EnterTRAINment Junction (West Chester)

About halfway between downtown Cincinnati and downtown Dayton sits 25,000 square feet of model train amusement park:  EnterTRAINment Junction.  The building as a whole is 80,000 square feet overall.  There are 90 G-scale trains with around 1,200 train cars running on 2 miles of tracks on this trip through every era of railroading from the 1860s to the present.

In the mezzanine of EnterTRAINment Junction is a working model of Cincinnati's Coney Island Amusement Park.  And no, it's not dark in the mezzanine.  About every 15 minutes the sun sets at EnterTRAINment Junction [lights change from white/yellow to blue] and so this was taken during the night cycle.
In the mezzanine of EnterTRAINment Junction is a working model of Cincinnati’s Coney Island Amusement Park. And no, it’s not always dark in the mezzanine.  Around every 15 minutes the sun sets at EnterTRAINment Junction [lights change from white to blue] and so this was taken during the night cycle.

In addition to the trains is A-Maze-N Funhouse, the area’s only mirror maze, a discombobulating spinning vortex tunnel, a tilt room, a confusing curtain maze, a claustrophobia hallway, an illusory endless corridor.  The combination of the Funhouse and the trains has billed EnterTRAINment Junction as the world’s only railroad-themed family fun center.

Railroad's Early Era.
Railroad’s Early Era.

What makes this a fun trip is that model trains are something that most everyone has experience with in one form or another which makes this a fun trip for all ages and even if your interest in model trains isn’t that strong, it’s still a trip through time from the 1860s on.

The Modern Era of railroading as seen from the mezzanine.
The Modern Era of railroading as seen from the mezzanine.

For the much-younger crowd is Imagination Junction.  It’s a 5,000 square foot play are for the kids that want to climb, slide, bounce, crawl through tunnels and more. Kids can shovel coal, run trains, and for the even  younger crowed, there is a toddler play area.  Imagination Junction also has an entire play area devoted to Thomas the Tank Engine train, with video screens and Thomas trains.

This is a control panel from a real train yard:  the CSX Queensgate Yard which runs a distance of about 3.5 miles.  The lower panel are the switches the operator would use to change track switches and signal lights.  The top panel shows the current position of the track switches and signal lights.
This is a control panel that came from a real train yard: the CSX Queensgate Yard. The lower panel are the switches the operator would use to change track switches and signal lights. The top panel shows the current position of the track switches and signal lights.

EnterTRAINment Junction opened August 1, 2008 as a project envisioned by Cincinnati businessman Don Oeters as an entertainment center for all ages that would would entertain, educate, and promote railroading as a hobby.  The A-Maze-N Funhouse is part of this project to give the feel of going to an amusement park.  It has a broad appeal as visitors from all 50 states and 37 countries have visited here and it averages 130,000 visitors annually.  It also helps that it has a party room for hosting children’s birthday parties.  And as is the case with hobbies, there are always things to change/update/fix.  The sunrise/sunset cycle didn’t exist on my first trip to EnterTRAINment Junction in 2010 and now there is the effect of the sun setting during your visit.

In addition to the model trains is the history of railroads in the American Railroading Museum.  And model trains do run everywhere as that is a train above the Museum.
In addition to the model trains is the history of railroads in the American Railroading Museum. And model trains do run everywhere as that is another train above the Museum.

EnterTRAINment Junction
7379 Squire Court
West Chester, OH  45069

Hours:  10 AM – 6 PM – Monday thru Saturday; Noon – 6 PM on Sundays.  Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas as well as Wednesdays in January (for maintenance).

Admission:  $13.95 for Adults, $11.95 for Seniors (65+), $9.95 for Children ages 3-12; Free for Children 2 and younger and that Admission includes Train Journey – The World’s Largest Indoor Model Train display; Imagination Junction – Children’s Interactive Play Area; American Railroading Museum – How Railroads Changed Our Lives, and Expo Center – Volunteers’ Workshop, Historical Library & Neil Young’s Lionel Traveling Train Display.

A-Maze-N Funhouse Admission:  $9.95 and includes Crazy Caper, Mirror Maze, Clown College – Featuring a Tilt Room & an Ames Room, Outer Limits – Featuring Claustrophobic Hall, Vortex Tunnel & a Black Light Room, and Curtain Chaos

Kid’s Express and Train Ride:  $3.00 for unlimited rides.  An outdoor train ride for children up to 59″ and is open Memorial Day – Labor Day, weather permitting.

 Parking:  Free
Distances from Ohio cities:
  • 25 miles North of downtown Cincinnati
  • 35 miles South of downtown Dayton
  • 98 miles Southwest of Columbus
  • 200 miles South of Toledo
  • 253 miles Southwest of Cleveland
  • 240 miles Southwest of Akron

American Sign Museum (Cincinnati)

In Cincinnati’s Camp Washington neighborhood stands a 20-foot tall genie at the entrance to a nostalgic trip through time via roadside signs.  Founded by Tod Swormstedt- a former editor and publisher of Signs of the Times (a trade magazine for the sign manufacturing industry)- the museum opened in 2005 at a smaller location but with plans to move to a bigger home and on June 23, 2012, the museum opened a much bigger location on Monmouth St.  It is home to 19,000 square feet of exhibit space showing signs from 1900s on.  And there’s still 20,000 square feet of exhibit space that can still be developed.  The big improvement with the new space was having 28-foot ceilings which fit the old McDonald’s Speedee signs from the early days, among others.

American Sign Museum founder Tod Swormstedt conducts a tour of the museum on 5/25/14.
American Sign Museum founder Tod Swormstedt conducts a tour of the museum on 5/25/14.

It’s an interesting, fun tour and you don’t need to be in the advertising business to appreciate it but if you are, I’m sure that makes it even better.  I had never given much thought to how signs have changed over the years but you learn about that here, especially if you take the guided tour which I recommend.  The museum is truly one of a kind.  Every type of sign is here: wood, plastic, neon, glass with gold leaf shavings, light bulbs, metal.  And if you’re here just for the nostalgia, it’s interesting because with every sign is a history with it and memories that go with it.  Like a Sohio sign which some might remember was around until being re-branded to BP starting in 1991.

Some signs come from businesses that are gone; others, like this Holiday Inn sign, are still in business but have undergone changes.  This Holiday Inn sign design was used from 1950s-1970s.
Some signs come from businesses that are gone; others, like this Holiday Inn sign, are still in business but have undergone changes. This Holiday Inn sign design was used from 1950s-1970s.

American Sign Museum website:  http://www.americansignmuseum.org

Hours:  Wednesday – Saturday:  10 AM – 4 PM; Sunday:  Noon – 4 PM.

Admission:  Adults:  $15 (children 12 and under Free with accompanying Adult); Seniors (age 65+), Students (with ID), Active Duty Military, Groups of 10 or more are $10 each. Groups of 10+ are asked to call ahead (513-541-6366) and schedule their tour.

Parking:  Free, off-street parking.

American Sign Museum
1330 Monmouth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45225

Frisch's Big Boy at the American Sign Museum.
Frisch’s Big Boy at the American Sign Museum.
Signs of Main St. at the American Sign Museum is a collection of signs that make it look like Main St., USA. A collection of department stores, pizza shops, ice cream stands, etc.
Signs of Main St. at the American Sign Museum is a collection of signs that make it look like Main St., USA. It’s a display of signs from department stores, pizza shops, ice cream stands, restaurants.
No sign museum would be complete without the McDonald's Speedee sign and it is here on Main St.
No sign museum would be complete without the McDonald’s Speedee sign and it is here on Main St.