Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Model Train Fascination

Model trains have always fascinated me, from way back when I was a kid to now. My cousins had a Lionel train setup in the attic when I was young and it was always a treat to go up those stairs and see the trains. My uncle ran them (they were really his), and the bored cousins smirked while my brother and I ran around looking at the village, with the little people and buildings, and of course, the trains. My favorite was the log car, and my brother liked the engine that could go both ways. The setup looked huge to me, almost like a real village, and it certainly took up a big part of the attic. It was always kinda dark up there, and the twinkling lights of the village lent a magical air to the whole experience. My uncle always seemed glad to take us up there, probably cause the awe in our eyes matched his. After I grew older I didn't go up and look at the trains as much, but it was so much fun when I was young.

I've wondered how outdoor train setups work. I've seen some grand ones - at the State Fair of Texas there's a garden display with large-gauge trains running around the site. There are tunnels and bridges, and the trains go past little Texas landmarks, like the Alamo. I sat and watched the trains for quite a while last October, and I really like it when the engine first comes around a tree. It's really a beautiful display, and they have it set up every year, at least all the years I've been to the fair. Another of my favorite train displays, which is no longer there, I've heard, was at Thanksgiving Point, which is between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah. This is an extraordinarily beautiful place, with themed gardens, a huge waterfall, and a dinosaur museum. The trains had a corner at the entrance to the gardens and there was a mountain with a tunnel; it was quite a large run for the trains. There's a Noah's Ark that sprays water nearby too. I'd like to go back there, cause that's really a nice place.

My husband and I travel a lot, and we've been to several restaurants that have model trains zooming around inside. One I liked was a steakhouse in Idaho that had the trains going at eye level around the booths, and then they climbed up a hill and zipped around the top of the place near the ceiling. It was most unexpected to first see the trains there, even though it was named some kinds of train name. A lot of the places are named "Choo-Choo" or "The Depot" or whatever, but one we went in for breakfast was a Greek place. There were little trains running all around, up by the ceiling, down low, and even in and out of the kitchen. I never expected a train to be running around a Greek restaurant, and especially at breakfast, but it was so fun, and we stayed almost until lunch talking to the owner about the trains. I love to see the kids when they first see the trains - they are usually totally intrigued, or frightened out of their wits.

My daughters were never interested in trains much, but my granddaughter loves Thomas the Tank Engine. We took her to Grapevine, Texas to see Thomas when he came around, and she was fascinated with trains then. They had a model train set up, a gift shop with all things train for sale, and the steam engine that lives there had a Thomas face for photo time. We took a ride on the train, and Hannah clutched her train prizes from the gift shop all the way home. She's a girl of my own heart.

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