illinois.
Photos: Illinois Railway Museum, Chicagoland Lionel Railway Club in New Lenox, Train Expo in LaGrange, Blackberry Farm in Aurora, IL.
Note: I’m not sure where the phrase “Addicted to Track” originated, but I first saw it on the t-shirt in the photo. The Etsy shop it came from is not currently open, but I hope it returns soon. https://www.etsy.com/shop/elementalshop?ref=l2-shopheader-name .
Filed under: Exploring Illinois