Feb 12, 2013


My son loves a train.  When he was about one I decided to give him one of Ella's old dollies for the sake of nurturing his pink toy-isle side and he promptly drove it down his toy train track.  Among his first twenty much anticipated words were "woo! woo!" and every time we cross the river near our house he's yelling "Train tracks!" as we we pass the yellow octagon sign with the big X.  I'm not sure how kids seem to be born loving a thing.  For Ella it was fashion and for Jack it is wheels and especially trains.  So this summer when the IL Railway Museum was doing their annual Thomas the Train Engine Party, I figure it was my duty to take this baby to see it.  The same way when I was little my Dad felt it was his duty to take out to Cottonwood airport and get us a ride in what I remember as a VW bug with wings.

We woke early and as we pulled into the museum this is what we saw.

Oh yeah, this was the right place for us.  As we walked in we saw a bazillion little boys in striped Osh-Gosh overalls and old fashioned conductor hats chased by doting parents pushing expensive strollers of gargantuan proportions.  It didn't matter, we were all so excited, I couldn't even get annoyed with all the privileged suburbanites.  I'd never really taken a proper train before, sure I'd ridden the El in Chicago and the trolley in New Orleans and some zoomy things at lots of airports, but wowzers this was the real deal.

Each train had that same machine shop metal and grease smell from my childhood, and the you could see where the patina of a million hands had rubbed off the enamel of the hand rails.  It was easy to get lost in time imagining commuters in the same seats with far more etiquette than I'll ever see on public trans.  

We spent the whole day riding grand old trains around in circles and smiling. We did do some of the the other activities; mini-putt, scavenger hunt, tattoo tent and half a magic show.  We must've stopped to eat at some point but really, it was so fun I don't even remember the snacks.    

We were almost the last kids to hobble back out to the parking lot at the end of the day and we'll certainly go back again next year. 

It has me thinking though, about summer vacations.  It would be nice to get to a place without having to drive, to enjoy the country side going by and the rocking of the tracks.  I've looked at the "family car" on Amtrack and it's a regular little cabin, much like I imagine they are on a cruise, though I don't really know.  The biggest ship I've ever been on was a ferry where the passengers only get their own car to sit in.  I think me and the kiddos could like hanging out in a little family car, politely playing cards and eating string cheese at night, wandering out to the riding car in the day and playing I-spy.  Funny how imagining us on a train naturally includes imagining us all being polite. 


Debbie said...

I loved traveling by train. However, the last time I did, the Internet hadn't been invented. With no cell phones or hand-held gaming devices, fellow travelers talked and were, at least in my experience friendly and polite.

The getting there part is a lot more fun when you don't have to drive or deal with the horror that air travel has become.

Melanie said...

If you ever get the chance to take a long train trip, I highly recommend it. We did a cross-country trip a couple years ago, and everyone *was* polite. It's so friendly, riding the rails together - everyone's in it for the adventure.

Jenny said...

I think we will, perhaps just a one day trip to try it out with the kids at first. (I don't want to be that lady with the kids everyone avoids for two days.)