What would it take to build your dream? Something like nothing else on Earth! For Don Oeters it took a cool $10 million, 80,000 square feet, more than two miles of train track, 1,200 train cars, about 130 volunteers, and a lot of time.
Four years in the making, the world’s largest indoor train layout has opened to the public. Officially named EnterTRAINment Junction, it's the first and only railroad-themed family entertainment center. This one-of-a-kind whistle stop is located in West Chester, Ohio off I-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati.
In addition to the overwhelming detail depicting an America shaped by the railroad as seen with large G-scale trains, there’s a kids play land, museum and café, plus party rooms, shopping and seasonal attractions.
Entering the building for the EnterTRAINment Journey is like entering a new world. The sky is dark and Main Street, complete with park benches and landscaping, is lit with streetlamps. There’s a town hall, sidewalk café, hotel and 1930s train depot. Simply walk up to the teller at the depot and name your destination. Now, enter a historic journey through three distinct epochs in American history from the earliest days of steam-engine railroading to today’s modern diesel locomotives.
The layout includes railroading’s Early Period (1830s through the Civil War to late 1890s), the Middle Period (1900 to 1950s) and the Modern Period (1960s to the present). Train tracks are bustling all around the visitor – below, at eye level and some even 11 feet in the air. There are carefully handcrafted cities, towns, sawmills and factories, forests, bridges, mountains, valleys, plateaus, intricate trestles, tunnels, trolley cars, and fast-traveling subway trains. A cascading 11 foot waterfall provides a dramatic backdrop for the entire area; water flows through canals and rivers into a large lake. Each train car is about the size of a loaf of bread.
The sophisticated design prevents sneak-peaks ahead, for around every corner is a surprising new scene. There’s plenty even an elevated platform provides a birds-eye view of much of the 25,000 foot layout where 90 trains may be seen chugging this way and that.
Visitors also become involved in the action with 13 interactive buttons (more still to come) along the EnterTRAINment Journey. Push a button to move a train along the tracks. Push another button to hear the haunting sound of a steam whistle of an Iron Horse rumbling down the rails. More buttons create the sound of the sawmill or reveille playing at the Civil War encampment or church bell pealing from an old wooden steeple. Visitors can also make cars and trucks honk as vehicles bustle between the tall buildings of a typical American city in the 1950s. Even a paperboy, at a push of a button, will call out from a street corner, enticing citizens to buy the latest edition.
EnterTRAINment Junction has much more to offer than its staple – EnterTRAINment Journey! Imagination Junction is a kid’s dream come true. An entire active play area designed specifically for kids’ fun, this 5,000 square-foot railroad-themed entertainment center includes a colorful, innovative play structure with dozens of challenging elements. Here, youngsters can climb, slide, bounce, crawl through tunnels and more. The area also has train-themed interactive games, and an entire play area devoted to the wildly popular Thomas the Train children’s icon, with a storytelling area, video screens, and Thomas train layouts by Bachmann and Learning Curve.
Just up the tracks is the American Railroading Museum where visitors will find education in a fun environment! This imaginative, interactive 5,000 square foot museum will inspire railroading enthusiasts of all ages as it explores what railroading has meant to the history and development of the United States. Test yourself at one of the trivia kiosks, marvel at the size of actual train equipment, see artifacts and implements and learn railroad folklore. Look for the STARS to find amazing facts scattered throughout. There’s even a video theater.
The Great Train Expo Center currently provides opportunities for for visitors to see volunteer craftsmen create by hand the magic and detail work that goes into EnterTRAINment Junction’s imaginative train layouts. In the future, everything railroading can be found in this huge (8,000 square foot) expo center with numerous additional train layouts in many different sizes. Historical artifacts and collectibles will also be on display here along with rotating train exhibits. In addition, The Great Train Expo Center is now home of the Cincinnati Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. A library of railroading and hobby books, videos and magazines are available to all visitors (hours vary).
Let the kids be their own train engineers at Kids’ Express (Hand-Cranked Locomotives!) Just outside of Imagination Junction is some real kid-powered fun. Youngsters board hand-cranked locomotives, then become their own train engineers as they power their way around a 300 foot track. There is a separate charge for the Kids’ Express hand-cranked locomotives; open seasonally (June-Labor Day), weather permitting.
One of the many rotating attractions at EnterTRAINment Junction is the ever-changing Seasonal Journey. This magical world for kids and adults alike is a unique self-guided journey. In this gigantic (9,000 square-foot) “walk-through,” the senses come alive in a world of scenic design, sounds, sensory elements and theatrical lighting that changes depending on the season. There is a separate admission charge for the Seasonal Journey. Currently, visitors can enjoy the a-MAZE-ing Junction Funhouse which is open to all ages. If you remember the excitement of an amusement park funhouse, well, this is just the beginning. Those days are back, complete with trick mirrors, spinning black holes, the hurricane room, vortex tunnel, mazes galore that may have you lost for longer than may seem comfortable, and many other surprises. Future Seasonal Journeys will include Fall’s Jack-O-Lantern and Nightmare Junctions, Ripper’s Revenge and Fear Factory. Holiday season will feature Christmas At The Junction, A Christmas Carol and Journey To The North Pole.
EnterTRAINment Junction also offers a Conductor’s Tour, a special guided-tour behind the scenes to see the inner-workings of how EnterTRAINment Junction creates the magic. (Limited availability and departure times and separate charge).
EnterTRAINment Junctionmay host just about any event too. Accommodations from birthday parties to corporate functions are available anytime. Bus tours, school and university tours may also be arranged. Interested parties should call (513) 898-8000 (Cincinnati area) or 877-898-4656 (Out Of Town) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you ever dreamed to be like Mike, as in Michael Jordan, or Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks or Tom Brokaw …you can! They’re all hobby train enthusiasts. So were Walt Disney, Joe DiMaggio, Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra. And if you are too, make tracks to West Chester, Ohio and see EnterTRAINment Junction.
Value-packed combo tickets, multi-day passes and annual passes are all available. EnterTRAINment Junction is located at 7379 Squire Court in West Chester, Ohio (Map It). Start your journey at www.entertrainmentjunction.com.
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