Take a look inside TrainTopia, the super cool miniature train exhibit now open in Frisco
If you’re like me, the idea of spending an hour looking at model trains sounds like a hellish plan. But having previewed the new TrainTopia exhibit now open in Frisco’s Museum of the American Railroad at the Frisco Discovery Center, I can promise you that you will love this display. It’s the best $4 ticket you’ll buy this summer for your kid. Here’s everything you need to know about TrainTopia, plus a video tour inside.
TrainTopia (“a railroad odyssey in miniature” says the brochure) is a 2,500-square-foot intricately detailed diorama that sets a half-dozen trains in motion across the American Southwest of the 1960s. The trains move through downtown Dallas, Palo Duro Canyon, New Mexico and Arizona, puffing white clouds of steam as they chug around mountains, through tunnels and across desert landscapes.
The set-up is nearly identical to the way it was displayed by the Sanders family in their home until the entire set was donated to the museum, The museum spent more than a year recreating the layout and adding a $60,000 high tech theatrical lighting system that can simulate thunderstorms, slowly transition from dawn to dusk, and create night scenes in the span of about 17 minutes, says museum president Bob LaPrelle.
“My favorite part of the display is downtown Main Street,” which reflects downtown Dallas in the 1960s, LaPrelle told me during a TrainTopia preview. (You can follow along with LaPrelle on a tour of the downtown in the video above.)
“You’ll see the old cars, the signage, lots of little details. Look down the street and you’ll spot a car signaling to turn right with its red blinker on. There’s pedestrians window shopping, the train stop at Union Station, even the old Texaco station that I remember as a kid,” all lighted up so you can peek in their interiors and see merchandise, shopkeepers and customers.
The Southland Life building, the Mercantile Bank and the State Theater are all there, too. Up one street, there’s an automobile showroom and store fronts. Down another, it’s more shops, street lights, traffic lights – and trains.
“It’s a slice of the American Southwest,” LaPrelle says.”It’s faithful to the original home display except we slightly widened it to allow space for about 50 visitors at a time,” which means you can also tour the larger outdoor train museum if there’s a wait for access.
Tickets to TrainTopia cost $4 for kids and $8 for adults and can be purchased in advance at Historictrains.org.
8004 N. Dallas Pkwy, Frisco, (214) 428-0101 or Historictrains.org.
Want an even better sneak peek and an overview of what you’ll see? Here you go: