Aside from the lack of responsibilities, the best part of childhood was the front seat of the train, where every steel curve came straight at me. Oh, I love seeing things from the air and behind the wheel, but trains are magical roaring beasts that I tip my hat to on National Train Day, this May 9th.
And don’t just think steam engines and Shining Time Station. City rail systems are just as good and are great ways to tour as an adult. Think about it: locals rely on them, big maps are everywhere to be found, and the stations will have to go by and drop off at attractions.
Take a look at American cities with their fantastic skyways, light rails, trolleys…what else do you need? Museums to talk about all of them! So I challenge you: ride the rails to a few of my highlighted halls of learning about…rails.
- New York Transit Museum (New York, New York)
The New York subway has enough rail to wrap around New York several times, and it really does get you everywhere in the city. Why wouldn’t they have a museum dedicated to it? This place has staked a claim on being the only “urban transit” museum, dedicated solely to subways and their kin.
Getting there: From the NY MTA website, 2, 3, 4, 5 to Borough Hall; A, C, F to Jay St-Borough Hall; M, R to Court St.
- For bonus points!
New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex & Store at Grand Central Terminal
There are always more miles to learn about urban transit.
Getting there: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central-42 St.
- San Francisco Railway Museum (San Francisco, California)
What could be as famous as New York’s subway? How about San Francisco’s trolleys, bouncing up and down hilly streets? San Francisco Railway Museum preserves the history of those lines, not to mention that you can still take the historic F-line there!
Getting there: From Market Street Railway, “The San Francisco Railway Museum is conveniently located where Market Street meets The Embarcadero, in the Hotel Vitale building. Only steps away from the landmark Ferry Building and the Embarcadero BART station, the museum is easy to reach on the F-line, the California Street cable car, BART, Muni Metro and ferries from around the Bay Area.”
- Phoenix Trolley Museum (Phoenix, Arizona)
It’s not a train system, but it’s considered “light rail.” The word “rail” still counts, and I bet you won’t be complaining anyway when you watch the Phoenix sun loll by your window.
Getting there: Go just south of the McDowell station on Central Avenue, at 25 W. Culver St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Remember: don’t cheat and drive!