Most of the little boys I know—including mine—have some sort of fascination with trains. I’m pretty sure the words “choo-choo” were one of the first words uttered by both of my kids. I think Thomas the Tank Engine is largely responsible for this fascination. For my parent’s generation, I think a lot of kids got hooked on trains through the TV show Casey’s Lunch Club, based on legendary railroad engineer Casey Jones.
So, basically, the toy fascination has been around forever.
Don’t get me wrong—I don’t have anything against trains, but I do wonder how so many kids make “traditional” gender-based choices in their toys, even in households where they aren’t given gender stereotypes. I mean, we gave our four-year-old a Barbie one year for Christmas, and there Danica Patrick Race Car Barbie sits in the toy bin, totally neglected next to the bucket full of train tracks and Thomas toys. I think she may even have a layer of dust on her long blonde hair.
Photo courtesy of Craig A. Mullenbach
And while I may not personally understand the obsession (I grew up playing Barbies), I do know that anything train-related is fun for my boys, and watching them have fun is fun for me, which is why I thought “Night Trains” at the Twin City Model Railroad Museum seems like such a great event.
I like the idea that a 14-car Christmas train with hundreds of twinkling lights—a spectacular train that only debuts for a limited time each year—cruises through a giant circular layout in St. Paul’s Bandana Square (I like just about anything related to holiday lights), and I like the idea that the Toy Train Division has multiple toy train layouts and dioramas, all creating the same kind of nostalgic feeling you used to get when looking at old department store holiday displays, and I like that if the little ones get tired of looking at the trains, they can play on the train tables.
Photo courtesy of Craig A. Mullenbach, Shoreview, MN
The attraction is open at the Museum every Saturday evening from 6-9 p.m. from Nov. 26 through Feb. 26, 2012 (with the exception of Christmas Eve). Admission is $8 for individuals, $25 for families, $30 for extended families, and children five and under are free.
I don’t know how long this train fascination will last, but I’m guessing it will be awhile. My dad never really outgrew his. Every Christmas he still sets up the train track he used to play with when he was a little farm boy living in New Richmond, Wis., and I swear he gets that same excited look in his eye every year when he pushes the “start” button and sends the train around the track. And if my boys ever tire of trains (highly doubtful), Danica Patrick Race Car Barbie will be patiently standing by.