Posted on 8/24/2023

1st Timer's Guide to the Galveston Railroad Museum

Looking for fun things to do with the whole family in Galveston, Texas? You don't want to miss the Galveston Railroad Museum.

Located next to the Strand Historic District, the old rail station calls to train enthusiasts of all ages with a collection of vintage locomotives, an art deco station, and rail rides. Whether you visit to check out the huge train yard or come for a special Christmas season event like the Polar Express, the museum makes for a fun family day out on the island. Plus, it's an easy island drive away from your Galveston vacation rental. 

To help you prepare for your visit, we've compiled a guide with everything you need to know about the Galveston Railroad Museum.

About the Galveston Railroad Museum

  • Address: 2602 Santa Fe Pl, Galveston, TX
  • Website:
  • Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m
  • Admission: Tickets are $6 (ages 3 to 12), $12 (ages 13 to 64), and $9 (ages 65 and up). Kids 2 years old and younger can visit for free. Train rides are extra.

With roots dating back to 1896, the site of the Galveston Railroad Museum once served as the headquarters of the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad. After being abandoned in the 1970s, the property and Art Deco depot were purchased and restored into the Galveston Railroad Museum.

Today, visitors can tour a rail yard filled with dozens of historic train cars and locomotives, walk the old halls of the depot to see interactive exhibits, and ride the rails on special outings. 

Getting There

The Galveston Railroad Museum is located on the west end of the Strand Historic District, just a couple of blocks inland from the Seaport and Galveston Channel. The main entrance is at the corner of The Strand and 25th Street.

Free parking in the main lot is included with admission, but the parking lot may reach capacity at busy times. Street parking and paid lots around the Downtown Historic Strand Seaport Area are all a short walk from the museum. If you want to save time looking for a parking spot, grab a Galveston bike rental and park right outside the entrance! 

Activities at the Galveston Railroad Museum

Tour the Train Yard

The Galveston Railroad Museum's train yard is a must for railway enthusiasts. Spread over five acres, you can tour a collection of over 40 locomotives, freight trains, passenger cars, and cabooses. 

Among the collection of rolling stock, you can tour a dining car (1949), a sleeping car, the American Freedom Train (1947) used to carry essential government documents, an observation car (1924), a post office car (1914), a wartime wooden-sided boxcar (1917), a Southern Pacific locomotive (1892), and the popular Santa Fe Warbonnets.

The oldest rail car in the collection is an 1880 caboose restored to its original colors from its time on the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad.

Ride the Caboose

Have you ever dreamed of riding an old train caboose? The Harborside Express runs midday on Saturdays and Sundays, offering 15-minute train rides up and down Harborside Drive. Along the way, you'll see the Port of Galveston, the historic Falstaff Brewery building, and the Port of Galveston Cruise Terminal.

The open-air caboose is standing room only. In inclement weather, rides may be canceled. 

Pro Tip: You'll need a separate ticket for the caboose; they often sell out early in the day.

Explore the Old Depot

Dating back to 1932, the Old Depot at the museum once served as the headquarters for the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroads. Fully restored with nods to its Art Deco past, the depot now holds the museum's gift shop and interactive displays.

The depot is also home to the People's Gallery, where "ghosts of travelers past" are sculpted from white alabaster. The figures form typical scenes from the station's heyday, and guests can pick up handsets in vintage telephone booths to listen in on their conversations. 

Visit the Map Room

The Map Room is next to the historic depot and has rotating exhibits themed around trains and the railroad. Some items on display in the past include model trains and a collection of antique porcelain china dishes used for dining service.

Model Train Room

As of August 2023, this area is being remodeled. Renamed The Sullivan Room in 2013, this interactive exhibit holds over 400 pieces of the collection gathered by the late Russell Sullivan, a Houston mechanical engineer. Working scale trains, a town scene with lights, and more can be found here.

If the models catch your attention, don't miss Railfest, hosted by the Galveston Railroad Museum each spring. A two-day event usually taking place in April, this fun festival brings vendors and train clubs from across the state of Texas together for fun demonstrations, education, and casual shop-talk with other hobby enthusiasts.

Board the Polar Express

The annual Polar Express Train Ride at the Galveston Railroad Museum is one of the most memorable things to do with kids when you visit the island for the holidays. Beginning in November and running up to Christmas, the magical train ride takes passengers to the North Pole to meet Santa.

The two-hour experience starts with a festive performance as the train chugs into the station and includes time to dance around with jolly old St. Nick at the North Pole. Families are encouraged to don their Christmas pajamas for the ride.

Tickets for this event are so popular that they go on sale in summer, so it's best to reserve your spot as early as possible.

Exit at the Gift Store

The Galveston Railroad Museum gift shop is located just inside the historic depot. You can find all the train memorabilia your heart desires here, including toys, books, jewelry, and decor. There is also a selection of Galveston memorabilia, so it's the perfect spot for souvenir shopping.

Dining Around the Museum

The Whistle Stop Cafe at the Galveston Railroad Museum serves casual refreshments from local restaurant EATcetera. You can order brunch dishes like bagels and lox, French toast sticks, and panini sandwiches. The counter service cafe has outdoor seating, or you can grab snacks on your way to the beach

Just outside the museum, you'll also find more of Galveston's culinary delights await you, including the Black Pearl oyster bar and the Shark Shack for more casual Texas eats. 

Spend a Day at the Galveston Railroad Museum

Whether you have a train fanatic in the family or love learning about history, the Galveston Railroad Museum makes for a fun afternoon away from your vacation home rental. Sand 'N Sea Properties makes it easy to find cozy beach homes just a quick hop from the best activities on the island so that you can make the most of your Galveston getaway.

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