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Fun for Kids

The Dutch Railway Museum

Maliebaan Station in Utrecht, which opened in 1874, houses one of the finest museums in the Netherlands: the Railway Museum. The station became a museum in 1954, and since its expansion in 2003 the museum has become more of a theme park, featuring several novel train-related attractions, which have proved increasingly popular with the general public. Last year close to half a million people, mostly families with children, visited the museum. As a father of four, I greatly enjoyed taking my family to the Railway Museum, but as a train enthusiast, I am less positive about the main focus being on providing an experience that generates recurring visits rather than on the collection itself. I have seen railway museums that are much better — but not half as much fun, at least not for kids.

NS diesel-electric railcar at the Dutch Railway Museum
Blue Angel diesel-electric railcar

The museum’s main feature is, as you would expect, its collection of rolling stock, which includes the oldest preserved Dutch steam locomotive (1864) & carriage (1874), the first electric railcar (1908), chicly furnished in art-nouveau style, and the locomotive that in 1958 pulled the last scheduled steam train. My personal favourite is the Blauwe Engel (‘Blue Angel’), an elegant motor coach built in 1954 for branch-line use. Two attractions that you shouldn’t miss are The Great Discovery, which takes you back in time to the year 1839, when the first railway line in the Netherlands was opened, and Steel Monsters, a ride in the dark that isn’t about anything really, but my children totally loved it anyway. If you like model railways — and who doesn’t — February or March is the time to visit the museum, because that is when the three-day event On TraXS takes place, which is by far the best model railway exhibition in the country.

Reader comments


One of the coolest events at the Railway Museum is Winter Station, which takes place during the Christmas holidays, when the main hall is transformed into an ice skating rink and you can skate between the trains.


I liked the museum better before they turned it into a playground.


The design of the Blue Angel is based on that of the Diesel III (1934), the first streamlined train in the Netherlands, which was so futuristic that people would purchase platform tickets simply to get a look, and a soap manufacturer named washing powder after it. Three years after it hit the rails, the well-known industrial designer Raymond Loewy commented in his book The Locomotive (1937): ‘Three cheers for this. In the writer’s opinion it is the best-looking diesel-electric unit train built so far. Its aerodynamics are nearly perfect; the front-end treatment and the flush side windows are most attractive and efficient. Paint scheme good. This is an excellent example of what good taste and restraint can produce.’