Last Updated on April 13, 2021
Last Updated on April 13, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
After spending time at the Wilmington Railroad Museum (505 Nutt St), we were happy to have enjoyed another fun family-friendly thing to do in this coastal city. We also loved that you can learn more about Wilmington’s history here, as well as its importance in the grand scheme of North Carolina.
If you travel with a transportation-obsessed child (like we do), you’ve probably sought out and visited every plane, train, and automobile-themed kids’ museum in North Carolina. Don’t worry because we’re with you and want to share our experience, why we loved this place, and why it belongs on our NC Bucket List.
This post is part of our series on things to do in Wilmington and more awesome spots in Eastern North Carolina. If you’re searching for places to stay, check out these cool Airbnbs in Wilmington and its surroundings.
The Wilmington Railroad Museum
For quick info about the Wilmington Railroad Museum (including hours and location), please scroll to the bottom of this post.
Railroading History of Wilmington
Wilmington was once a hub of the railroad industry during the 1800s. While it’s often overshadowed by Wilmington’s “Port City” moniker, the railroad drove huge economic progress during the mid 19th century.
In 1840, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad was the longest continuous rail line in the world, spanning 161 miles long. However, this rail line would merge with several others to become the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL), with Wilmington serving as its hub.
Wilmington’s economy heavily depended on the railroad through the 20th century, until 1960 when ACL moved its headquarters to Jacksonville, Florida. Over 1,000 employees moved with them, in one of the largest company moves in the country’s history.
Visiting the Wilmington Railroad Museum
The Wilmington Railroad Museum started in 1979 to preserve the industry’s 125-year history, by displaying artifacts of the city’s railroading past. It’s grown into a community mainstay, garnering attention along the way.
In 2011, the Wilmington Railroad Museum broke the Guinness World Record for the longest model train, which was put together at the Wilmington Convention Center. 1,563 model train cars chugged through the 30,000 square-foot building, with 31 locomotives powering them along!
Arrival and Tickets
When you pull up to the museum’s entrance at 505 Nutt St, it’s easy to see that you’ve arrived at the right place. You’ll be tempted to hop into the vintage locomotive, boxcar, and caboose outside, but you should grab tickets first.
To purchase your tickets, you’ll need to first walk inside the entrance, which is an authentic 1883 railroad freight warehouse. Here’s a breakdown of prices:
- Adults and Visitors 13 and Up: $9.50
- Seniors and Military: $8.50
- Children Ages 2 to 12: $5.50
The first exhibits and artifacts in the History Hall you’ll find detail the Wilmington and the Atlantic Coast Line. Encased in this area are railroad operation gear and supplies, fine China used in First Class, clothing, and even a replica of the station agents’ offices.
As you move through to the back of the building, you’ll quickly arrive in the Children’s Hall. This is a great area for kids from 2 to 5 years old who want to build, manipulate, and have some interactive play. There’s a train table set up with wooden trains and a Miniature Caboose for photos. In this section, a special story hour is held on the first and third Mondays of the month.
The highlight, or at least our child’s favorite part of the museum, is the model train room. But with more than 20 model trains, the young and even the young at heart are all in awe. The 1,5000 square foot hall even holds a recreation of the 1950s Atlantic Coast Line operations in Wilmington.
Watch the train cam on the television screen to see locomotive’s perspective as it journeys through the model towns. Platforms are available for the smaller train fans and there are plenty of buttons to push to make them go, go, go!
Wilmington Railroad Museum Events
We were happy to stop by on a normal busy weekend day, but know that we’ll be back for these events happening throughout the year at the Wilmington Railroad Museum.
Every first and third Monday at 10:30 am, the museum hosts a storytime. An additional $5 per family is required, but that covers the activity materials and snacks for the young ones!
And during the warmer months, children can hop on the Sunshine Train! Powered by a Thomas the Train locomotive, visitors can take a ride and wave to passersby. Occurring on the second Saturday of each month from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, rides are $3 per person.
And didn’t you know trains are Santa’s preferred mode of transportation? During their Holiday Light Show and Polar Express, the Museum lights up with holiday cheer and over 25,000 lights.
Note: These are two separate events. Check here for more info.
Ready to Visit?
Before visiting the Wilmington Railroad Museum, we were already interested in stopping by. And now, we can’t wait to go back. It’s perfect for all ages, even though some of the exhibits are geared toward children.
So if you also have an inner train enthusiast, spend some time here and let your true colors show at this fun museum in Wilmington.
And in case you needed a quick breakdown, here’s that, too. Enjoy!
Wilmington Railroad Museum Quick Info
Address: 505 Nutt Street Wilmington, NC 28401
- June 1 to Sept 23: Open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Sundays from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
- September 23 to May 31: Open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Closed Sundays
- Adults (13 and Up): $9.50
- Seniors and Military: $8.50
- Children (Ages 2 to 12): $5.50