In 2022 I visited two railroad museums on the East Coast. The first was the B&O Railroad Museum, and the second was the Railroad Museum of Pennslyvania, both were fabulous! Here is some brief history and my thoughts on each museum. I have always loved trains, not so much for the mechanics but for what they represented in history—freedom, growth, and expansion. The history of rail, both good and bad, is fascinating.
B&O Railroad History
The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad was known for "Linking 13 Great States With The Nation." Created in 1827, it was the first commercial carrier, meaning specifically for public use, and at its peak, it stretched over 10,000 miles. The B&O rail ran from 1830-1987, and the museum was created in the 1950s. The B&O rail color scheme was brown and red.
The B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore MD:
The Museum is in a gorgeous space filled with various B&O locomotives and exhibition space for scale models and rail history. Overall the museum is not very big and can be done in 1-2 hours, a little longer if you add the train ride. However, if you opt for the train ride, set your expectations low as the train moves very slowly, and the scenery is awful but great for little kids.
The museum is worth visiting, but do not make it your entire trip in Baltimore; instead, add it to other museums or things to do.
The Pennslyvania Railroad (PRR) was one of the later rails on the East Coast, becoming operational in the late 1840s, but these rails made Pennslyvania an industrial giant. The PRR was the largest by traffic and revenue and called itself the "standard railroad of the world" and the first to implement various new technology and safety standards as the rail industry grew. The PRR color scheme was dark green and red.
Railroad Museum of Pennslyvania, Strasburg, PA:
I loved this museum, and I prefer it over the B&O. The space is much bigger, and they combined the museum with their locomotives and set it up like an ol' fashion train station. They also include areas of scale models and other exhibits. The working train station across the street set this museum apart, with various running locomotives and several ride options, including seasonal specials. It added to the experience, and I encourage building a train ride into your day. While the trains still move slowly, the scenery is also much better. However, unlike Baltimore, Strasburg is a small town with not much else around it, so this visit would require a little more planning on what else you would want to do in your day.
History of the phrase "The Real McCoy":
This phrase's origin remains debatable, but I will share my belief in the history. I lean towards the origins stemming from Elijah McCoy, the son of freed slaves and a prolific inventor. He has over 100 patents, and many surround the rail system. His inventions were known to be top-notch and of great quality, sparking the theory that people wanted a "real McCoy" and not a knockoff. Read more about Elijah McCoy.