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.