The Sonoma Train Town Railroad has developed into a charming theme park for younger kids and their parents.
This is a great place to bring the little ones for train-themed rides and low-key fun. The 10-acre setting is wooded, with plenty of shade, and lots of water features like ponds, waterfalls, and streams.
The whole park had a relaxed, friendly feel. The staff members were pleasant and helpful, and the grounds were clean and attractive.
It's still a family-run business and it has that personal vibe. Super place to spend a couple of hours with the kids!
Main attraction: the miniature train and it's trip though the grounds is the star of park, but there are other rides tucked here and there that are fun as well.
The additional rides (all train-themed):
Who is Train Town best for? I would say ages 2 through 9 would enjoy it the most. The rides are pretty mild and there aren't any "scary" attractions.
Older kids and teens might be a little bored, but the train ride and the western town might appeal to them. I enjoyed it, and my 25-year-old son (who graciously agreed to go with me) had a good time, too!
The train and all the landscaping were the creation of one man, Stanley Frank. He owned a printing business in Oakland and had a passion for trains. Stanley started out in the 1950's with a model train set up in his basement, then ended up with a 10 acre park and a working, scale-model steam train.
He not only planned the park, he personally built the train cars and the first two engines, and did a lot of the scenery construction himself as well.
Train Town opened in 1968, but Stanley died unexpectedly in 1977; his family has carried on his work and added many more features over the years. The family still owns and runs the park.
The trains and all the buildings you see on the 20 minute ride are built to one-quarter scale and are designed to give the feel of the railroad lines and buildings of the Gold Rush era, up in the Sierra foothills.
The train is a one-quarter-size scale model of a real steam train and pulls 6 cars around the 15-gauge track (15 inches wide).
The train ride leaves from the little station that's right at the entrance to the park. You buy your ticket for the train at the snack bar nearby ($6.75 per person).
The ride lasts about 20 minutes, so there's never a long wait.
The track loops around the park three times, going through forests, over wooden trestles and steel bridges, through tunnels and past waterfalls and lakes. Very well done!
It really feels like a trip through the back country. They've done a great job of furnishing it with scale model buildings like hotels, houses and water mills, plus an entire little western town, "Lakeview".
In addition to the waterfalls, they've created running streams throughout the park, like the one that turns the old mill's water wheel. Pretty cool. It's fun to just wander around and see all the scale model buildings and other features.
This is the best part of park, in my opinion. On your last loop through the park, the train pulls into a little town, with two rows of Old-West-style buildings on each side of the track.
You get about 10 minutes to explore the town. The buildings are open, and furnished as they would have been at the time. They're scaled down to match the train, but adults can walk through the doors with a little stooping.
They're not just false fronts like a movie set; you can walk around the back, too.
Check out the school, church, jail, saloon and the rest of the buildings (including an outhouse), plus an old fort around the corner that kids can climb on.
The town of Lakeview has a little petting zoo, as well. Not a big collection of animals, but several very friendly goats and a couple of llamas are eagerly awaiting some snacks.
Tip: bring some quarters if you'd like to feed the animals. They have some vending machines with animal feed there.
The original two locomotives built by Stanley Frank have been joined by many more and they live in an authentic scale model of a working roundhouse, which is interesting to see.
The park has six rides in addition to the railroad ride. Adults can ride all of them except for the biplanes on the Train Town Airlines.
The tickets for each ride are $2.75 per person (or six for $14.75).
The tickets are sold at the snack bar near the entrance.
Train Town also has a row of vintage rail cars lined up near the entrance for visitors to climb around on.
Summer: open every day from 10 am to 5 pm.
All attractions open.
Fall, winter and spring: Friday, Sat, & Sun: 10 am to 5 pm.
Fridays: train, carousel and airplanes only.
Sat & Sun: all attractions open.
Closed when raining.
Entry is to the park is free and you buy tickets for the individual attractions.
Train ride: $6.75 per person
Other rides: $2.75 per person (or 6 for $14.75)
There's a little snack bar with tables and chairs near the entrance, plus a gift shop with train-related souvenirs and knick-knacks.
They've got things like burgers, hot dogs, nachos and chips, plus ice cream bars and soft drinks.
The Train Town address is at 20264 Broadway (also called Highway 12), Sonoma.
The park is just one mile south of the town center of Sonoma on Highway 12, the highway that runs through the center of Sonoma past the town plaza.
1 707 938-3912.
Coming into Sonoma on Highway 12, on the right side of the road you'll see the bright yellow Train Town tower at the entrance to the park.
There's a big parking lot in front of the entrance.
Sonoma is about an hour and twenty minutes north of San Francisco by car. Unfortunately, it's not very accessible via public transportation.