I’m happy to announce that while far from complete, my unchecked Hannibal Bucket List is a little shorter as I FINALLY made it into Hannibal’s Big River Train Town.

Granted, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was when I went in (I don’t do much research ahead of time when it comes to my Hannibal Bucket List). I’ve passed the iconic building at Third and Hill plenty of times before and I’ve eyed it over root beer and fried chicken from across the street at many a Dinette booth, but I’ve never actually went in. While it’s pretty clear that trains were involved in some capacity, I quite frankly didn’t know if this place was museum, hobby shop, toy store, Pat Monahan tribute, or logistically improbable Hannibal train depot (accessible by nothing but pavement and cobblestones).

So as the family was finishing up brunch next door, I popped over to finally quench my curiosity. The friendly lady in the “ticket booth” greeted me and asked if I was there for a tour or just to browse. I responded the latter. That quickly changed as I caught a glimpse of what was meant to be obscured by a curtain.

WOW!

I happily handed over the $7 per family admission fee (a fair fare system that frankly more attractions should adopt). This was by far the largest model train setup I had ever seen in my life. I did a quick lap, took a couple photos and sent a Snap to a couple friends, and went back to meet the family at the Dinette to let them know that we were making an unannounced stop so everyone could witness this magic.

My grandfather, a Missouri Pacific Railroad lifer and model train enthusiast and collector had many of these types of trains set up in his basement while I was growing up. I loved playing with them and adding ridiculously out of scale Hot Wheels cars to his setup (I didn’t realize at the time that Lamborghinis and monster trucks have no place in 1930s rural America). Seeing this incredibly intricate and well-preserved collection, I couldn’t help but think of him and wish he would have had a chance to see it in person.

My family, including my two newborn twin boys, loved the experience and we’ll definitely be back when they’re old enough to appreciate it even more. If you haven’t had the chance to bring the kids by this amazing Hannibal landmark, do it just as soon as you can. It definitely made me feel like a kid again and there aren’t too many venues out there nowadays that can hold that accolade.