Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Not cars, not trucks, not other things with wheels"

(Don't panic. This is a wonderful train museum in Temple, Texas. The tracks are part of the museum, as is the train. It doesn't run. It's not nearly as scary as it looks.)

Guthrie likes trains. The above quote is how he described his love to his Grandma Mac (Eric's mom) before her visit last fall. "I like trains. Not cars, not trucks, not other things with wheels - trains."
He has had this love of trains all of his short life, since he was first able to communicate his interests to us. His first real Halloween costume was a train.

During our brief trip to the Chicago area for a friend's wedding when he was 18 months, we ended up at a hotel in Aurora with a train theme, right next to Walter Payton's Roundhouse, and the train station. We rode a train to Chicago, and this was the highlight of the trip for him.

For Christmas that year we got him a train set. Eric, of course, couldn't wait until Christmas for him to have it, so he ended up with it early. It started out pretty small, and on a table.

When we moved into our new house, Guthrie was 2. We still had boxes everywhere, the beds weren't set up yet, but we unpacked the trains.

Slowly the train table got less and less use, and every time we found ourselves in a toy store a few trains and a few more tracks, or track sets, found their way into our cart. The trains started to take over the house.

He got himself a costume so he could pretend to be a train conductor any time he wanted.

For his third birthday, we rode on a train from Warrensburg to Kansas City and back, and he got to meet a REAL condcutor.

Then when we were back in Missouri last summer, we happened to be in the same town that was celebrating its annual "Railroad Days" and got to ride a miniature train, before going to ride on the real Thomas the Tank Engine and meeting Sir Topham Hatt. Poor thing was getting sick, but we didn't know it until he started to develop a fever while we were on the train ride.

We went back to see Thomas in Austin in October, and followed that up with a night in Corpus Christi, where we stayed in another train-themed hotel, and rode on the Great Ocean Drive Scenic (GODS) Railway.

A few months ago, Eric got the idea to spray paint some of Guthrie's tracks. Guthrie then insisted they do them all, and carefully they worked on this together, taping off places that should not be painted, unscrewing roundhouses to pain inside them, using brushes on pieces that wouldn't come apart. Now Guthrie has beautiful, colorful tracks, and we spend many of our days (like today) building elaborate layouts that do take over much of the house.

We've read books on trains. Fiction - the entire collected original Thomas the Tank Engine stories cover to cover (all 405 pages) at least 4 times. We've read many other Thomas books, those we own and many from the library. We've read "The Subway Mouse," "A Cricket in Times Square" (because they live in a subway station), "Pano the Train," "The Little Engine that Could" with 2 different sets of illustrations, "Choo Choo" by Virginia Lee Burton, and so many other fiction books I've lost count. For non-fiction, we've read children's books that tell how train works, and we've also read much of an encyclopedia of trains in which the second half of the book describes hundreds of the great rail lines of the world. I learned many places I want to visit and ride the trains.

I do wonder just how long this love will last. It is fun, and he learns so much, but oh, I've looked at the hobby stores. I've seen the electric model trains. I know how much they cost and how much room they require. And we have a friend who works with the railroad, and we know there is a term for people like Guthrie. Yes, that's right, he's a Foamer.


Randall said...

What a wonderful post. It's so good to see parents who know how to support a child's interest. As I write about model railroading, one thing that bothers me is seeing parents buy large O scale trains for a child thinking that all they'll ever want is one 40"x60" oval of track. You have an appreciation of the fact that model railroading is more about available space than nearly any other factor. And you also recognize that children don't want a permanent track layout... setting up the track in different arrangements is as much fun to them as running the trains. I wish all parents could grasp these things before investing in an electric train set for a child.

MizFit said...

oooh. Im gonna follow in your supportive footsteps and take a road trip with Toddler to Temple!!


Judy said...

Randall, thanks for the kind words. I was actually afraid I would be told I was an overindulgent parent. I guess we are, in some ways, but we're also really strict in other ways (we don't own a TV, we very rarely allow junk food in our house, and I have a pretty high standard for what constitutes junk food).

Miz Fit - you're in the Austin area, right? Yes, the museum in Temple would be a great little weekend trip. They have lots of old train cars you can walk around on, it's right next to a switching yard, and there is a big nice playground right next to it. The indoor museum part might not hold a little one's attention, but they do have a play room with train toys!