As soon as you step into the Durham Museum in Omaha you are transported to a place in time when trains crisscrossed the Midwestern landscape, moving people from town to town and city to city. The high ceilings and the intricate Art Deco design immediately draw your eye. The historically preserved train station reminds you of a place in time when expansion and Manifest Destiny was the motto.
Large wooden benches with built in hvac vents line the vast open space of the station, offering plenty of seating for travelers on their way. Surprisingly enough, the benches were far more comfortable than most airline lounges. The idea of traveling the country by train is far more glamorous than today’s air travel where sweatpants and smelly sandwiches are as common as delays and mishandled luggage.
Across the Great Hall are vast doors that opened to allow passengers in and out of trains arriving in the station. Today, the doors are the gateway to photographs and artifacts documenting the history of train travel in Omaha and the surrounding area.
The Great Hall is also home to an old fashioned soda fountain serving up egg cream soda, shakes, phosphates, sodas, hot dogs and more. I have never been to an old fashioned soda fountain before so I opted for a cherry phosphate. It was fun to watch the worker make the drink and enjoy something that was initially popular in the 1930’s.
Make sure you have time when you visit the Durham Museum because underneath the Great Hall lies exceptional exhibits where you can journey from the caboose to the engine of a passenger train, view a working miniature train and city landscape, and explore the history of the Midwest.
As you venture from the caboose through the passenger cars, you get to experience how passengers rode the rails. The dining car, complete with a bar, showcased a menu with prices at a fraction of what they are today. The sleeping quarters and private rooms were reserved for those with the wealth to afford them, while other passengers rode in areas built for multiple travelers.
After exploring the train, you can enter an exhibit about the history of the Midwest and the Omaha region or a rotating exhibit that changes. When we visited, the rotating exhibit was a spy story where you’re the detective, using secret spy technology to put together the clues to solve the mystery.
My favorite computer game has always been the Nancy Drew mysteries – all thanks to my love of the books when I was younger. Walking spy exhibit was like being smack dab in the middle of a Nancy Drew mystery with puzzles and clues to solve. From young to old, if you like mysteries and putting the pieces together, this is an exhibit that is worth the time.
However much time you think you’ll spend at the Durham Museum, plan for more. It’s a do-not miss attraction for train or history buffs (or if you really want a soda phosphate!).
Make sure to download the Omaha Savings app to save $2 per admission. Even if you don’t, the admission price of $11 for adults is a steal of a deal.