Sunday, December 14, 2008

Brunswick Model Railroad Museum

A few weeks ago, I drove to work for one reason or another and was listening to the radio on the drive home. There was an ad on the radio from MiniCooper that was something like, "One-day road trips in the DC area you can do in your MiniCooper #247... Visit the Model Railroad Museum in Brunswick, Maryland." The ad went on to describe how fun it would be to take your MiniCooper for a long drive through the country and gave you a destination to seek out and enjoy the ride. I said to myself, "Self, I didn't realize there was a model railroad museum in Brunswick, Maryland... for that matter, I don't have the foggiest idea where Brunswick, Maryland is."

So I googled it when I got home. Low and behold, Brunswick is right across the Rt. 15 bridge at Point of Rocks, MD and up the river a little ways, only about 30 minutes from our house.

Since our boys love all things related to trains, I thought it would be fun to take them there. So Saturday afternoon, the boys and I loaded up in the car and headed up to Brunswick.

We parked in the commuter parking lot next to the Brunswick train station. We actually got to see a few real live trains go by. Within moments of us parking the car, a HUGE freight train went roaring by on the rails about 30 feet in front of our car with nothing between us and the train to prevent us from walking right up to it.

I went to the museum expecting to pay $6 for me and $3 for the boys for admission. However (comma) when we walked in the front door, the lady at the counter told us that there was a special promotion going on in Frederick County yesterday and the museum was FREE!!

SCORE!!! Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

It doesn't look like much from the outside, but there are actually four floors of stuff inside. It's kind of hidden in the downtown area of Brunswick, with a small white sign overhanging the sidewalk.

On the first floor, there is a small National Park Service museum about the history of Brunswick and the railroad and canal traffic that built the town. Plus there is a gift shop and very nice, clean restrooms. Also, as part of the special promo yesterday, they had Santa there doing free photographs with the kids, but you know my kids were too shy to set foot in the same room with him.

Down in the basement, they had a special setup of a G Scale model railroad for the holidays. I'm not sure what they put in there when the holiday train isn't up.

The G-Scale setup in the basement.

On the second floor are static displays of what life was like during the Victorian Age when the town was founded alongside the railroad ("the town the railroad built"). Right as you walk in the door from the stairs, there are three colored sheets of questions you can ask your kids to help them think about and learn from the exhibits. I thought they were very useful and got us to appreciate the modern conveniences we have in our lives today.

The Parlor. Here we talked about what families did for entertainment and how they heated and cooled their home.

The bedroom. Here we talked about how many people slept in the same bedroom (Mommy, Daddy, and one child in the bed, and baby in the crib), the chamber pot and the pitcher and bowl on the bureau.

The school house. Here we talked about the desks and the chalkboards.

The kitchen. Here we talked about what they used as fuel for the stove and since they didn't have a refrigerator we talked about ice houses.

On the third floor was a sort of museum section with lots of old railroad equipment and artifacts.

Also on the third floor was a very large model railroad layout that started in Washington, DC, and followed the train through Silver Spring and Point of Rocks out past Brunswick.

Union Station, Washington, DC

That's the Point of Rocks bridge we drove over the Potomac River on our way up to Brunswick.

See, this is the real Point of Rocks bridge on our way home.

There were some small red buttons for kids to push that made sound effects along the way.

YB watching the trains go by.

It was a nicely done setup, and the boys and I enjoyed walking back and forth checking out the scenery and watching the model trains go by.

I took this video following one of the trains from DC out past Brunswick while YB was riding on my shoulders. He was very concerned and wanted to be sure that I got the cows in the video (the little toy cows on the farm next to the railroad).

Of course, after YB got to ride on my shoulders and enjoy the bird's-eye view of the railroad for a while, ES wanted a turn...

Oh my gosh is he heavy.

Given the choice between going to the Northern Virginia Model Railroad Museum in Vienna and coming here to Brunswick, I think this one was better. There was a lot more to see here. Even if it hadn't been free the day we went, I think it would have been worth the price of admission.

The down side is that you'll save some money at the Vienna museum because they don't charge admission (but they're only open one Saturday per month), and they don't have a gift shop, so your kids won't be whining asking you to buy them $50 model train sets.

So even though I have no intention of buying a MiniCooper anytime soon, thanks MiniCooper for the ad that led us to the Brunswick Model Railroad Museum!

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