Saturday, October 04, 2008

I Like Trains*

We took Danny to his home away from home (the Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa) to drive the simulator and look at the artifacts. We do this quite a bit. Anyway, what we didn't realise was there was a rather famous train in town today so of course we headed over to see it.

The Challenger No. 3985 was built in 1943 by the American locomotive Company. It last ran in 1957 and was restored by former employees to running condition.

It was a bit of a shock just how much heat those engines generate. We climbed up to look in the engine and it really threw off some heat. It must have been miserable for the engineers on a hot summer day.

They had a slightly more high-tech train simulator for the kids to try and Danny did pretty well at ringing the bell and tooting the horn. I think the guy running it was somewhat shocked when Danny pointed and showed him where the air brake was. Have I mentioned Danny is kind of into railroads? Kind of.

So tomorrow is "Train Day" at our house. Essentially, every Sunday Danny gets another car from my dad and uncle's collection. There were a lot of cars between them. There's a Lionel Set from the late forties and a Marx set from the thirties. A few odds and ends that we can't identify either (some German made streetcar that we're guessing was pre-war because it didn't say "West Germany", and other various items). There are crossing gates, and signals and miles upon miles of track. I figured if he got one train each week through the year we'd have them all set up by Christmas to run around in the living room. We're going to just make it, with a couple trains left over.

I know I'll bolt awake at five in the morning to someone jumping up and down singing "Train day! Train Day! I want to see the trains!" That's OK, it's good to see a child excited as so many kids today seem sullen and angry. I mean really, even when they're having fun these kids act like it will kill them to crack a smile or show some excitement. I haven't gone upstairs yet to dig out tomorrow's train, but I think I have another engine for him-engines are pretty cool.

If you haven't been to the Union Pacific museum in Council Bluffs and have the opportunity, do so. It is housed in a magnificent old Carnegie library that still has the original Edison light bulbs up in the ceiling (not working, of course). The museum is staffed by retired railroad employees who can answer questions and will happily spend time explaining to a three year old how to take apart a brake system. Danny's made friends with a retired machinist, which is kind of cool. When I was a kid the only interesting adults around were people from my mother's art school which if you can imagine what art school was like in the sixties probably won't require further explanation. They did however, cough up nice gifts-but still. Schlepped to an art fair every summer weekend-woo-hoo, so much fun. Railroad people are so much more interesting-and they know so darn much.

We live in one of the better parts of the country for this sort of thing, and I expect as Danny gets older we'll be making trips out to North Platte and Cheyenne. I figure, a child could have worse interests and I'd much rather he be interested in real trains than those wretched Thomas The Tank Engine things.

Now, to go find an engine for train day!

* I Like Trains (All Kinds Of Trains) is one of Danny's favourite books and he sleeps with it beside his pillow each night.

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