From the Hogwarts Express to “The Polar Express,” trains transport us to magical places in books and movies. But real-life trains can be pretty magical, too. And this Saturday is all about trains. National Train Day, celebrated at hundreds of locations across the United States — including Washington’s Union Station — has tons of fun stuff for train fanatics and choo-choo newbies alike.
Trains have been a big part of life in the United States for more than 100 years. The first train to pass through Union Station was the Baltimore and Ohio Pittsburgh Express, which arrived at 6:50 a.m. on October 27, 1907, before the station was even completely built. Nowadays about 70,000 people — as many as are expected to attend the next Super Bowl — pass through Union Station each day.
National Train Day activities will keep Union Station hopping, with model-train displays and the Chuggington Kids Depot, where kids can do train-related crafts and play with toy locomotives. Dovetail Games will offer free downloads of the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner version of the video game “Train Simulator 2014,” and people from Operation Lifesaver will be on hand to talk about how to stay safe around railroad tracks.
But the things you won’t want to miss are the displays of modern and historic train equipment (including a dining car, a sleeper car and other cool train cars you can walk through) and trips — buy your tickets ahead of time! — on Amtrak’s Acela Excursion trains. Acela trains, the fastest in the United States, can travel at up to 150 miles per hour. (That’s really fast — but only about half as fast as high-speed trains in other parts of the world.)
Nearly 11,000 people crowded into Union Station for last year’s National Train Day celebration. The folks at Amtrak, the nation’s major passenger railway and the sponsor of the Train Day events, suggest that people planning to come this year:
●Wear comfortable shoes.
●Arrive early to get in line for the train equipment displays.
●Buy tickets in advance for the Acela Excursion train trips at www.
nationaltrainday.com/s/#!/events/washington-dc-union-station-was. Trains leave at 11:35 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:05 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. for a 35-minute round trip to Bowie, Maryland; tickets are $5 for adults and $2.50 for kids age 12 and younger. A small number of tickets for the 3:45 trip will be available at the Union Station ticket counter starting at 10:30 a.m.
What: National Train Day
Where: Union Station,
50 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington
When: Saturday from 10 a.m. to
How much: Free
More information: A parent can go to www.nationaltrainday.com.