Birmingham day trip to wonderful world of train and planes

Birmingham day trip – Wonderful World of Trains and Planes

I’ve decided I really should avoid going to places when it’s raining.  Or at least have a list of places suitable to visit when it’s wet, without being overrun and needing to queue.

During half term I’d take N on a day trip to Birmingham, and we’d finally go to Think Tank.  Not a problem you’d think, it’ll be less busy than London, we can go by train and I’ll not book in advance because N’s fussy and sometimes refuses to go to places.  Big mistake.

N was really excited to go by train.  Because I’d had my INR check appointment it meant we couldn’t get an early train so didn’t arrive at Think Tank until 11.30ish.  The walk was a bit wet, and unfortunate because the Science Garden at Think Tank looks great and N really wanted to explore and have a play there.

Outside Think Tank Birmingham
Let’s hope we can return in better weather to experience the science garden

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My aim was to get inside Think Tank, then have some lunch before spending a couple of hours there.  It didn’t happen quite like that thanks to the queues.  Think theme park queues with them winding round the foyer area.   After 20 minutes of queuing we’d not moved more than a couple of metres, and I really regretted not buying advance tickets because those people who had were just walking in.

fashion college birmingham installation
Funky designs at the fashion college in Birmingham

I decided there was no way we could queue because there was no timescale for getting in but it would have had to have been 1.5 hours+.  So a quick discussion with N who was hungry by this stage, and a quick search online for things to do in Birmingham that were within walking distance, and we decided to abort our visit.  Maybe on a dry weekend we’ll try again.

Edit: Wonderful World of Trains and Planes has now closed.

So off we headed to the Wonderful World of Trains and Planes, because who doesn’t like those?

Birmingham day trip to wonderful world of train and planes

Of course, Google maps said it would take 12 minutes, but with N on slow coach mode, it took nearer 30 minutes with a stop at Fat John’s half way for N to have some food.  There’s a severe lack of cafes or food places to sit in and eat on the route from Moor Street to Snow Hill so fast food it was.  Although the chunky chips and nice burger was a bit different to the limp MacDonalds versions for a bargain £1.99 (they threw in the chips because I didn’t want a fizzy drink for N and that’s all they said they had).

Big John's burgers Birmingham
One of the best fast food burgers and fries he’s had

Wonderful World of Trains and Planes

Fully sustained, we then walked down to the Wonderful World of Trains and Planes.  It’s a bit out of the way, and an unlikely location across from the railway arches, but this seems to fit quite well with the ‘museum’ that we found.

I think I was expecting something a bit more polished, but it’s a lot more down to earth and hobbyist.

Set out over 3 floors, downstairs there’s a café (which was full and buzzing when we arrived and left), and a couple of railway tracks set out showing the changing trains and model buildings through from the 1930s to 1960s.  We had a quick look but the model tracks were a little too high for N to see and we didn’t twig that there were steps for small kids to use until we saw some upstairs.

foreign trains at birmingham museum

Upstairs we found aeroplane models, plane simulators and a throne – alongside the royal railway.  N refused to try out the throne for size, he was more interested in watching the trains going round.   The track sets are all themed, so one was Thomas the Tank Engine*, several others based on different countries, and then modern day trains.

driving model trains

A few of them have controls so you can have a go at sending the trains round.  Unfortunately some weren’t working (probably because people hadn’t turned them off after using them), but N had fun along with plenty of other children, dressing up in hat and waving a flag.

driving the model trains
waving the red flag at wonderful world of trains and planes

There were also a couple of scalextric tracks* set up – one for older children and adults, the other suitable for younger children, so N had his first go on a scalextric.  I’m thinking it might be a suitable gift for next Christmas given how much he (and I) enjoyed it.

playing scalextric
cars round the scalextric

Our final go was letting N have a go at taking off, flying and landing a plane on the simulator computers.  He was straight down to sit in the seat, we got some advice and help from a staff member in setting it up, and taking off, then N flew the plane round before he wanted to land it.  It’s so funny to see him just having a go at something you’d never expect to see a young child do, and see what’s available now for them to try compared with when I was a child and computers were a thing of mystery.  There were different levels of difficulty so suitable for all ages as long as they could follow instructions.

plane simulation video at Wonderful world of trains and planes

We were probably only there for 1.5 to 2 hours, but that was plenty.  For children there were activity stations where children could build Lego planes, trains and cars, or do some colouring in although N didn’t fancy that.  They also provide toddler steps for children to stand on to see the models.

Of course, we had to walk through the gift shop where you can buy a whole range of components for model railways, or toys along the same theme.  Thankfully N does listen when I say no, although he does try at each bay of toys.  But if you’re going with children it may be worth taking along some spending money if they’re likely to want to build on their collection.

N seemed to enjoy it and didn’t notice the amateur feel of it.  Comparing the price of it against other attractions at a similar cost, I think there are other places I’d rather visit.  If you’re a real railway fanatic and love model railways, then it’s potentially worth a look.  Especially on a rainy day when other places are totally rammed!

We had an interesting walk back to the station.  We just missed the train from Snow Hill meaning we had an hour’s wait at a station with no coffee shop or waiting room, so trekked back to Moor Street where there were more trains and we could get straight on ours while it waited for the off.

over the Livery Street bridge in Birmingham
Old vs new - Bullring vs Moor Street

Are your children railway or plane fans?  Have you ever been to model railway places like Wonderful World of Trains and Planes?

Why not check out our alternative days out ideas in Birmingham.


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  1. I can imagine this would go down very well with some train-mad small people – and I rather fancy the flight simulator myself! Think Tank has been on my list for Birmingham as well, so good to know it’s worth booking in advance as well, what enormous queues. Glad you found a good back-up too, even if it’s not quite first choice. #citytripping

  2. I think my kids would have loved this when they were young – quite different from other museums and a good way to be hands-on! #citytripping

  3. You didn’t do badly at all considering it was a second choice. I know the Wonderful World of Planes and Trains would have gone down very well with my munchkin and, like you, would be intrigued to see her have a go on the scalextric and try the flight simulator! I hope you get to Think Tank at some point… shame the queue was so horrendous! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

  4. Hadn’t heard of this place before so thanks for sharing. Train time for the boys and then the jewellery quarter for me – stereotyped I know!

  5. It looks great, my son loves planes and trains. We have been to a train museum in York but he has never seen a plane up close. He would be fascinated.

  6. Oh there is a small boy in this house who is obsessed with planes and trains! Guess where is going firmly on my “must-visit’ list for my next trip x

  7. It’s a shame you didn’t get to visit the place you had planned to visit! I’ve read reviews of the Think Tank and it looks amazing.
    The world of trains and planes looks pretty good too though, I think my children would have enjoyed it.

  8. It looks like a great place to visit, I will certainly bear it in mind as we are often in the area. There’s a train and model museum in Brighton which my son loves and it looks quite similar, it looks like they have some lovely layouts.

  9. It is a shame about the first place not working out, it still sounds like you had a lovely day though. My brother would have loved to visit trains and planes when he was younger as he was crazy about train sets and flight stimulator game xx

  10. Looks like a great day out! My children have never been to anything like this before, but I bet they’d love it (we don’t have such things on our remote North Sea island!)

  11. I used to have one of them when I was younger so I would definitely recommend getting it for N. It looks like you had a good time and N enjoyed his burger and chips!

    1. Yes, my brother had one when he was a child (and a Hornby train set) and we did love it. Lots of fun even if the cars did break quickly.

  12. In spite the change of plans, I’m glad you and N still managed to have a lovely time. Love the look of the miniature trains, cities and roads. Wouldn’t mind visiting either!

  13. It is such a shame about the queue’s at the Think Tank, it sounds like it would have been a wonderful experience for you both to enjoy. We made the mistake to visit the British Museum during a holiday, and the queue for the dinosaur section was immense. Too much for the little ones to last.

    It sounds like it all worked out in the end though, with N having a lovely time with the Trains. My older too thoroughly enjoy the simulator at Action Stations at the Dockyard, and they are 11 and 8, so they don’t grow out of it any time soon! x

  14. My little boy is not quite two but is already hugely into trains. We live near a railway line so he gets lots of excitement every time one goes by! It’s funny how kids don’t seem to notice when something’s a little bit lacking on the polish front. It looks like you both had a fun day, even if it wasn’t quite what you were expecting!

  15. I’m no longer in the area and it wasn’t something I would have taken my daughter to when I was close by to be honest as she was a bit young. Seems like a nice idea for those that really love planes and trains though. I know what you mean about Snow Hill though, not much there and lots of waiting to be done!

    1. I was surprised at the gap in trains. I just presumed that it’s on the same line, a pretty main station so they’d go twice an hour. I know to avoid now!

    1. I’m of the same view on the cost. It’s not that expensive compared to some other places, but we can also experience a lot more for the same cost or less at other ‘museums’

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