Until recently, I had little interest in cars, planes, or bulldozers. Certainly not trains. My daughters came into this world asking for Barbies, dolls, and little ponies. Our world was pink.
When my son came along a couple of years ago, our playroom took a turn for the blue. Suddenly, I’m surrounded by Hot Wheels. At two years old, he is currently obsessed with trains, trains, and more trains. How lucky for him, he lives in a real Railroad town!
A Little Frisco Railroad History
In 1902, a line of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway was being built through the area, and periodic watering stops were needed along the route for the steam locomotives. Our community developed around one of these train stops, and thrived as a result. In 1904, the residents chose the name Frisco City in honor of the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway on which the town was founded. Later it was shortened to Frisco.
So, please allow me (the new “boy Mom”) to share with you the best places to see and appreciate trains in Frisco and the surrounding area.
Museum of the American Railroad
Founded in 1962, the Museum of the American Railroad closed its location in Dallas’ Fair Park to relocate its collections and operations to Frisco. It’s quite an undertaking, requiring years to disassemble the original site and prepare for the new location here.
Today, our new Museum is still under construction, but outdoor, guided walking tours are available offering a close-up view of many engines and passenger cars. Some have been restored, while others remain weathered, and many are available to step inside. Until the grounds are complete, the walkways are gravel, so comfortable shoes are a good idea. Begin your journey and purchase tickets at the interim offices, located a couple hundred yards away at the Frisco Heritage Museum.
Ready to Read Railroad at the Frisco Library
In 2016, the second floor of the Frisco Library (referred to as “stroller alley” by Mayor Maso) received a makeover and opened the Ready to Read Railroad. This playful area of the children’s wing is designed for ages 5 and under, and encourages early literacy, imagination and purposeful play. The railroad-themed space features many nods to Frisco landmarks and popular local businesses (sponsors), making it a tot-sized Frisco-centric space our youngest Library go-ers can call their own.
Grab your favorite photographer, and plan a family photo shoot with a beautiful, vintage steam locomotive and caboose. The ex-Lake Superior & Ishpeming Locomotive #19 (ALCO, 1910) was acquired by The Heritage Association of Frisco and the City of Frisco, and is displayed on the grounds of the Frisco Heritage Center.
Grapevine Vintage Railway
A hop, skip, and a jump down SH-121 to the west you’ll find the Grapevine Vintage Railway. Climb aboard an authentic 1920’s Victorian coach for a train ride that travels from Grapevine to the Fort Worth Stockyards. Those who enjoy live music and wine will enjoy the Jazz Wine Train this spring. Plus, they host many holiday events, like the St. Patrick’s Day Kiss Me I’m Irish Express (age 21 and up), and the popular family-friendly North Pole Express.
My household is particularly excited about the Day Out with Thomas. It’s kind of a big deal. If you have a little train lover, you’re probably aware of Thomas the Train(TM) and his related merchandise. Thomas and his friends will pull into Grapevine at the end of March. This annual event features a 25-minute train ride with Thomas the Tank Engine, storytelling, live music, and more.
My kids are always looking for reasons to ride the DART Rail. It’s a great option if you’re headed to Klyde Warren Park, the Dallas Zoo, the Dallas Museum of Art, or maybe an SMU game. The train will drop you right at your destination, and the fare is pretty reasonable.
The first time we tried it, we were a bit unsure about where to begin our journey, and had questions about safety and over-crowding. Having experienced the DART Rail with my family several times, my opinion is that it’s clean, safe, and only gets slightly crowded near the major commuter stops. We usually begin our journey in downtown Plano, so we can ride for a long time (plus, there’s a great playground at that stop).
Did you know that you can rent a train for a child’s birthday party? We’ve attended a couple of parties with these trackless trains and it’s a big hit. Check out these local vendors, and leave us a comment if you have another referral to share. C&J’s Party Rentals, BounceNMore, B3Talent
As Frisco residents, we’ve all had this moment… You’re desperate to get somewhere on time, and you’re stuck at the BNSF railroad crossing. While you’re watching the clock and wondering “how long IS this train?,” consider this: From a child’s perspective, it’s not an annoyance, but rather a moment of serendipity!