The center of All Aboard is the 35-foot long, 55-ton steam engine designed by Reuben Wells in 1868 to conquer Indiana’s Madison Hill, the steepest railroad grade in the United States. This train is a one of a kind, built to push cars up the steep 5.89% grade. You can walk around to the front of this magnificent train and stand face to face with this mighty engine that used 12 tons of power to push, not pull, cargo up the hill in Madison, Indiana.
Before visitors enter the gallery they are welcomed by an entrance display of more than 100 toy train sets and a G-gauge model train layout. One of the trains in the layout winds its way around the museum’s lowest level just above visitors’ heads before it leads them into the gallery itself. Younger visitors can enjoy the train layout’s tunnels and Plexiglas bubbles, which enable them to crawl inside the layout for a closer view of the trains. They can also operate some of the lights and signals on the track.
Once inside the gallery by way of the new façades and murals at both entrances that surrounds you with landscapes and station décor, visitors are transported to 1890s Madison, Indiana. The new façades add a breathtaking touch of both past glories and bright colors and decorations. The entrance to the gallery from the first level has also been expanded to better accommodate your family and friends as you explore and discover the world of trains.
Throughout the day, a model of the Reuben Wells engine moves it way up a recreation of the Madison hill and back down again. You can walk along the hill and cheer the Reuben Wells on its journey! Envision what your life would be like if you lived along the Madison Hill in the 1800’s? Find a favorite place to be when the mighty train rolls up the Madison hill.
The real Reuben Wells steam engine can also be found here, just inside the entrance, in the context of its historic role. Every hour on the half hour, the engine “pulls out” of the station through a special effects program that features recorded conversations and dialogue, theatrical lighting, strobe lights, and even engine, bell, and whistle sounds. Just imagine what it might have been like to operate this one of a kind piece of machinery!
Across from the Reuben Wells is a train station where visitors can transport themselves back to the late 1800’s. They can sell railroad tickets from Madison to Indianapolis, or send Morse code messages to other train stations. While waiting for the train to “arrive,” visitors can read books about real and fictional trains. Computers in this area also invite visitors to uncover the history behind the Reuben Wells, design a railroad, or race trains.
Visitors who venture further back into the gallery can hop on board a train’s tool car and go for a ride. This tool car, which was originally designed to carry workers and supplies to wherever they might be needed on the railroad, contains speakers and a video of moving scenery which creates the illusion of movement for all who “ride” on the rails. While “traveling” in the tool car, visitors can enjoys videos containing information about modern day trains and those people who helped to sustain the railroads years ago. And nearby, you can spy your favorite model trains we all know and love, from the Mayflower and the Blue Comet to the American Flyer.
All Aboard features many hands-on activities that invite visitors to explore the world of trains. Interpretive programs include Full Steam Ahead where visitors can learn how a real steam engine works. They can even make their own model of a steam engine to discover how the power of steam makes a train like the Reuben Wells go. Look for times to meet Cora Short, a Harvey Girl. Harvey Girls were waitresses in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s on the Santa Fe railroad who changed the meaning of customer service. They helped revolutionize the way people were fed while traveling cross-country on the rails. Other activities include ways to discover the different professions people had while at work on the trains or in the train yards. Also, visitors can explore what would they do if they could design their own trip on a more modern train like “The Cardinal” which runs through Indianapolis to Chicago.
All Aboard is a space full of adventure in which visitors can learn about trains, past and present. But don’t take our word for it! Come see for yourself the grand look and great family learning experiences All Aboard has to offer.
3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208-4716 · 317-334-3322
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