At the B & O Railroad Museum: Ellicott City Station, your child can sit in an actual red caboose. This small, unprepossessing museum is steeped in history. The Ellicott City Station is the oldest surviving railroad station in America. Built in 1831, it was the original terminus of the first 13 miles of commercial railroad in the United States.
Pay your admission in the Main Depot Building, pick up a self-guided tour map and explore on your own. The Main Depot Building was constructed in 1830 to 1831. On the first floor, you will find the Freight Agent’s Quarters & Office. It was originally designed to hold freight but around 1840 was converted into living quarters for the freight agent and his family. All of the furniture in the Main Depot Building is period but not original to the building. Signage tells the history of Ellicott City and the significance of the B&O during the Civil War.
Upstairs, you will find the Office of the Superintendent of Construction, the Ticket office, and the Freight Room/Main Waiting Area. Of these, only the Telegraph and Ticket Office held any interest to my daughters, ages six and 10. They were fascinated with the clicking and transcribing of the telegraph and learned all about the Morse code. My husband and I, in contrast, found the story of the Viaduct, the biggest bridge then in America quite interesting. The bridge was constructed by Benjamin H. Latrobe, Jr., the foremost railroad engineer of the 19th century and son of the designer of the White House. This temporary exhibit on the Viaduct called Roads to Rails will be on view until April 3. It will be replaced by Civil War 150th Anniversary: The War Came by Train from April 16 through November 6, 2011.
Directly, outside the second floor of the building, kids are invited to ring the bell (once only). The path outside the building runs directly along the train track. The girls were exhilarated to be running alongside a train and came to life. They loved the 1927 Red Caboose, especially sitting in the upstairs cupola seats. It was truly a magical moment for them.
Afterwards, we went to the Freight House, built in 1885 and designed by Francis Baldwin. On request, you can see a 12-minute film The Great Railroad about the beginnings of the B&O. The Freight House also stores a 40 foot “HO” scale model train depicting the first 13 miles of the railroad track as it would have looked in the 1830s. At the end of the film, there is a light show highlighting different landmarks along the track.
The entire museum took only an hour. My six-year old had to revisit the caboose. The girls described the museum as “really neat.” Back at the entrance, there is a small shop with train-related toys, postcards, books, and T-shirts.
Note: There is stroller parking on the first floor. The entire Main Depot Building and Freight House are handicapped accessible through outside ramps.
We decided to make a day of Ellicott City. We had a very good lunch at Johnny’s Bistro, which had tasty sandwiches, soups, and pizzas. Although my husband and I remembered Ellicott City for its Antiques Mall, we were amazed by the number of kid-friendly boutiques including Sweet Cascades Chocolatier, Silver Arrow Homemade Fudge and Candy Shop, Forget- Me- Not Factory (an enormous store almost entirely devoted to fairies), and Mumbles & Squeaks Toy Gallery. I am already planning a return trip to Ellicott City for my kids’ birthday presents.
- The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Closed on major holidays.
- Admission is $5/adults; $4/seniors (60+) and $3/children (2 to 12). Combination tickets are available when you visit the B&O Museum in Baltimore. Rates are $16/adults, $14/seniors (60+) and $10/children (2 to 12).
- Restrooms are on site and both have changing tables.
- Directions and Parking: Located at 2711 Maryland Avenue in Ellicott City, MD, the Station is adjacent to Main Street in the historic district of Ellicott City, Maryland and is easily accessible from Interstate 95 and the Baltimore Beltway, I-695. There is 2 hour metered parking across the street from the Museum and 8 hour metered parking further along the railroad tracks.